Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cobb Salad: A Historical and Hearty Meal

As it is summer in Chicago the weather often makes one shun a full, hot dinner.  When this is the case, I often simply prepare a salad as the main course.  This is generally preceded by a cocktail and appetizer, such as chilled shrimp and followed later in the evening by a cold dessert, such as melon Porto.  

One of my favorite dinner salads is the Cobb Salad.  There are many varieties of this popular choice, although the original is named after Bob Cobb, who was the owner of the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, California.  For those that may not be aware, the historic restaurant opened in a building specially designed for Cecil B. DeMille (the famous movie director) near the corner of Hollywood and Vine. It soon attracted a big following from the city's movie industry.

The Brown Derby at Hollywood and Vine
Home of the Cobb Salad

The Brown Derby was a restaurant visited by all of Hollywood's elite. There are many photos of stars eating in the famed booths, under the caricature pictures of themselves. Hollywood moguls and stars dined here regularly, and it is said that Mr. DeMille often sent his chauffeur over to pick up Cobb salads for the director's lunch.

With regard to the salad, the story goes that in 1937 Bob Cobb was hungry one night and plucked items from the restaurants refrigerator to make himself a snack.  This included items such as lettuce, watercress, tomatoes, cold chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some crisp bacon.  Sid Grauman (of Grauman's Chinese Theatre fame), who was said to have been with Mr. Cobb that night, asked the next day for a 'Cobb Salad' and it was then swiftly added to the menu.

Sadly, the original restaurants are gone but Disney has revived them with a reproduction of the original Brown Derby in Orlando, Florida, followed by more Brown Derby restaurants in Tokyo, Paris and Anaheim, California.  So if you get to one of these, do try their version of the Cobb Salad.

The recipe I'm going to share with you here however is perhaps a bit lighter than the original, using a yogurt and lemon dressing recipe I picked up from Costco.

This recipe makes two nice dinner size salad portions.  Simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Mix the dressing ingredients well (can be shaken in a jar) and poured over the ingredients and toss to coat.  If you would prefer a fancier presentation place the lettuce on the bottom of each serving plate and arrange the remaining ingredients artfully on top and serve the dressing on the side.  If you don't have all of the ingredients below, do what Bob did and use what you have in the refrigerator!

6 strips of bacon, fried crisp and cool
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 egg, hard boiled and cold, sliced into wedges or chopped as you prefer
1 ripe large tomato, seeded (peeled preferred if nicely ripe)
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted peeled and cubed
2 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
2 small green onions, white part only, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
chicken breast, skinless and boneless, chilled and cut into bite size pieces

1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt

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