The idea for trail mix on cobb salad came to me a few years ago while I was vacationing with my family on Turks and Caicos. Every January, in order to decompress from the holiday madness, we rent a condo on this beautiful island, fully equipped with a fantastic kitchen. Turks is a blissful place to visit and about the only negative thing I can say about this tropical paradise is that food there is dreadfully expensive. As a result we eat breakfast and lunch at our condo and only go out for dinner. This is the lunch salad that has become my family’s favorite while we are there. I make a variation of this salad at home quite often and usually include dried cranberries and candied pecans. However, without my normal pantry items available in a vacation rental, I once improvised and used the trail mix we bought for snacking as a topping. We liked it so much that this is what I now use at home on our salads. Aside from the trail mix the other thing that makes this salad unique is that I substitute two of the ingredients typically found in cobb salad – bacon and blue cheese – with goat cheese and crispy prosciutto. I like the milder flavor of goat cheese and think it pairs nicely with the fruit and nuts in the trail mix. And the crispy prosciutto in lieu of the bacon works well because it has the same general texture and flavor profile as bacon (crispy, salty, pork). For this reason, I often use crispy prosciutto in recipes that call for bacon because it is so much easier and less messy to prepare. You roast it in the oven on a parchment lined sheet pan. It’s done in under 20 minutes and there is very little grease so clean up is a breeze (see below for directions).
Using trail mix as a topping is an easy way to jazz up any salad but I especially like how it complements the ingredients in this salad. The dried fruit adds some tangy sweetness and the nuts provide crunch and an additional layer of flavor. Make sure you pick a trail mix with a nice variety of dried fruit and nuts and avoid ones with chocolate or artificial ingredients .
This recipe calls for cooked, shredded chicken so you’ll have to roast up some chicken. The following method for cooking chicken breasts produces super moist and flavorful meat and will yield more than enough chicken for this salad. Place two chicken breasts on a sheet pan, brush with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of savory seasoning (any type is fine – I often use italian seasoning or herbs de provence), and then give each breast a sprinkling of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 40 minutes at 350 degrees on the bottom rack of your oven.
Once you pull the pan out of the oven cover it with aluminum foil immediately and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours. The steam generated inside the foil covered pan will continue to cook the chicken, resulting in moist and tender meat.
Once the chicken has cooled remove the skin and bones from each breast and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.
To prepare the crispy prosciutto lay two slices of prosciutto on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees on the bottom rack of your oven for 15-20 minutes.
Here’s what the prosciutto will look like when it’s done. You can see that it’s super crispy and will crumble easily, making a delicious topping for the salad.
You’ll also need a hard-boiled egg for this recipe. Here’s my favorite way to cook hard-boiled eggs: put them in sauce pan and cover with cold water. Place the pan on your stove top and turn the heat to high. As soon as the water starts to boil, turn off the heat, remove the pan from the burner and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Let the eggs sit like that for 10 minutes, then remove from them from the pan and refrigerate until they are cool enough to peel.
Peeling hard-boiled eggs is a pain but here’s a tip that can make it easier. Smack the wider end of the egg on a counter top and pick/peel away some of the shell until you have a little hollow spot.
Now take a spoon and insert it into that hollow spot. Ease the spoon, in a circular motion, around the circumference of the egg, in between the shell and the egg white. The natural curve of the spoon mimics that of the egg and will facilitate loosening the shell.
This technique makes peeling hard-boiled eggs a cinch. Notice how the shell came off in a few large pieces, instead of a million smaller chips of shell.
Another kitchen prep job that is an absolute pain is washing small, round, produce items such as berries or grape tomatoes. They’re too small to wash individually – it would simply take too long – but they have to be rinsed and dried. An easy way to take care of this is to hold the produce container under cold running water, moving it around so that all of the items are thoroughly rinsed. Pour/shake off the water (you can do this right in the container or use a colander) and then dump everything onto a sheet pan that has been lined with a double layer of clean paper towels. Now shake the pan for 5 or 10 seconds so that your produce rolls around on the paper towels. This will remove most of the water without you having to dry each item individually or press down on delicate items such as berries, which might damage them.
Now that you’ve prepped everything, assemble your ingredients and start building your salad. When you arrange all of the toppings on a plate you can see that this is quite a substantial salad – perfect for a dinner entrée. If you’re serving it for lunch or as a side salad, this recipes makes enough for 2 servings.
What a glorious bunch of ingredients!
- 2 ounces baby spinach
- ½ cup/2 ounces cooked shredded chicken
- 1 hard boiled egg, quartered lengthwise
- ½ avocado, chopped
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- 4 or 5 grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
- ¼ cup trail mix – any variety with dried fruit and nuts
- 2 slices (1 oz.) of crispy prosciutto, crumbled
- BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
- 1 ½ T olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the baby spinach in a shallow bowl or on a dinner plate. Top the spinach with the remaining ingredients. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oi, and salt and pepper to taste. Dress the salad and serve immediately.
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