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Cobb Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

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Confession: I have a “thing” about Cobb salad.

I’ve always appreciated the various tastes and textures within it—crunchy lettuce, refreshing tomatoes, crispy bacon, creamy hard boiled eggs and blue cheese—but it was ever since I tried the Green Goddess Chicken Cobb at Panera Bread, believe it or not, that I’ve been really hooked.

Panera’s salad is a perfect combination of traditional Cobb salad ingredients with a few unexpected extras. Pickled red onions add a nice, sweet and sour tang and a herby Green Goddess dressing adds a another refreshing final layer of flavor to the salad. All-in-all, it’s pretty yummy.

Big, main course salads are a perfect meal to make during the summer. They are light and refreshing, and they don’t take a lot of effort or time. Just chop up ingredients—or buy pre-chopped ingredients to make assembly even quicker—and quickly assemble on a bed of lettuce arranged on a big platter, family-style, to allow everyone to help themselves.

I serve dressing alongside the salad instead of dressing it so everyone can add as much or as little as they like and since some prefer a creamy dressing, like a blue cheese or ranch, while others opt for basic oil and vinegar on their salads. This Ranch dressing was something that I threw together quickly, wanting something smoky and with a little heat.

(P.S., Smoked paprika is another thing I love. You’ll see the trend emerge after a while.)

Cobb Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

The Ranch dressing is fantastic on its own, too, as a dip for cut up veggies or potato chips. I recently discovered that it’s particularly delicious with Terra Chips—try it as a quick and easy appetizer with drinks.

Serves 6-8 dinner-sized portions

Ingredients

For Cobb Salad:

1 pound organic boneless chicken breasts or thighs
4-5 strips of thick-cut bacon
1 large head of romaine lettuce
2 medium-sized globe tomatoes
1 medium-sized cucumber
3 hard boiled eggs
2 ears of fresh corn
1 ripe avocado
Olive oil, for grilling
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:

1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Black pepper, to taste

Method

For dressing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill.

Cook bacon in a skillet or in the oven on a large baking tray until very crispy, about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool, then cut into large, bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Clean and prepare veggies for salad: Peel, seed, and dice cucumber; core and dice tomatoes; cut romaine lettuce into ribbons; and shuck and clean corn.

On a large platter, mound shredded romaine lettuce as a base for the salad. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, and eggs. Place platter aside or put in the refrigerator, if you have the space to do so, to keep chilled while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat grill to 350°F or, if cooking indoors, preheat grill pan over medium heat. Season chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through to 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 12-14 minutes (6-7 minutes per side), depending on thickness. Remove from grill and let cool, covered with foil, before cutting into large, bite-sized pieces.

Brush corn with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until corn is blistered or charred in spots, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from grill and, when cool enough to handle, cut off cob.

Before you’re ready to serve, chop hard boiled eggs and peel, seed, and cut avocado into big chunks. Top salad platter with diced chicken, corn, avocado, chopped bacon, and chopped eggs. Serve with dressing.

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