I have had a few dishes at the newly opened Vinaigrette, the restaurant in the former Treehouse Italian Grill space at 2201 College Ave., but the one I keep thinking about is this La Pepita salad, made with kale, shredded chicken, black beans, cotija cheese, and avocados.
The salad is tossed with a tangy, smoky lemon-cumin vinaigrette that works so well with the avocado, beans, cotija, and chicken that I was determined to try to re-create it at home.
Instead of using kale, I went with spring greens — of the “power” variety, if I remember the label correctly — and used leftover chopped chicken, toasted pepitas, canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and because I didn’t have any cotija on hand, feta cheese. The only thing it was missing was that avocado.
For the vinaigrette, I used a jar to shake together 3 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice, salt, and about 1/2 tsp. cumin. I rarely measure dressing ingredients, but don’t be afraid of using more cumin if you like or making a larger batch of this for more than one salad.
The dressing pairs so well with the chicken and other ingredients, but Vinaigrette also uses a method of combining all the elements that is worth incorporating into your own salad-making practices.
The Vinaigrette staff chops the ingredients so they are smaller than you might usually find at a restaurant, and they mix together the salad so everything is evenly distributed. After I took this photo, I poured on the dressing and then took a fork and knife and sliced up all those greens, tossing them well with the toppings. The end result was a confetti of ingredients so that each bite had a little bit of everything.
Over the winter months, I’d fallen out of love with the dinner salad, but this new approach to making them — and these longer daylight hours and warmer afternoons — have quickly remedied that.