I love a petite, beautiful, delicate salad with baby greens, seasonal vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Little tips of asparagus, confit of tomato, shaved radishes, microgreens, artisan cheese. How elegant. These salads are truly works of art and almost too precious to eat. I even have a few of these salads on Fork My Life like my Pink Pearl Apple, Fennel and Celery Salad and my Shaved Asparagus Salad. They’re refreshing, light and satisfying.
But then there are times I want a hearty, rustic, mess of a salad. Like a serious salad.
What I’m talking about is the classic Chicago steakhouse salad…The Garbage Salad. I never realized that this was a particular “Chicagoan” thing until I was talking to someone about writing this blog post and they had no idea what a Garbage Salad was. I started perusing steakhouse menus in the city and realized that every restaurant had it on their menu. Once I started looking at steakhouse menus outside Chicago, the Garbage Salad was nowhere to be found.
A Garbage Salad is exactly what it sounds like…everything but the kitchen sink piled on top of crunchy greens. Every restaurant has their own variation but one thing is constant, the ratio of toppings is 3 times the amount of greens. There is also a cornucopia of salami and cheese which makes it feel more like an antipasto platter that someone plopped on top of greens to make a salad. Just the way Chicagoans like it.
My version is slightly healthier for multiple reasons. I added more vegetables than you typically find on the infamous Garbage Salad. I also used a part-skim mozzarella instead of provolone cheese and used a fraction of salami compared to the typical meat-laden salad. Lastly, I used less olive oil in the vinaigrette so the dressing is packed with a vinegary, herby punch (it also packs less calories and fat). I took different components from some of my favorite Garbage Salads from around Chicagoland to create my Garbage Salad.
At Gene and Georgetti’s, their Garbage Salad is topped with super fresh, chilled shrimp (like from a shrimp cocktail) so I took their idea and topped my salad with shrimp. At Hole in the Wall (located in Northrbook) their Hole in the Wall Salad (aka Garbage Salad) has the option of adding roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. It is a must! It’s just not the same without those two toppings so I, of course, added roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts to my salad. Lastly, Gibson’s Chopped Garbage Salad has a super intense herby, tangy vinaigrette so I decoded their dressing to the best of my ability to come up with my perfect Italian vinaigrette with my secret ingredient–dried oregano.
This is the perfect salad to make if you need to clean out the fridge. There are no rules or boundaries to the Garbage Salad and my salad includes some very traditional and not-so traditional toppings. Cutting down on the mass amount of salami and cheese will allow you to enjoy this salad with no regret.
So what’s in my Garbage Salad?
- cherry tomatoes
- red onions
- roasted red peppers
- artichoke hearts
- genoa salami
- kalamata olives
- Castelvetrano olives
- chilled shrimp
The dressing is a classic red wine vinaigrette that you’ll find on any Italian sub or salad in Chicago. Just a few ingredients: garlic, red wine vinegar, dried oregano and extra virgin olive oil. The key to making this vinaigrette even better is to prepare it a few hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to meld. You’ll find yourself adding this vinaigrette to every salad and sandwich you make. It’s also a flavor bomb marinade for meat or fish.
I urge you to make this Chicago classic. It’s literally packed with every topping you could want and there is something so incredibly satisfy when you dig in to a salad covered with meat and cheese (and veggies). Do as The Chicagoans do, do the Garbage Salad.
- 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 hearts of romaine, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- ¼ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- ¼ cup sliced Castelvetrano olives
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup sliced English cucumber
- 2 oz julienned Genoa salami, or other preferred salami
- 3 oz cubed part-skim mozzarella
- 4 artichokes hearts, canned, quartered
- 12 cooked large shrimp, chilled
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano and garlic in a small mason jar. Shake the dressing until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine romaine lettuce, roasted red peppers, red onions, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, salami, mozzarella and artichoke hearts in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 2-3 tbsp of reserved dressing and toss salad together until thoroughly combined.
- Top salad with shrimp and serve extra dressing on the side.