Monday, March 22, 2010

Old Fashioned Seven Layer Salad

Classic 7 Layer Salad topped with a mayonnaise dressing is a common salad for barbecues and cookouts, parties, potlucks, church suppers and holidays, but why not make one just because?

7 Layer Salad

Seven Layer Salad is a good old-fashioned salad that has been around for years. It's perfect for cookouts, potlucks, church socials, reunions, funerals, and of course, the holidays!!

A salad made with 7 layers, typically with lettuce, sometimes tomatoes, chopped and sliced boiled eggs, peas, celery, bacon and cheese, or really whatever your favorite tossed salad ingredients are. Then the salad is topped off with a thick layer of a mayonnaise-based dressing, often Ranch dressing, and tossed just before serving.

Seven Layer Salad was a very popular salad back in the 70s and 80s, and though it kind of went the wayside for awhile, it seems to be making a resurgence. Since I am determined to bring back some of those old classics, I, for one, am thrilled.

For my layers I like to use shredded romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes, boiled eggs, frozen green peas that are lightly steamed, celery, bacon and cheddar cheese. I finish it with a slightly sweetened, but tangy, mayonnaise dressing on top. Layer the ingredients from the outside rim of the bowl and then in toward the middle, so that you get a little peek of everything from the outside of the bowl. The dome of a covered cake plate, turned over and placed into a smaller, wide bowl, makes a great container for the party size salad - just make sure it is seated well and won't shift around.

Truth is, what you layer it with, and how many layers is really up to you, so change it up and go with as many layers as you like. Make it your own! Tomatoes aren't included in most versions but I like to use them myself. If you want to include tomato, all you need to do is seed and clean them well, and make sure that they are very dry. I clean, dry and then chop them first, followed by a gentle squeeze in layers of paper towels to extract most of the juice. Then use those on the very next layer after the first layer of lettuce. That way any juices that do release from the tomatoes, will filter through the lettuce and down into the bottom of the bowl. I like to use romaine lettuce because that is typically what we have in the house, but iceberg is traditional. You can substitute other lettuces, and even spinach if you prefer.

I personally think that this salad deserves a clear bowl so that you can show off all of the layers, but of course you can certainly prepare it in a large baking pan for convenience sake if you're toting it to an event.  Sliced eggs on the side of the bowl are pretty though, so I do that and then add chopped egg in the center. If you prefer to cut down on the eggs, simply layer in the chopped egg or do only the sliced egg.  Peas are a usual and nice addition, and I like to lightly steam them. Let them cool before adding them to the salad. You can also use well drained, canned peas and I highly recommend Le Sueur here. In my salad, celery goes next and then the remaining shredded lettuce.

A sprinkling of bacon comes next and then a layer of shredded cheese.  Cheddar is typical, but use your favorite. The amounts given on all ingredients in the recipes are strictly estimates, because honestly it is pretty dependent on the size of bowl you are using. If it's a very large bowl, you will have to adjust up many of the ingredients.

The dressing, which can be this simple mayo mix, a homemade or bottled ranch, or whatever dressing you prefer, should be spread on the top all the way to edges. An offset spatula is a good tool for this, and is what I use. You can also use sour cream instead of mayonnaise, or even Miracle Whip, which is actually a salad dressing. If you do use Miracle Whip, reduce or even eliminate the sugar because it is higher in sugar and a fairly sweet dressing already, so you'll want to taste before adding in any additional sugar. Some people also like to thin out the dressing so that rather than acting to seal the salad, it sort of seeps down through the salad. I think that mostly depends on how far in advance that you make it - too far in advance and you might end up with a soggy salad. I think I'll stick with sealing the salad!

Just before serving the salad, garnish the top with just a bit of sliced green onion, and bring it to the table so it can be admired. Then you can either let everybody scoop out their own serving digging through the layers, or else toss it at the table first before passing.

I've downsized this recipe for the two of us - though in reality even the smaller salad should feed at least four, and possibly even more. I've also included that version at the bottom, just in case you would like to mix one of these wonderful salads up for a slightly smaller "party" of just a few for an everyday salad.

Another wonderful old classic, go catch Watergate Salad right here if you happened to have missed it.

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Posted by on March 22, 2010
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