- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Growing up in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to enjoy just about every version of the famous Brown Derby Cobb salad that was offered. You can still find the original Cobb salad - named after Bob Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby - at any number of California restaurants - and across the country.

Chopped iceberg lettuce is the basic ingredient, along with blue cheese, cooked chicken, crisp crumbled bacon, diced avocado and tomato garnishes. Sometimes it comes mixed, and other times it is presented with a pretty design of all of the ingredients on top.

I’ve reinterpreted this salad by adding a mix of more flavorful greens, including arugula and watercress, and blending in raw corn and shreds of imported Parmesan cheese. I often forgo the chicken and serve this as a first course. While the standard old ingredients such as blue cheese, avocado and bacon are delicious, this lighter version is a welcome change.

The creamy dressing combines the bold flavors of shallots, lemon and balsamic vinegar and is tempered by the tangy yet creamy nonfat yogurt. You can try this with other salad dressings when you are looking for a creamy result without the calories.

Look for crisp romaine leaves, bright green arugula leaves and sweet bell peppers that are at their peak this time of year. Fresh corn kernels add a burst of late summery sweetness, and the shards of Parmesan cheese add a nutty richness. You can chop this as fine or as coarse as you prefer. Accompany with a basket of warm sourdough rolls. Serve a crisp, dry white wine to balance the creamy dressing like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling.

Farmers market Cobb salad

Serves 2 to 3 as a main course salad or 4 to 6 as a first course

CREAMY BALSAMIC YOGURT DRESSING:

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch of black pepper

SALAD:

1 medium head of romaine lettuce, light green and white leaves only, finely chopped

1 bunch of arugula, coarsely chopped

1 bunch of watercress, leaves only, coarsely chopped

1 skinless medium whole chicken breast, cooked and diced into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced into 1/4-inch pieces

1/4 European cucumber, diced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 ear of white or sweet yellow corn, husked and shucked

1/4 cup coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese (use a shredder or peeler)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard and whisk to combine. Slowly add the oil, whisking to incorporate. Add the yogurt, salt and pepper, and blend well. Taste for seasoning.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add dressing and toss until all vegetables are well-coated. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper on the salad, if desired, and serve.

Advance preparation: The dressing can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Whisk the dressing well before using. The salad can be prepared 2 hours ahead and refrigerated. Since the salad is chopped with a metal knife, the lettuce may begin to brown after 2 hours.

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