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The first time I ever set my eyes on a layered salad I was in my early 20’s working at the administration offices for a local school district. There was a cafeteria on-site and we had our very own lunch lady who did magic things in that kitchen. (I apologize for not being able to recall her name – she has always been the “lunch lady” to me!) This was no typical school lunch type of cafeteria. This was homemade, from scratch, home cookin’ from a woman who knew her way around a kitchen.
She held a monthly lunchtime pot-luck and we all brought in dishes to share. I swear, it was at these types of events where I’ve picked up some of my best recipes. The ones that have stood the test of time. It was the lunch lady herself who brought in the layered salad and I had never seen such a thing until that day. Of course, I asked for the recipe and still have her handwritten note in my recipe binder.
My version has grown into something quite different from her mostly green salad (think iceburg lettuce, green onions, celery, peas, etc.). That’s the fun thing about these salads – you can omit and sub any ingredients you prefer.
I start with a layer of iceburg, tomatoes, celery, colorful spring greens, and garbanzo beans. The old school varieties never included spring greens but it’s a very nice addition that adds color and great flavor.
Next comes a layer of chopped, hard-boiled eggs, seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
Green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon come next.
The final layer – an entire bag of frozen (not thawed!) green peas. I’ve added some interest to the old classic dressing which consisted of only mayo and sugar by adding a little light sour cream, seasoning salt, and some fresh chives.
Carefully spread that dressing out over the peas, cover the dish with plastic wrap and in the fridge it goes. This is one of the best make-ahead dishes around. It keeps perfectly for up to 24 hours and even the leftovers stay surprisingly fresh and crisp.
There’s a little bit of everything in every bite. Vibrant, crunchy, and absolutely delicious!
Classic Layered Salad
For the salad:
- 1 head iceburg lettuce chopped, rinsed, and drained
- 3 or 4 medium tomatoes chopped
- 6 ribs celery chopped
- 1 bag colorful mixed spring greens
- 1 16 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained well
- 1 bunch green onions chopped
- 5 hard boiled eggs
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or to taste
- 8 strips bacon cooked, cooled, and crumbled
- 1 16 ounce bag frozen peas (do not thaw)
For the dressing:
- 1 cup light mayonnaise
- 1/4 light sour cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoning Salt or similar all-purpose seasoning mix
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Layer the salad ingredients in a clear trifle dish in the order listed.
- Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Use a rubber spatula or icing knife to spread the dressing out over the frozen peas.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours before serving.