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Lucky Avocado Salad with Tangy Sesame Dressing

July 17, 2023

A plate of salad with cherry tomatoes, croutons, and avocado. There is an orange kitchen towel and torn bread on the side.

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This is my take on an avocado salad with tangy sesame dressing. I grew up eating this salad (with mushroom quesadillas on the side!) at one of my favorite restaurants from my childhood called The Lucky Platter. I think of this as a medium salad - not quite a whole meal, but definitely more hearty than a side salad. To make it a whole meal, I like it either with protein added in, such as chicken, tofu, salmon, or chickpeas, or it can exist on its own alongside a sandwich, soup, or (my fave!) quesadillas.

Here, the sesame dressing is the star! While it works exceptionally well on these salad components, I have enjoyed it on numerous salads with totally different ingredients and it is just as incredible.

The Story

In my world, this salad is iconic. I mentioned it to one of my childhood friends who also doesn't live where we grew up anymore, and her eyes lit up. She listed every ingredient by heart, lamenting that it's been a long time since she's had "that sesame dressing".

A few months ago, I began to feel a sesame-dressing-shaped hole in my tummy, and I decided to look online and see if there was a copycat recipe anywhere. Lo and behold, I found an old Chicago Tribune Q and A from 1996 that had what claimed to be the actual dressing recipe, supplied by the owner of the restaurant. Rejoice!

However, upon attempting the recipe not once, but twice, I was left with a slimy, unappetizing mess due to my failure to emulsify the eggs properly. I'm sure this had more to do with my lack of skills and less to do with the recipe itself, but nonetheless, I decided to head down another path.

This recipe uses mayo instead of raw egg, so the emulsifying is done for you. I also took some other liberties with ingredients and amounts so this truly is my take - while it may not be a direct copycat, I think it's unquestionably delicious. And I feel pretty lucky to have both the salad and the namesake restaurant in my life.

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Ingredients in bowls - romaine, cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, artichoke heart, sesame oil, sun dried tomatoes, and there is a small loaf of sourdough at the center.

Ingredient notes -

  • Mayo: Use vegan mayo for a vegan option.
  • Honey: Use agave for a vegan option.
  • Seasoned rice vinegar: If using unseasoned rice vinegar, you probably will want to add a little extra salt and honey/agave.
  • Sundried tomatoes: I prefer the dry ones that come in a bag like dried fruit, but if you like the oil-marinated ones that come in a jar, use those!
  • Artichoke hearts: While for these I do love the marinated ones in certain contexts, for this recipe, I personally prefer the plain ones that come in a can. This recipe is totally flexible, so make it with what you have!
  • Salt: Salinity to volume varies by brand and type. I (almost) always use Diamond Crystal Kosher in my recipes. If you use Morton's Kosher or regular table salt, use half the amount by volume, or the same by weight.
A bowl of salad with tomatoes, croutons, and artichoke hearts, with a sliced half of avocado on top.

The Recipe

makes 2 pretty big salads

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 TB (25 grams) raw sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) mayo
  • 3 TB (43 grams) seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 TB (14 grams) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TB (21 grams) honey
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or very finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt (if using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt - see note above)
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Croutons

  • 2 or 3 thick slices (180 grams) crusty bread, such as sourdough
  • 2 TB (28 grams) olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half longways
  • Sprinkle of salt

Salad

  • 1 medium head (180 grams) romaine or other lettuce of your choice
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 pint (150 grams) cherry tomatoes
  • 10 (32 grams) sun-dried tomato halves
  • 1/2 can (127g) artichoke hearts

To Make

Dressing

1. Toast the Sesame Seeds

Preheat the oven to 350ΒΊ F/180ΒΊC. Place 3 TB (25 grams) raw sesame seeds on an ungreased sheet tray and toast for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly golden and fragrant. They can burn quickly, so I recommend keeping a close eye on them!

Sesame seeds on a sheet tray.
2. Mix the Dressing

While the seeds are toasting, add 1/4 cup (56 grams) mayo to a medium bowl. Drizzle in 3 TB (43 grams) seasoned rice vinegar, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Then whisk in the rest of the dressing ingredients - 1 TB (14 grams) toasted sesame oil, 1 TB (21 grams) honey, 1 garlic clove, grated or very finely minced, 1/4 tsp salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper.

When the sesame seeds are done toasting, leave the oven on and save the sheet tray. Add the sesame seeds to the dressing while they are still warm, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding a touch more salt, pepper, or vinegar if you desire. Transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes, but longer is okay. (If you are chilling it longer than that, I recommend using a container with a lid!)

Mixing the dressing in a blue pottery bowl.

Croutons

1. The First Toast

When the sesame seeds come out of the oven, place the 2 or 3 thick slices (180 grams) crusty bread directly on the oven rack. Toast until slightly dried out, about 3-4 minutes, and remove from the oven. Let cool slightly and then take the 3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half longways, and rub the slices of bread all over with the cut side of the cloves. Make sure you do the crusts as well, and don't be afraid to really mash the garlic cloves into the bread.

Rubbing garlic cloves on the bread slices
2. The Second Toast

Cut the garlic-ed bread into cubes (as big or small as you like - I usually do about 3/4 inch-1 inch). Drizzle about half of the 2 TB (28 grams) olive oil directly onto the tray before adding the cubed bread, the other half of the olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Return the tray to the oven, toss once or twice while toasting. Let these go for 10-15 minutes, or until perfectly golden and crispy. Remove from oven (which you can finally turn off!) and let cool on the sheet tray.

Cubed bread on a sheet tray

Salad

1. Prep the Veg

Take the 1 medium head (180 grams) romaine or other lettuce and cut or tear into bite-sized pieces and add to a large mixing bowl.

A bowl of romaine lettuce in bite sized pieces

Slice the 1/2 pint (150 grams) cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the lettuce.

Sliced cherry tomatoes on a cutting board

Slice the 10 (32 grams) sun-dried tomato halves into 1/4 inch strips and add to the bowl with the lettuce and the tomatoes.

A dish of thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes

For the 1 avocado: Cut it in half around the pit and then gently remove the pit. Gently peel the skin off and place each half flat side down on the cutting board. Starting with one half, cut crossways into 1/8 inch slices, doing your best to keep the slices in place. Repeat with the second half and set both halves aside.

A thinly sliced avocado

Drain the 1/2 can (127g) artichoke hearts. Leave them as is if you bought quarters, but slice them into quarters if you bought whole or halves, and add to the bowl with the lettuce and both kinds of tomatoes.

Bowl of quartered artichoke hearts
2. Assemble

To assemble, mix everything except the avocado and a spoonful or two of dressing in a large bowl. I suggest using tongs or salad servers to get an even mix.

Salad ingredients in the bowl before being mixed.
3. Serve

To serve, divide the salad into two large plates or bowls. Carefully lay the sliced avocado half down across the center of the plate and top with the remaining spoonful of dressing. (I used my knife as an avocado transporter, but I really should have used a bench scraper!)

Sliding the sliced avocado onto the salad.

And there you have it! I hope you make and enjoy this recipe!

Salad close up

Thank you for being here!

πŸ’–, Katrina

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