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This recipe was inspired by the Stetson Chopped Salad at Cowboy Ciao Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. There are many different interpretations of this salad on various websites; the recipe that is supposed to be the original (from the chef at Cowboy Ciao) can be found here. I especially love this twist on the traditional chopped salad for the spiciness of the arugula, saltiness of the toasted pepitas and the slight tartness of the pesto-buttermilk dressing. Enjoy!

Note: I updated this recipe in May of 2013, adjusting the proportions and adding to the directions to make them clearer.


Smoked Salmon Chopped Salad with Pesto-Buttermilk Dressing

  • Yield: 6


Pesto-Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Spinach Basil Pesto (can substitute purchased basil pesto)
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I like to use mayonnaise made with olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
  • squeeze of lemon wedge (optional)


  • 1 tablespoon lemon-flavored olive oil (can substitute plain olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 ounces aged Asiago cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup toasted pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 2 cups chopped seeded plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped baby arugula
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (I use frozen organic, thawed)
  • 8 ounces chopped smoked salmon


  1. Place the pesto, shallot and mayonnaise in a food processor and blend. With the motor running, pour in the buttermilk. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the Israeli couscous and cook until lightly browned, around 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook just until the couscous is al dente, around 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, drain off any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cheese, pepitas and currants. On 6 shallow bowls or dinner plates (or one large platter), arrange the salad ingredients in rows in the following order – tomatoes, corn, cheese mixture, arugula, couscous and salmon. Serve the dressing on the side.


Make ahead: dressing and cheese mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store the dressing, covered, in the refrigerator.


2 Responses to “Smoked Salmon Chopped Salad”

  1. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life

    What a beautiful salad…and I absolutely love smoked salmon. One of my favorite breakfasts is a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers. I also put it in pasta. I’ve never tried it in a salad, but this looks delicious! Thank you for sharing it with us at #FoodieFriDIY…I am sharing it on my Facebook page right now.

  2. Steve

    I had this salad three times in the past week and enjoyed the third as much as I did the first. It was wonderful! The combination of flavors and textures is difficult, at best, to discribe. An outstanding salad whether as a salad prior to the main course or as a meal in itself, is is absolutly delicious.


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