I have had a few dishes at the newly opened Vinaigrette, the restaurant in the former Treehouse Italian Grill space at 2201 College Ave., but the one I keep thinking about is this La Pepita salad, made with kale, shredded chicken, black beans, cotija cheese and avocados.
The salad is tossed with a tangy, smoky lemon-cumin vinaigrette that works so well with the avocado, beans, cotija and chicken that I was determined to try to re-create it at home.
Instead of using kale, I went with spring greens — of the “power” variety, if I remember the label correctly — and used leftover chopped chicken, toasted pepitas, canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and, because I didn’t have any cotija on hand, feta cheese. The only thing it was missing was that avocado.
For the vinaigrette, I used a jar to shake together 3 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice, salt and about 1/2 tsp. cumin. I rarely measure dressing ingredients, but don’t be afraid of using more cumin if you like or making a larger batch of this for more than one salad.
The dressing pairs so well with the chicken and other ingredients, but Vinaigrette also uses a method of combining all the elements that is worth incorporating into your own salad-making practices.
The Vinaigrette staff chops the ingredients so they are smaller than you might usually find at a restaurant, and they mix together the salad so everything is evenly distributed. After I took this photo, I poured on the dressing and then took a fork and knife and sliced up all those greens, tossing them well with the toppings. The end result was a confetti of ingredients so that each bite had a little bit of everything.
Over the winter months, I’d fallen out of love with the dinner salad, but this new approach to making them — and these longer daylight hours and warmer afternoons — have quickly remedied that.
What restaurant dishes have you successfully knocked off at home? Do you have any favorite salad tricks? Share what you are cooking at home by adding #Austin360Cooks to your posts on social media. Every Wednesday, we run one of the posts (or recipes or photos or tips) in the Statesman food section. Here are the recent submissions: