We’ve been traveling around Alberta a lot lately, discovering new places we didn’t know existed. This past weekend, we found ourselves in Elkwater, a tiny camping-cabin community in Cypress Hills interprovincial park, which overlaps the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Elkwater there’s an eatery called Camp Cookhouse and General Store, which is just the best place ever.
This is the salad I fell in love with. It was one of the side options, along with fries and the like, that you could get with your burger or sandwich. (The burger, by the way, with mushrooms and Gouda? Divine.) Also, can we talk about those painted bundt pans for a minute? Why do I never think of these things when it comes to kitchen decor?
So the salad, which they call a smash salad, was based on chunks of baby cucumber, radish and jicama – they weren’t so much sliced into chunks as somehow broken into jagged pieces – and tossed with chickpeas (which I see now are also roughly bashed – noted), feta, fresh mint and basil, scallions and a sort of creamy-tangy dressing, and topped with peanuts. You could order a bigger version with smoked chicken, too.
I love a chopped salad, and I somehow love this even more – I love that it’s chunky but not too heavy, that it has a ton of crunch from the jicama and pepperiness from the radishes, which I always buy but often don’t get around to using. I had the sad end of a bunch of cilantro in the fridge, so salvaged what I could to make a spicy, garlicky green dressing that I came up with awhile ago to replicate a creamy cilantro salsa I can’t get enough of from the farmers’ market. And because I always eat that salsa (which is perfectly smooth, creamy and pale green) with tortilla chips from the same little Mexican market, and I happened to have the dregs of a bag of the aforementioned chips sitting on my counter, I added those as well, for a crunchy toastiness you might get from nuts (or from tortilla strips, for that matter – remember when they were all the rage in salads of the nineties?) – and I somehow loved that they were smashed as well.
But. It is a salad, and as such there are no rules – the measurements are lax, and you can really take any liberties you like with it and it will be just fine. But I did love this combo, and am already plotting another batch for lunch tomorrow, this time with a big handful of chives and maybe some avocado. (It also makes a fine dinner when it’s 32 degrees outside.)