Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

The Most Delicious Salad in the Midwest Is Mixed in a Trash Bag

by 
Elise Seyfried
November 29, 2021

I was raised Catholic, and joined the Lutheran church later in life. The concept of frequent church suppers was pretty alien to me when I converted, but I came to understand that covered dish meals are hugely important in Lutheran congregations — ditto after-service coffee hours, (very) heavy on the sweets. We meet for soup on Wednesdays during Lent; we have ham dinners, donuts on Fasnacht (Shrove Tuesday), and potlucks of every description. Many folks in my church are of German or Scandinavian descent, so over the years I have come to love German potato salad and Swedish meatballs, and to sample, if not savor, lutefisk (whitefish that has been dried, then reconstituted in water and lye). 

Very often when we’ve gathered, we’ve all contributed ingredients for a giant salad. I don’t know if “Salad by Committee” is a specifically Lutheran thing, but it certainly could be. Every participant is given an item to bring to the event (ranging from hard-cooked eggs to grated cheddar cheese, diced ham, and tomatoes). The host provides many heads of torn lettuce as the salad base, along with — wait for it — a giant trash bag. The entire salad is assembled by placing everything right into the (clean) plastic bag. After the dressing is added, the bag is closed up and shaken vigorously by the group. The result is surprisingly delicious and very Lutheran: a true team effort, no ingredient more important than the others, mild-flavored and easy to digest. 

No items found.

I have led the “Salad by Committee” committee many times. We prepared it when we volunteered to make dinner for groups in shelters and soup kitchens. It was the centerpiece of every women’s circle June dinner party. It was an old reliable, and if someone forgot to bring an ingredient the salad was (usually) still just fine. One year the lettuce provider didn’t come through, though, and that WAS an issue: enough so that an emergency trip to the market was made, to clean the store out of their leafy green supply. 

I did learn the hard way to alert over-eager helpers about the “bowl” for our masterpiece. Shortly before serving time one evening, a custodian grabbed the huge bag and was headed for the dumpster. Even after I explained what it was, he scratched his head, unable to process such an unorthodox use for those big glossy black plastic bags. The next dinner, which did NOT feature Salad by Committee, that gentleman stayed far away from the trash cans all night, afraid he might inadvertently dump out the entrée. 

Since the pandemic began, my church  groups haven’t met for a meal, and I miss our times at table together. When I feel nostalgic, though, I just grab my shopping cart and take a spin down the aisle where the trash bags are found. I remember the many laugh-filled dinners with my church family, chowing down on pepper strips and artichoke hearts and chunks of salami, anchored of course by that irreplaceable lettuce, dished up from that unique container. I feel confident that someday we’ll be back to our “foodie” events, and I have no doubt that the first thing we’ll prepare will be our delicious communal salad — the specialty of the most enjoyable committee I ever joined.

Here’s the recipe as I make it at home, to serve four. You’ll be glad to know I mix it in an actual salad bowl. 

Salad by Committee

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Serves 4

Ingredients

½ cup cooked, diced chicken or turkey

½ cup cooked, diced ham                         

½ cup diced salami                                    

½ cup grated cheddar cheese                    

4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled                     

2 hard-cooked eggs, grated          

1 ripe avocado, diced                              

½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms                   

½ cup thinly sliced red pepper strips          

½ small can sliced, pitted black olives

¼ cup thinly sliced radishes                     

½ cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes     

1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, diced (reserve juice)  

1 large head leafy salad greens              


Dressing:

½  cup canola oil                     

2 tbsp wine vinegar              

reserved artichoke juice         

¼ tsp dry mustard                  

¼  tsp sugar                                

1 tsp fresh herbs (basil, chives, tarragon) 

Salt and pepper

 | 
 | 
Serves 4

Ingredients

½ cup cooked, diced chicken or turkey

½ cup cooked, diced ham                         

½ cup diced salami                                    

½ cup grated cheddar cheese                    

4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled                     

2 hard-cooked eggs, grated          

1 ripe avocado, diced                              

½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms                   

½ cup thinly sliced red pepper strips          

½ small can sliced, pitted black olives

¼ cup thinly sliced radishes                     

½ cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes     

1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, diced (reserve juice)  

1 large head leafy salad greens              


Dressing:

½  cup canola oil                     

2 tbsp wine vinegar              

reserved artichoke juice         

¼ tsp dry mustard                  

¼  tsp sugar                                

1 tsp fresh herbs (basil, chives, tarragon) 

Salt and pepper

Ingredients

½ cup cooked, diced chicken or turkey

½ cup cooked, diced ham                         

½ cup diced salami                                    

½ cup grated cheddar cheese                    

4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled                     

2 hard-cooked eggs, grated          

1 ripe avocado, diced                              

½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms                   

½ cup thinly sliced red pepper strips          

½ small can sliced, pitted black olives

¼ cup thinly sliced radishes                     

½ cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes     

1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, diced (reserve juice)  

1 large head leafy salad greens              


Dressing:

½  cup canola oil                     

2 tbsp wine vinegar              

reserved artichoke juice         

¼ tsp dry mustard                  

¼  tsp sugar                                

1 tsp fresh herbs (basil, chives, tarragon) 

Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Mix dressing ingredients, and marinate artichoke hearts and sliced mushrooms in dressing for 3-4 hours. Taste and adjust as needed, as each brand of jarred artichokes uses a slightly different recipe that will alter the taste of your dressing.

2. When ready to serve, mix all salad ingredients together.

About the Author

Elise Seyfried

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