I often wondered what gives recipes staying power. Sometimes recipes will be wildly popular for a while and then fade away. What might be this year’s most sought after recipe will only be forgotten about next year. Obviously, a dish must taste good in order for it to become popular. But once it gains popularity, there’s no assurance it will stay in the spotlight.
Seven Layer Salad is a recipe that has staying power. I’ve known about it for over 30 years and it keeps turning up at covered dish suppers, baby showers, family gatherings and picnics. Not only does it turn up, it gets eaten. Folks genuinely like the taste of this salad.
Whoever was smart enough to think of lining the top layer of the salad bowl with peas is a pure out-and-out genius. Not only do peas keep the salad dressing from getting to the lettuce and making it soggy, they make the salad unique. You don’t often expect to find raw peas as part of a green salad. Maybe this salad doesn’t qualify as a green salad. It does have bacon, eggs and cheese in it. When you get right down to it, there’s a whole bunch of things about this salad that makes it interesting. I realize that you could put the dressing over the cheese, bacon or even the egg layer and it would serve the same purpose as the peas in that it would keep the salad dressings from getting to the lettuce making it soggy. The peas are just so unexpected. Maybe it’s time for me to stop swooning over the peas in this salad. One last thing before I stop obsessing over them. With the dressing poured on top of the peas and the some of the peas popping through, I don’t even think the top of the salad needs to be garnished. Once again, “Yea for the peas!”
The ingredients can be suited to your liking. Use your favorite type of cheese that shreds well. Substitute your favorite raw veggies for any of the layers. If you use tomatoes, I recommend a cherry type because of a lower water content. If you use a regular tomato, you should deseed it and squeeze out most of the juice. I suppose you could use ham for the bacon but why would you want to do that? Eggs are eggs and nothing else compares so you may want to use eggs. There are any number of variations for the salad dressing. I prefer the mayo/Ranch dressing/sugar combo that I include as part of this recipe and I don’t vary from that. It goes without saying that I think you stick with the peas and certainly include them.
My salad wound up with 9 layers. That’s perfectly all right. You can have 6 layers or 10. This is a very forgiving dish.
The amount of ingredients for each layer will depend largely on the size of your dish. I used a standard trifle dish and fill the center with lettuce and spinach and layer the rest of the ingredients along the outside so they show up nice and pretty in the clear bowl. I would recommend you do the same. The spectacular colors are one of the best things about this dish. And the peas. They’re spectacular, too!
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7 Layer Salad with 9 Layers
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 package fresh baby spinach
4 or 5 radishes, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6 to 8 sliced bacon, cooked and chopped
4 boiled eggs, sliced
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen English peas, partially thawed
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s)
1/2 Ranch dressing
1 tablespoon sugar
Layer lettuce and then spinach in the bottom of the bowl. Reserve some of both to build up the center so the rest of the ingredients can go along the side of the bowl.
It’s hard to tell in the above pictures that I’m mounding the lettuce and spinach in the center. I used my OXO hand-held mandoline to thinly slice radishes. Look how perfect they are! The picture below makes it a little easier to see the mound in the center.
Continue layering the next four ingredients in order concentrating them on the outside of the dish. The cheese is spread over the entire dish in an even layer. Peas go on top of the cheese and the peas evenly cover the cheese. Mix together mayonnaise, Ranch dressing and sugar. Pour over the peas. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. Some recommend tossing the salad before serving. I don’t ever do that. I let folks serve themselves and get as much or as little of the dressing as they prefer. That’s the way I roll.
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