Let's admit it: A seven-layer salad is really just garnished mayonnaise. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it's potluck food—not exactly the kind of dish you'd serve at a dinner party or holiday gathering. It's too bad, because the seven-layer salad offers one really serious advantage to the harried home cook: It's meant to be made ahead. You can assemble the whole thing several hours in advance and place it on the table with no need for further dressing or futzing. I decided to take the concept and upgrade it a bit with some more seasonal and holiday meal-appropriate ingredients.
Why It WorksThis is what happens when you put a suit and tie on your seven-layer make-ahead salad.
- A layered salad can be made ahead—even up to a day in advance.
- Using seasoned yogurt in place of mayonnaise gives you a lighter salad packed with flavor.
- Salting the cucumbers draws out liquid, which we use in the dressing.
- Quick-pickling red onions decreases their pungency while adding some sharp acidity.
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 4 ounces; 110g)
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (45ml)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 6 ounces; 170g)
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup Greek-style yogurt (175ml)
- 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon (10ml)
- Handful chopped fresh dill, plus a few small fronds reserved for garnish
- Handful chopped fresh mint leaves, plus a few small leaves reserved for garnish
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (30ml)
- 1 (15-ounce; 440 ml) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried
- 1 large Belgian endive, core removed, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 6 ounces; 170g)
- 2 large stalks celery, peeled and cut into thin slices on a sharp bias (about 3 ounces; 90g), plus a few celery leaves reserved for garnish
- 6 to 8 radishes, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut into thin wedges (about 3 ounces; 90g)
- 3 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese (90g)
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (45ml)
- 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds (30ml)
Combine onion, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl and turn to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, toss cucumbers with a large pinch of salt. Transfer to a strainer, set it back over the bowl, and set aside to drain for 10 minutes.
Combine yogurt, lemon juice, chopped dill, chopped mint leaves, and olive oil in a medium bowl. When the cucumbers are drained, pour drained liquid into the yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To construct the salad, place the chickpeas on the bottom of a large serving bowl. Add endive, spreading it into an even layer, followed by cucumber. Add onion, discarding any excess vinegar that isn't sticking to their surface. Add celery and radishes.
Spoon the yogurt mixture on top of the salad, spreading it with the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula into an even layer. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese. Salad can be made up to a day ahead. Wrap with plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
To serve, sprinkle with pomegranate and sunflower seeds. Garnish with mint leaves, dill sprigs, and celery leaves. Serve.