Back in the day when “cracker” was something you ate with soup or put cheese or peanut butter on, my mother used to make this salad. I had completely forgotten about it. Of course, there was no recipe that she left behind. I was dicing a tomato and some scallions, and the memory of it came flooding back. Thank goodness for food memories.Since my memory, on any given day, is a crap-shoot, I was pretty amazed I remembered this. But, I’m so glad I did. We all go through cooking phases. You know, you find a new recipe that everyone in the family loves and you make it at least once a week. Then, an interloper recipe catches your fickle eye and that recipe becomes quite literally, “the flavor of the month”! I suspect that may have been what happened with this, because I have an early memory of it, but then it seemed to disappear from our table. I’m thinking it might have been a summer salad, then when fall and winter came, she switched to other salads and she just never came back to this one. Sadly, she’s not here to ask, but fortunately the memory lives on.
Mother always used mayonnaise to dress it, but you could absolutely dress this with bleu cheese, ranch or another rather thick, creamy dressing. Also, mother sometimes, but not always, added hacked up iceberg lettuce…in other words, not very finely chopped. Iceberg lettuce is pretty much the best choice, if you choose that recipe path. I think any other lettuce might become too limp. I seem to remember that she added cucumbers, but I don’t. I think they might be too weepy. And sometimes diced radishes and shredded carrot showed up in there, too. I think diced avocado could be quite fetching and delicious. Also, did I mention that this is quite a pretty salad.
There really doesn’t need to be a recipe for this, but I’ll give you one anyway…fell free to take liberties with it. Mother used saltines, that she coarse crushed, but I decided to use oyster crackers, instead. I love these little bite-sized orbs, and they seemed perfect for this. But, as I’ve been ruminating on this salad, I’m thinking those little goldfish crackers might be interesting, too…hmmm. Last night’s version, for The Spicy Honey’s birthday dinner, consisted of tomatoes, scallions, celery, sweet corn, cauliflower, frozen peas, (not in the picture) and a little bit of summer squash and I seasoned it with Tomato Salt.I added the mayonnaise, a drizzle of honey (you know, he’s a “Spicy Honey” after all!), and added the garlic powder. Tossed it, covered it and chilled it until dinner. Then, just before serving, add the oyster crackers; they’ll hold their crispness for at least 30 minutes, maybe even up to an hour. When I served it, I sprinkled on a little black lime powder (or sumac) for garnish. I made enough so there would be leftovers. I had some of the leftover for lunch and I must say, it too was very tasty. Yes, the crackers soften, but they suck up all those good juices. Tasty indeed. It’s a perfect summer salad for dinner on a hot day. Add some cooked chicken or shrimp, or imitation crab meat or a can of well-drained garbanzo beans and voilà! Dinner is served.
Chopped Calico Cracker Salad
- 3/4 cup cooked sweet corn kernels (cut from about 1 medium ear)
- 2-3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/3-1/2 cup finely diced celery heart (including leaves)
- 3 scallions, sliced (include some of the green tops)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, unthawed
- 1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-3 cup coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce (optional)
- 3/4 cup oyster crackers
- Optional add-ins:
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh fennel bulb (optional)
- 1 cup very coarsely diced cooked shrimp or imitation crab meat (optional)
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw cauliflower (optional)
- 1/2 cup diced summer squash (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar, honey or maple syrup (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional, but delicious)
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the crackers. Toss until thoroughly combined and everything is well-coated with mayonnaise. I like to refrigerate this mixture for an hour or two. Add the oyster crackers, just before serving.
NOTE: As you can see, this is a very flexible salad. This can become a main course salad by adding cooked shrimp, chicken or imitation crab meat.
Chopped Calico Cracker Salad Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020. All rights reserved.