The Totally Healthy, Utterly Bizarre California Salad

June 21, 2012 10:35 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
regular salad
Oh, if it only it were that easy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

All right, we've all seen someone get it at diners and we've all been really terrified by it. It's called the California Salad (or the Health Salad, depending on who's doing the marketing), and it's really, really strange. The idea of a celebrity-- let's say Jennifer Aniston-- leaning over her plate and eating jello on top of melba toast topped with cottage cheese is utterly bizarre. Perhaps if California were a state of pregnant women all having their cravings at once, we'd understand where and why it got its namesake. As it happens, we may never know.

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But this whimsical dish shouldn't be maligned: it's delicious. Think about it less as a salad and more as a cheese-less cheese plate, and you'll start to realize why it's been a fixture of diner menus for decades in spite of the fact that no one ever orders it.

1. Start making your Jello.

Ah, the first step of making any salad is buying the Jello you're going to be putting into it. Use a red jello for this. Make it according to package, preferably using an ice tray to mold it instead of a large bowl.

2. Prepare your cottage cheese.

Any brand of cottage cheese will do for this, or even a greek yogurt if you prefer. But we don't. We're purists when it comes to the avant garde. Grab a cottage cheese and add just a bit of honey to it, to taste-- barely taste. Mix.

3. Choose your fruits.

Three fruits are key here: fresh pineapple, fresh grapefruit, and fresh melons. Choose grapefruit and melons that you can smell through the rind, and pineapple that's been sitting upside-down at the supermarket. If it's not that way, buy it and put in your fridge that way. It'll allow all the juices in it to distribute more evenly-- making for a sweeter, more delicious pineapple. Chop em all up into cubes.

4. Find some Melba Toast.

The supermarket probably has some melba toast in the bread section. Diners have to get it somewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if it came in a can, to be honest.

5. Plate.

Get a large platter. Put a bowl of cottage cheese in the middle. Top the cottage cheese with a garnish of freshly minced mint. Fan out from there with rays of melba toast. Then quarter the platter as such:

North: Jello

South: Pineapple

West: Melons

East: Grapefruit

Serve to confused friends. Enjoy!


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