Abby Salad with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Ranch and Honey Smoked Salmon

November 14, 2020 0 Comments

After two weeks of unbridled holiday gorging in Texas, the month of reckoning is upon me – being sustained solely by a diet of Tex-Mex, barbecue, kolaches, and Christmas cookies, my body hates it when I go on vacation.

But I’ve gone through the wilderness and have emerged ready for all things green, nutritious, and light.

As a general policy, I try to eat pretty healthily in my day-to-day life, focusing on eating fresh, whole foods and preparing meals at home, managing portions (sometimes), and even counting calories when I’m feeling motivated. I do have a serious weakness for dessert that is managed some days better than others, but as a rule, I try to keep it together nutritionally.

That is, except for “special occasions.”

What constitutes a special occasion, you may ask? Well, friends, almost anything can be considered for this honored designation! Birthdays, new restaurant outings, friendly get-togethers, ‘accidental’ drives past a bakery – any of these might qualify for a healthful eating exemption. But the most important exception to the rule of moderation is when I’m on vacation. Trips home or out of state in particular mean all bets are off, as I live to experience travel through taste.

One such special occasion took place over the summer when Jason and I visited Colorado wine country in Grand Junction with a couple of good friends. It was a perfect getaway, with pastry-filled mornings and wine-soaked days punctuated by piquant, veggie-stuffed bloody marys, honeyed mead, and generally debauched eating habits. When the bacchanalia was over, we packed up the dogs and hit the road for what should’ve been a three-hour tour back home.

A three-hour tour.

Just a few minutes outside of town, traffic snarled to a total stop atop a long bridge. We waited, and waited, at first laughing with good humor about our misfortune, then eventually stealing nervous glances at the gas meter and watching stranded motorists hike across the bridge in search of the nearest restroom (not close, according to Google Maps…). People let their children play hide-and-seek across the lanes, and a bearded twenty-something pulled out a guitar to play atop the hood of his car. A teen wandered through the vehicular valley with a cardboard sign asking for pizza. The mood turned grim.

After about three hours perched over the river, the police finally announced the highway to be completely closed down due to an accident, and began the process of reversing cars off the bridge.

Luckily, we had been able to warn our friends about the traffic before they hit it, and one of them happened to have family in Grand Junction. Abby told us we were welcome to wait out the closure with her and her family, so we turned around and headed back into the sunset. Frazzled, road-weary and hungry, we collected at her family’s doorstep (with pug in tow) to kind hellos and a welcoming spread of salad and pizza.

Thanks to my sweet sister-in-law, Alaina, for my adorable new measuring cups!

I usually balk at the idea of salad as an entree, but the week’s hard living left me pushing aside the pizza. Instead, crisp, cool cucumbers studded a pile of enticing greens, with a sprinkling of broccoli slaw throughout giving each bite a pleasant crunch. Creamy avocado tempered the sweet tang of cherry tomatoes, and the whole assembly was pulled together by a subtly spicy, vegetal roasted poblano ranch dressing. I recreated the dressing by tweaking a great recipe for Homemade Buttermilk Ranch from Once Upon a Chef with the addition of cilantro and a mild, fire-roasted Anaheim chile, but feel free to use poblano if you like a little more kick!

If you don’t feel like whipping up dressing entirely from scratch, try my shortcut Chipotle Ranch below, which combines smoky, hot chipotles and adobo sauce with store-bought ranch. Easiest of all, just buy the original Fire-Roasted Poblano Ranch if you can find it at your local King Soopers (part of the Kroger chain) or feel free to use any favorite dressing – the salad itself is neutral enough to carry most kinds. Top it off with some leftover rotisserie chicken, or my favorite, a portion of Honey Smoked Salmon, and you’ve got a healthy meal to set you back on track after a week of indulging!


Fully-cooked smoked salmon (Honey Smoked Fish Co. is my favorite brand) is one of my go-to healthy ingredients, and I like to have it on hand to add to salads, sprinkle over pastas, eat in sandwiches, or even just to snack on. The smoke-forward fish is creamy and moist, flavored just enough to wake up your palate – and it complements many dishes while adding healthy lean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Because it is hot-smoked and cooked all the way through, you can just pull it out of the bag and enjoy – a big time-saver that lets you focus your efforts on other parts of your dinner! If you can’t find the Honey Smoked Fish Co. brand that I prefer, many seafood counters carry other similar versions – just look for hot-smoked brands that are cooked all the way through.

It may not have entirely made up for the damages of our wine tour the day before, but now anytime I’m feeling like a food degenerate, I turn to a refreshing and restorative bowl of Abby Salad. Between the greens and veggies and nutrient-rich, lean fish, this is a great salad to kickstart a year of good eating habits!

I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.


Quick Chipotle Ranch
Quick cheat to spice up your classic store-bought ranch.
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Prep Time
5 min
  1. 1 canned chipotle chile adobo sauce*
  2. 1 Tbsp adobo sauce (from chipotle can)
  3. 1 cup store-bought ranch
  1. Finely dice the chipotle chile.
  2. Combine diced chile and adobo sauce with ranch, then stir until combined.
  1. You can add more or less chipotle, depending on how much heat you like. If you don’t enjoy spice, start with 1/2 chipotle chile; taste test, then add more as you prefer.
Fire-Roasted Green Chile Buttermilk Ranch
A mildly spicy, southwestern twist on classic buttermilk ranch dressing.
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Prep Time
10 min
  1. 1 green chile (preferably Anaheim, Poblano if you like a bit more heat)
  2. 1/4 cup sour cream
  3. 1/4 cup buttermilk
  4. 2 Tbsp olive oil mayonnaise (slightly lower calories; regular mayonnaise is fine)
  5. 1/2 garlic cloves, minced or shredded using microplane
  6. 1 scant teaspoon salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  8. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  9. 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  10. 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  11. 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Turn on your gas burner to medium heat. Using tongs, place dry chile directly over flame – you want the chile to burn on all sides!
  2. Rotate and move around as needed so the chile is evenly charred.
  3. When charred, remove hot chile and place in a metal bowl, then tightly wrap with saran wrap. Let steam in bowl while you prep the other ingredients, approximately 5 mins.
  1. Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender.*
  2. After 5 mins, using a paper towel, peel off the charred skin of the chile – it should come off easily. It’s okay if a few bits of skin are stubborn and remain.
  3. Roughly chop the chile and put it in the food processor or blender with the other ingredients.
  4. Whir in the processor until smooth and herbs are finely diced.
  5. Will last 2-4 days in the fridge.
  1. *If you do not have either of these tools, just dice the chile and herbs as finely as possible and mix to combine.
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef