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Easy dinner recipes: Chaya's chopped salad and more

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Honestly, could it get any better than salad sometimes? Big, beautiful, colorful -- and so often simple -- salads are a perfect choice when you're planning dinner in a pinch. Tailor the components just so to please picky dinner guests, or fix one as a vehicle to use up leftovers in the fridge -- salads are easy that way.

Go for a spin with the chopped salad from Chaya. Chopped romaine lettuce tossed with fresh corn, avocado, cucumber and nicely spiced shrimp, this Chaya's chopped salad is fresh and bright, and it packs no shortage of heat from its jalapeño-spiced dressing.

Or try the tricolore salad from Nancy Silverton. A simple yet colorful blend of nicely assertive lettuces (arugula, frisée and endive), the salad is tossed with a homemade anchovy dressing and topped with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

PHOTOS: 15 easy dinner ideas, from pasta to enchiladas, shrimp skewers and more

Craving chicken? Try Nordstrom's chopped chicken salad. Both tart fresh apple slices and dried apple chips flavor this salad, tossed with sliced onion, lightly spiced candied almonds, julienned strips of chicken and creamy goat cheese. The salad is tossed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. The whole recipe, including the candied almonds, comes together in about an hour, perfect as a side or a light meal.

For more easy dinner recipes, click through our photo gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less.

CHAYA'S CHOPPED SALAD

Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from Chaya. For the celery seed powder, grind celery seeds in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle.

Dressing

2 jalapeños

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Juice from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Roast the jalapeños: Place the jalapeños on a rack set over a stove-top burner and roast until charred on all sides. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and seed.

2. In a blender, combine the jalapeños, mayonnaise, lemon juice and olive oil, and blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This makes about 1 cup dressing. Cover and chill until needed.

Sautéed shrimp

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/8 teaspoons cumin

1 1/8 teaspoons onion powder

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch celery seed powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 ounces medium shrimp

1. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper and celery seed powder to make a spice blend.

2. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot, then add the olive oil. Add the shrimp and sauté until slightly opaque, 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle over the spice blend and continue cooking just until opaque. Remove from heat and set aside.

Chopped salad

2 hearts of romaine, chopped

1 cucumber, diced

1/2 avocado, diced

1 whole cob white corn, kernels removed (about 1 1/3 cups kernels)

Sautéed shrimp

Dressing, divided

1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

16 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, as a garnish

1. In a large bowl, toss the chopped romaine with the cucumber, avocado, corn kernels and shrimp. Add half the dressing and gently toss to coat. Add additional dressing, a couple of tablespoons at a time, to coat as desired.

2. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with 1 tablespoon cheese, 4 halved tomatoes and 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 498 calories; 18 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 40 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 126 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 1,638 mg sodium.

SALAD WITH PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO AND ANCHOVY DRESSING

Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: Four as a starter; two as a main course

Anchovy dressing

5 anchovy fillets (preferably salt-packed), rinsed (backbones removed if salt-packed)

1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, purée the anchovies, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if desired. This makes a generous one-half cup dressing; use the dressing or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Salad and assembly

6 loosely packed cups arugula

5 packed cups frisée (leaves torn from the heads)

3 red Belgian endive, core removed and discarded leaves pulled from the core (you can substitute 4 cups torn radicchio leaves)

Kosher salt

Anchovy dressing

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large wide-mouth bowl, combine the arugula, frisée and endive. Sprinkle with one-half teaspoon salt or to taste, and toss gently with your hands to distribute the salt evenly. Drizzle one-half cup of the dressing and sprinkle over one-fourth cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossing gently with your hands to coat the lettuce leaves with the dressing. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, dressing or lemon juice if desired.

2. Pile the salad on a large plate or divide it among 4 individual plates. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and serve.

Each of 4 servings: 376 calories; 8 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams fiber; 31 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 608 mg sodium.

NORDSTROM'S CHICKEN SALAD

Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling time for the almonds

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from a recipe from Nordstrom.

Spiced candied almonds

1 tablespoon egg white (about ½ egg white)

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 pound blanched almond slivers

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch ground cayenne pepper

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy, then whisk in the brown sugar until the sugar is moist. Add the almonds, tossing to evenly coat.

2. Spread the almonds into a single, evenly spaced layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast the almonds until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. While the almonds are toasting, in a small bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

4. When the almonds are done, immediately sprinkle over the spice mixture, using a spatula to toss the hot almonds with the spices until evenly coated. Set the almonds aside to cool completely before using. This makes a generous 2 cups of spiced candied almonds, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the almonds will keep, sealed in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Champagne vinaigrette

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Generous 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

3/4 cup canola oil

In the bowl of a blender, beat together the shallots, mustard, sugar, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly blend in the oil to form a creamy vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. This makes a generous cup of vinaigrette, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, three to five days.

Chicken, apple and goat cheese salad

1/3 cup Champagne vinaigrette, more to taste

8 to 10 cups (10 ounces) mixed greens

4 ounces sliced tart apple, preferably Granny Smith

1 cup spiced candied almonds, divided

6 ounces goat cheese, divided

1/4 red onion, sliced into thin half-rings

3 ounces dried apple "chips"

12 ounces cooked chicken, cut into strips

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine one-third cup vinaigrette and the mixed greens, apple slices, one-half of the spiced candied almonds, one-half of the goat cheese (added in small dollops), the red onion, apple chips and chicken. Gently toss together, adding additional dressing as needed and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Divide the salad among four plates. Garnish each serving with the remaining spiced candied almonds and goat cheese, sprinkling the almonds over the salad and adding the cheese in small dollops. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 854 calories; 38 grams protein; 48 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 59 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 97 mg cholesterol; 24 grams sugar; 384 mg sodium.

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Behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

You can find Noelle Carter on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest. Email Noelle at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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