Fact: life is too short to eat sad desk salads. This very real fact is why I am almost always looking for salad inspiration. From Pinterest, Facebook and even restaurant menus, I look for inspiration anywhere I can find to ensure I am not crying tears of regret into a sad little desk salad!
While I love me some social media recipe stalking, I would say finding inspiration from restaurant menus is one of the most underrated and helpful resources I have found. One of my favorite salads I have tasted is the smoked chicken chop chop at Cactus in Seattle. With some of the tastiest "Pacific Northwest inspired" Mexican cuisine I have ever encountered, I can safely say that Cactus is one of my favorite restaurants of all time. While I swoon over their butternut squash black bean enchiladas with goat cheese and smoked chicken flautas with chipotle cream sauce and arugula, it is the smoked chicken chop chop that keeps me coming back for more and that inspired this very recipe in a very big way.
Once I studied the menu and started to think through the ingredients of this winning salad, I realized it would be rather simple to recreate at home to help bring some life back into my weekday lunch routine. Starting with a bed of crisp romaine or your other favorite salad green, the salad is topped with shredded or rotisserie chicken to keep things easy, garbanzo beans, radishes for peppery crunch, smoky bacon, sweet red bell peppers, pumpkin seeds and, not one but, two cheeses, salty cotija and creamy panela. To top it off (literally), this abundant and vibrant blend gets dressed with a smoky, zesty chipotle balsamic vinaigrette.