Okay, here’s a mash-up no one asked for. California roll meets cobb salad. I will admit, the two classics don’t exactly spring to mind simultaneously. It takes a truly disorganized food-obsessed brain to arrange this meeting. But I must say, I was pretty pleased with this bit of fusion when all was said and done. The two fed into each other surprisingly well. I hate when fusion feels forced, so I’m happy to report this California Roll Cobb Salad came together without a fight. Frankly, the two seem designed for each other. So let’s set about mashing them together, shall we?
I’ve always been a big fan of the cobb salad. It appeals to my general lack of salad enthusiasm. Why? Because a cobb salad has very little to do with leafy greens. Most of the cobbs I’ve had seem to use the barest scraping of the iceberg as a bed for toppings like cheese, chicken, and hard-boiled eggs. The format of a cobb salad also appeals to my perfectionistic nature. Cleanly organized rows? Yes, please!
But before I get too ahead of myself, perhaps I should explain what a cobb salad is to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure. A cobb salad starts with a bed of lettuce, usually iceberg or romaine or a combination of the two. The lettuce is covered with neat rows of toppings. The toppings are usually chicken, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, blue cheese, tomato, and avocado served with a red wine vinaigrette. So as you can see, it’s pretty much a salad in name only. Apparently, the original dish served in the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant was made with fried chicken no less.
As with most stories and/or myths in food history, the cobb salad was born out of a food emergency and created using an assortment of leftovers. In this case, the Cobb Salad was made for a hungry Robert Howard Cobb, the restaurant’s owner. Although stories vary on whether Cobb himself created the salad or his chef, Paul J. Posti did. Regardless of which is correct, the Cobb Salad became the Hollywood Brown Derby’s signature dish and an instant American classic.
Now, let’s tackle the California Roll. The California Roll’s origins are hotly contested. Several chefs from Los Angeles and one chef from Vancouver claim to be the creator. What we do know is the California roll was first mentioned in print in 1979 in the Los Angeles Times. But I will not speculate to the roll’s correct origins beyond that. That’s a subject for more informed food historians to mull over.
What you need to know is the California roll is an inside-out maki roll filled with avocado, cucumber, and crab or imitation crab. This roll is also thought to be the first truly westernized roll, which opened the flood gates for the maki-based experimentation most of us are familiar with today. And can we all agree modern maki is wilding out? Perhaps we’ve gone too far? But I suppose that’s beside the point.
Now that you know what a cobb salad is and what a California roll is, let’s set about putting the two together. There’s no great alchemy going on here. We’re basically arranging California roll fillings on top of lettuce a la Cobb. But I did make a few modifications. First of all, we have far more rows than a California roll has fillings going on here. A cobb salad has a minimum of six rows. So a row of imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado wasn’t going to cut it. So we lift the hard-boiled eggs from the cobb and the edamame from the sushi menu’s appetizer section. And while we’re at it, we’re going to take that addictive creamy sesame dressing as well.
Let’s talk greens. As I mentioned, I’m not so much a raw leafy green human, so I kept the lettuce at a minimum. But if you’re a more virtuous eater than I, feel free to up the ante. Now, because the cobb usually features a mixture of lettuces, wakame also makes an appearance in this California Roll Cobb Salad. The wakame is also a nice nod to the nori that usually binds a California roll. I realize wakame and nori are different types of seaweed but cut me some slack here. If you’re not a seaweed far, add a green you do fancy.
That’s pretty much all there is to this California Roll Cobb Salad. I said it was easy. It’s more of a food styling exercise than a recipe if I’m honest. So if you’re a fan of dressing a plate, welcome to your paradise. As a finishing touch, the salad sports a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi but you could add tobiko, black sesame seeds, or a combination of all three. This particular salad has imitation crab meat because my partner is not a fan of actual crab meat but doesn’t mind the fake stuff. Go figure. But if you’re a crab person, feel free to swap.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this California Roll Cobb Salad. I will admit, this dish is probably better on a sunny patio and not ideal when one is hugging a radiator. So yes, this is an odd choice for a January meal. But I will say, this salad does conjure imagines of hot afternoons and frosty beers. And personally, I could do with the reminder that those exist and I have a feeling you could too.
California Roll Cobb Salad
- 1 small saucepan
Creamy Sesame Dressing
- ½ cup mayo
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp tahini heaping
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp sesame oil
California Roll Cobb Salad
- 1 cup frozen edamame
- 3 large eggs
- ½ tsp baking soda **
- 2 tbsp dried wakame
- 2 heads Boston lettuce washed, dried, and leaves coarsely torn
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- 454g (1 lb) crab meat or imitation crab meat cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup pickled ginger
- 2 mini cucumbers sliced
- ½ batch Creamy Sesame Dressing see above
- shichimi togarashi for sprinkling
For the Dressing
- Place all of the dressing ingredient in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer the dressing to a jar and chill until ready to serve.½ cup mayo, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1½ tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tahini, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp mirin, 1 tsp sesame oil
For the Salad
- Fill a small saucepan 2/3 of the way up with cold water. Add the edamame and cook until the edamame is tender. About 3 minutes. Drain the edamame and set it aside.1 cup frozen edamame
- Refill the saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Add the baking soda and lower the eggs into the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.***½ tsp baking soda **, 3 large eggs
- While the eggs are cooking, pour the wakame into a small bowl. Pour boiling water over top and let sit for 5 minutes before draining. Rinse with cold water and squeeze the seaweed to get rid of the excess moisture. Set it aside.2 tbsp dried wakame
- Your eggs should be done cooking by now. Transfer the eggs to an ice bath and let sit for a minimum of 10 minutes before peeling. Once your eggs are peeled, quarter them and set them aside.
- Place the lettuce on a large platter and sprinkle the wakame on top. Arrange a row of avocado, then edamame, followed by the eggs. Add the crab meat and alternate between adding chunks of meat and pieces of pickled ginger. Finally, add a row of cucumbers and finish the salad with a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi. Served immediately with the dressing on the side.2 heads Boston lettuce, 1 avocado, 454g (1 lb) crab meat or imitation crab meat, ¼ cup pickled ginger, 2 mini cucumbers, ½ batch Creamy Sesame Dressing, shichimi togarashi