I never pass up the 1905 salad when I visit the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City or one of its outposts scattered throughout Florida. Finished tableside, the salad starts as a deceptively simple Chef’s salad of iceberg lettuce and sliced tomato garnished with julienne slices of ham and Swiss cheese. Named after the opening year of the restaurant, The 1905 salad takes on a special character when ingredients are added reflecting the cultures of immigrant communities from Spain, Cuba, Italy and Greece living side-by-side in East Tampa.
When presented, the 1905 salad that is way more that the sum of its humble ingredients. Among all the incredible Spanish and Cuban dishes offered at the Columbia, the owners are right to be proud of this simple salad that was elevated to USA Today’s list of America’s Ten Best Salads.
The Columbia salad makes a great mid-week meal. True to its immigrant roots, the ingredients are often at hand or, if not, easy to source and affordable.
A simple Internet search will turn up many recipes for this salad including the official version published by the restaurant. I make a salad that closely follows the official recipe with a few small differences and allowances for my style in the kitchen. One of the main differences is the sequence of adding a generous amount of Mexican dried oregano to the salad ingredients rather than incorporating a smaller measure of the herb into the vinaigrette. I like adding Mexican oregano this way. It features the herb a prominently not just in the background. Not overpowering, dried oregano is a flavor I enjoy.
A second difference is the use of whole grain, Dijon mustard in the dressing. Those who have followed this blog will have noticed that I enjoy adding Maille Old Style mustard to vinaigrettes along with a pinch of sugar. It’s just how I make it. Most of the time, anyway.
At the Columbia, I enjoy the 1905 with their tableside preparation of Red Sangria. At home, an inexpensive red table wine pairs well with this salad of humble origin.
For the Vinaigrette
- 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 – 1/2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of whole grain French Dijon mustard (Maille Old Style recommended)
- 1 teaspoon plus of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 generous pinch of sugar
- Several grinds of black pepper
- 6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil. I use oil from California to avoid the deceptive practices of the European olive oil trade
For the Salad
- 1 head iceberg lettuce cored, sliced and torn into bite size pieces
- 1 large slice or two smaller slices of deli ham cut into 1/2” by 1-1/2” strips
- 2 slices of Swiss cheese cut to match the ham
- 1 ripe tomato cut into eight wedges
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of Spanish Salad Olives. These are green olive slices and pieces mixed with pimento. As an alternative 1/2-cup of whole Spanish green olives stuffed with pimento may be used.
- 1 generous tablespoon of Mexican or domestic dried oregano. I prefer the Mexican variety, but either may be used.
- 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano. If possible, use the imported version from Italy made from sheep milk rather than domestic Romano made with cow milk.
- A few pinch of salt. Go easy as the Pecorino and Olives are already salty.
- A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper
For the Vinaigrette
- Place all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a small, or medium non-reactive bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine and emulsify the oil.
- Adjust seasoning and balance (ratio of acid to oil). This vinaigrette if based on one part acid with three parts oil. You may prefer the dressing either more, or less acidic so adjust by adding either more vinegar of more oil to balance.
- Set aside in the refrigerator until needed.
For the Salad
- Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large non-reactive bowl. Toss to combine ingredients.
- Add the 3/4 of the vinaigrette and toss again to coat all the ingredients in the salad. Taste and add more vinaigrette if needed and toss once more before placing on individual plates.
- Place the salad on individual serving plates adding additional grated Pecorino Romano if desired. Serve with garlic toast made from good bread. Cuban bread if it is available.