Growing up in Florida, I’ve savored Cuban sandwiches ever since I can remember. Cubans can be enjoyed hot or cold, and whether served in school cafeterias, packed for lunches on the beach, or grab & go from the deli, Cubans have been a part of every season of my life. Mmmm….
So I thought I’d try my hand at transforming this delicious sandwich into a decadent salad!
Keeping this salad true to the original Cuban sandwich, the ingredients are especially important. A “real” Cuban does not have mayo, fancy mustards, tomatoes, or any type of cheese other than Swiss; nor is it served on a hoagie. If a Cuban sandwich comes your way with any of these, it’s a fraud. 😉
An authentic Cuban simply has butter, yellow mustard, roasted or barbequed pork, ham, Italian salami, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and Cuban bread. That’s it!
I used these ingredients (and their proportions to the sandwich) to keep this salad true to form. The dressing has real butter and yellow mustard. Italian seasoning compliments the salami’s spices. Rice vinegar and shallots are the mildest flavors of vinegars and onions so as to give this dressing personality but not dominate the salad or change the Cuban’s original flavor. And the vinegar also compliments the vinegar-soaked pickles; an awesome combination.
The point of the dressing is to get mustard and butter into this dish (like on the sandwich) and lightly coat the lettuce so it is still a proper salad yet with all of the authentic flavors of a Cuban sandwich.
Don’t skimp on the pickles! A true Cuban has bity dill pickles that deliver a crunch. Please skip the shelved, limp pickles and get the fresh, refrigerated pickles. Their crisp crunch and fresh taste is light years beyond any non-refrigerated pickle. Trust me on this! Good pickles are the ingredient that pulls this entire dish together. They are the crowning jewel of this salad; use at least 2 cups but add more if you’d like.
The mixed soft greens of spring, kale and watercress are given texture with crunchy cabbage and Brussel sprouts which do not add flavor, but do add texture and nutrition with the Brussels.
We prefer hard salami to Genoa, but either works. The roast pork is a cheat that I buy precooked from the deli. It’s definitely a time-saver, and since it’s part of the entree and not the main course I’m totally fine buying a pre-cooked portion of pork versus roasting an entire tenderloin – though leftovers are never a bad thing.
Lastly, serve with Cuban bread on the side or skip it for a gluten-free option.
My family kept saying that they couldn’t believe how much this salad tasted like a Cuban sandwich, woohoo!!
Enjoy Cuban sandwich flavors on top of a zesty, high-protein salad that, when paired together, you have a new, uncompromised version of the Cuban we all know and love.
(Serves 4 to 6)
4oz Spring mix lettuce
4oz Baby Kale
4c Brussel sprouts; thinly sliced & ends cut off
3/4# Ham; diced (you can buy it pre-diced)
3/4# Roast pork; diced (pre-cooked from the deli)
1/2# Italian hard salami; diced (buy one thick piece from the deli then dice it)
3/4# Swiss cheese; diced
2c Dill pickles; chopped (use the refrigerated kind like Claussen dill)
1 Cuban bread; optional- leave soft or toast and cut into cubes as croutons
4T Butter; unsalted & melted
1/4c Grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 Shallots; peeled, ends cut off and then cut shallots in half
2t Italian herb seasoning
3/4c Plain/natural rice vinegar
4T Yellow mustard
2t Fresh minced garlic
1/8t Black pepper
- Make the dressing by melting butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, then blend all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor.
- If saving for later, pour dressing into a bottle, bowl or measuring cup that can be microwaved to keep butter melted if it cools and thickens. Otherwise simply set it aside. Dressing should be room temperature when served.
- In a large bowl, toss spring lettuce, baby kale, watercress, cabbage and Brussels with the dressing until evenly coated. Divide evenly among 4-6 serving plates.
- Plate salads by dividing remaining ingredients evenly and layering them on top of the dressed greens in the order listed above beginning with ham and ending with pickles.
5. Garnish with Cuban bread, optional. Serve immediately.