Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Epic Taco Salad

Keith came home from his trip last night, just in time for dinner. He'd asked for taco salad. So I went all-out and made the most epic taco salad ever. It was fabulous!


Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (use cilantro if you like it)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Tiny pinch of sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Meat Mix:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 a small sweet onion, diced
5 or 6 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 fresh hot chile pepper, minced
1 Tbsp chile powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 lb ground chicken (or beef)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 ear of corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 cup black beans (see note)
Salad greens, rinsed and dried
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Avocado, sliced
Carrot, shredded into curls with a peeler
Freshly-grated cheddar cheese
Pumpkin seeds

Tortilla chips (see note)

Note: You can use canned black beans, but I soaked and cooked dry beans in boiling water with salt, dried savory, and hot sauce. They were so much more flavorful than canned beans! And they required no active time; they just simmered while I did other stuff around the house. On the tortilla chips, you can use packaged ones, but I cut corn tortillas into eight little triangles each and fried them up in a mixture of peanut oil and schmaltz, then sprinkled them with salt as they drained. They were perfect for scooping up bites of salad!

For the dressing, whisk together everything but the oil in a small bowl. Steadily whisking, add the oil in a thin stream until blended. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to a day to let the flavors blend.

For the meat, heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Toss in the onion, mushrooms, hot pepper, and spices; saute for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the ground meat and keep cooking until it's mostly cooked through. Stir in the tomato sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the meat is done and has soaked up the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and rinse out the skillet (it doesn't have to be perfectly clean, just rinsed and wiped out).

Melt the 1/2 Tbsp butter or oil in the skillet, then add the corn kernels. Saute for a minute or two and then remove from the heat. (Sure, you could use canned corn here, but the fresh corn is so delicious this time of year!)

Loosely chop the salad greens and put them in a pretty glass serving bowl. Top them with the meat mixture, then the corn, then the beans, tomatoes, avocado, carrot curls, cheese, and pumpkin seeds. Set this in the fridge for up to an hour, until you're ready to serve dinner.

When you're ready to eat, give the dressing another good whisking and drizzle about half of it over the top. Save the rest for another salad on another day. Serve the salad with tortilla chips on the side.

We had ours with homemade peach ice cream for dessert, and a nicely chilled rose. Perfect for a hot summer evening!

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