I took a few minor liberties with the salad. In the original, both black beans and pinto beans are suggested, and mango in addition to pineapple is in the ingredient list. I had recently cooked a lot of black beans and stored them in the freezer, but I didn’t have any pinto beans on hand. And when I shopped for the pineapple, it just so happened that the mangoes were all very green that day. Also, I opted for a bed of chopped, red leaf lettuce as a base rather than a mixture of iceberg and romaine. So, my salad was slightly simplified, but all the important flavors and texture were covered. For the crunchy topping, corn tortillas were cut into strips, tossed with vegetable oil, seasoned, and baked until golden and crispy. I built the salad in layers with the chopped lettuce on the bottom. Tomatoes, pineapple, avocados, black beans, cilantro, green onions, and garlic were tossed with some Smoky Tomato Dressing and spooned on top of the lettuce. I added a few slices of hot chiles, crumbled cotija cheese over everything, and topped with salad with the crunchy tortilla strips.
Even though the book is about side dishes, there are several recipes, like this one, from which I could make a meal. I love this type of salad with so many flavors and textures all in one place. The slight smokiness of the dressing was well-suited here. Whether you need ideas for the side of the plate or want to combine a couple of things for a meal, this book has plenty of inspiration.
Crunchy Corn Tortilla Salad
Recipes reprinted with publisher’s permission from Choosing Sides by Tara Mataraza Desmond/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.
Serves 4 to 6
This salad is so full of color, flavor, and texture it can easily steal the show from the main dish. Use whatever tomato variety you prefer, but this mix is a perfect place for those little red, orange, and yellow cherry, grape, and pear varieties that look like gumballs and candies tucked into pint containers on farmstand tables all through the summer.
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of chipotle chile powder
2 cups quartered heirloom rainbow cherry and grape tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
1 medium mango, peeled and diced into small cubes (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup fresh pineapple diced into small cubes
2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup cooked black beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
1/2 cup cooked pinto beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
1 clove garlic, minced and smashed into a paste
1/2 small head of iceberg lettuce, cored and cut across the leaves into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1/2 small head of romaine lettuce, cored and cut across the leaves into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or coarsely grated ricotta salata
Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Put the torilla pieces in a large mixing bowl, drizzle them with the oil, and sprinkle with the salt, cumin, and chile powder. Toss, using clean hands or tongs to coat the tortilla pieces with the oil and seasoning. Spread the tortilla pieces across a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack, until they are crisp and lightly toasted. Keep a close eye on them as they bake to prevent burning if your oven tends to run high. Transfer the hot tortilla strips to a cooling rack to cool completely. (These can be prepared up to a day ahead, cooled completely, and stored in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.)
In a large, wide serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, mango, pineapple, avocados, beans, cilantro, scallion, and garlic. Gently toss everything together. (This can be prepared up to a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.) Just before serving, add the lettuces and cheese to the tomato mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Top with the toasted tortilla strips.
Smoky Tomato Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups
The juice and pulp of ripe summer tomatoes make this dressing voluptuous in savory roundness and viscosity. Blended into thick, tangy yogurt with balancing splashes of vinegar and oil, tomatoes that usually adorn lettuce in chunks or slices drape across greens in a saucy manner instead. Smoked paprikaadds the unmistakable sultry flavor that suggests the same trademark tastes shared with bacon. All told, this smoked creamy tomato dressing captures the famed BLT. Try it tossed with pasta, spread on sandwiches, or mixed into chicken or tuna salad.
1/2 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt
1 medium tomato (about 7 ounces), cored and quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (about 10 grinds)
Add the yogurt, tomato, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, sugar, salt, and pepper to a blender and puree until completely smooth and creamy, 20 to 30 seconds. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Drizzle on salad immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to one week.
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