Sunday, September 15, 2013

Crunchy Corn Tortilla Salad with Smoky Tomato Dressing

Of course side dishes are more memorable to me than a starring protein. I’m not that interested in meat, so sides are where the excitement is in my opinion. At holiday meals, my plate is piled with vegetables, breads, casseroles, and salads. And, potlucks are the best events ever because they’re all about celebrating side dishes. The latest book from Tara Mataraza Desmond, Choosing Sides, does that as well. It’s an entire book of what to serve to round out meals, what to take to parties at different times of year, and what to make for those big holiday celebrations. I recently received a review copy. Each recipe comes with suggestions for what it could be served with. Brunch and lunch are covered with things like Cinnamon Challah Muffins which are like bread pudding in muffin form and Bloody Mary Shrimp Salad which could be served on toasted brioche squares or in lettuce cups. Other chapters include Breads, Salads, Weeknight Dinners, Cookouts, Intimate Gatherings, Potlucks, and Holiday Feasts. The buttery, rich Pumpkin Rolls look delightful, the Coconut Cilantro Toasted Israeli Couscous could go with all kinds of great things, and Blood Orange Wild Rice with dried cranberries will be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. I love that throughout the book the dishes incorporate a good variety of vegetables, mix together different textures with grains and nuts, and keep flavors bright and interesting with herbs and fresh dressings. As I read the Salads chapter, the Smoky Tomato Dressing caught my eye, and then I backtracked to the Crunchy Corn Tortilla Salad to serve with it. The dressing is thickened with yogurt and combines tomato, olive oil, and red wine vinegar with smoked paprika. It sounded like a nice match for a late summer salad with lots of cherry tomatoes, avocados, sweet pineapple, and black beans. 

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. 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program.


  1. I love crunchy corn tortillas - they are so easy to make! Love the combination of tomatoes, pineapple, avocados, black beans, cilantro & green onions!

  2. Whoa! That Smoky Tomato Dressing sounds incredible! I think I could just eat that and be almost satisfied, lol...Of course, the layered salad is the star of this dish but oh my word that dressing, lol...

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa...I love the way you've made this recipe your own:)

  3. I'm another who gets more excited over side dishes. And this Tortilla Salad, with all of my favorite fresh ingredients, is one I could get very excited about!

  4. A mouthwatering combination and dish! Delightfully fresh, crunchy and smoky.



  5. Lovely combination of flavors and textures...definitely a winner!

  6. A very beautiful and crunchy salad! The smokey tomato dressing sounds terrific.

  7. I love the tortilla strips on top!! What a gorgeous looking salad...

  8. I agree this terrific salad would be a fabulous dinner! Thank for the cookbook introduction, Choosing Sides is new to me.

  9. I'm with you with a love of sides. Usually because they're all about vegetables and I love vegetables! :D

  10. I think I'm going to have to make a version of this salad for lunch today! I have a just-cooked pot of beans on the stove itching to be eaten.
    Lisa, I'm with you about sides - they are usually much more interesting than mains.
    Hope you're well!

  11. this is my favorite blend of ingredients for a meal. fantastic salad and lovely presentation!

  12. This looks great, Lisa, and I love the little touches that you put into it. The smoky sauce sounds superb!

  13. That's a lovely looking salad and I love how it has both pineapple and mango in it. And the textures would be good too - I love a bit of crunch! xx

  14. with such lovely salad on the side,we will surely go light on the mains....loved everything in this scrumptious salad...perfect flavors,balanced use of fruits for some tangy sweetness,crunchy tortillas and lettuce for an irresistible texture & a well seasoned smoky dressing to round it all up...we can't say enough how much we got hooked to this yummy dish,thanks for sharing :-)

  15. The smoky tomato dressing sounds sublime. Smoked paprika really transforms a dish doesn't it? Love the added crunch of the crispy tortilla!

  16. I tend to be more interested in side dishes rather than main dishes too (with pasta being an exception). Love the flavors in this! That tomato dressing sounds wonderful. Really nice recipe - thanks.

  17. Nice salad Lisa, and yes, I love the crunchy tortilla strips...looks delicious with a touch of the idea of smoked paprika.
    Hope you are having a fun week :D

  18. Such a cool twist on corn chips Lisa. I love the mix of flavours and crunchy textures. Would go well with a pitcher of margaritas yes? :)

  19. That cookbook sounds seriously fabulous! Might have to put it on my birthday list. Salad looks wonderful!

  20. Love the sound of the smoky tomato dressing...I've still got a few tomatoes left from my garden that would be perfect for this recipe.

  21. What a great sounding salad! Pinning this one so I remember to make it ... hopefully this week. Thanks for a great recipe Lisa.

  22. I think i can brely hear the crunch over here...

  23. Beautiful & colorful! So glad you got rid of the iceberg lettuce. Really wish it would be banned from salads 99.99% of the time. :)


Blogging tips