Monday, April 27, 2009

Taco Salad (slightly grown up)

I know at least one other human in this world grew up eating the great, home-grown taco salad that comes smothered in warm taco meat, soaked in Catalina dressing, and sprinkled with tantalizing crumbles of nacho-cheese Doritos. I also know that this meal marked the only time Doritos ever appeared in our house. I'm pretty sure far fewer ended up in the salad than ended up in the chip-crusher's mouth.

Anyway, I get a hankering for this salad periodically, but I've since learned that catalina = ketchup + sugar + vegetable oil, and am no longer crazy about corn chips in my dinner, I started experimenting with going more au natural.

Turns out, it's not so tough to replicate. You can microwave cheese until it's crispy (Doritos, check); you can stir up a dressing out of pantry staples (Catalina, check); and you can even make your own taco seasoning mix (1,460 fewer grams of sodium with your dinner, check).

Taco Salad with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette
(Serves 2, dinner-size. Total prep/cook time, about 40 minutes.)

For the salad:
1/4 - 1/3 lb ground turkey
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp taco seasoning (see below)
Romaine lettuce (enough for 2 salads)
1 medium carrot, sliced thin
4 radishes, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 thick tomato slices, diced
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated

For the dressing:
Zest of 1 lime (about 1 tsp)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp white wine or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp olive oil (or other salad oil)

For taco seasoning (if you wanna make your own):
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

  1. In a small skillet, saute onions with a pinch of salt. When about done, throw in garlic. Then add turkey meat and brown, 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with taco seasoning and add 1/4 cup water. Stir to incorporate and lower heat; simmer until liquid is gone.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together lime juice and zest, vinegar, cilantro, honey, and spices. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Set aside.
  3. Now, sprinkle grated cheese in a thin layer on a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high until cheese is bubbling, brown and spotty. My microwave took 3 minutes. You might start with 2 and see how it goes. You should be able to (just barely) peel sheets of cheese off the hot plate, but it should harden immediately. If it's still flexible, throw it back on the plate and return it to the microwave. [This can also be done in a skillet on the stove under your watchful eye.]
  4. To assemble, divide lettuce between two salad bowls/plates. Also split carrots, radishes, scallions, and tomatoes between plates. Drizzle dressing over. Top with warm meat and crunchy cheese.

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