Thursday, August 30, 2012

Southwest Taco Salad

I first ate this excellent salad in Arizona some 30 years ago. I quickly jotted down the ingredients and have been making it ever since. A taco is normally defined as a deep-fried, folded tortilla filled with lettuce, tomatoes, seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and a variety of tasty condiments. 

Southwest Taco Salad: Serve with salsa and sour cream
In this salad, the tortilla is formed against the folds of tortilla bakers before being oven-baked, producing a healthier, low-fat taco. I have two tortilla bakers (see And Yet a Further Note, below!), but it’s so quick to bake the shells that I simply make them ahead - unfilled - if I’m going to need more than two.

What I like so much about this wholesome salad is that in it are all the basic food groups including vegetables (lettuce, olives, and green onions), fruits (tomatoes and salsa), grains (tortillas), dairy (cheese and sour cream), and protein (ground beef or chicken). The added “plus” is that this combination of foods - all served chilled - is insanely delicious! It’s filling enough that in all these 30 years, I have never been able to finish eating the taco bowl that holds it all.

But hey! I’m boring even myself! Tacos should be fun! This cook certainly thinks so ... Olé! 

Southwest Taco Salad:

Two 10-in. )25 cm) corn or flour tortillas
¼ lb. (125 g) lean ground beef (or cooked, shredded chicken)
1 tbsp. taco seasoning (see Note)
¼ c. finely chopped green onions (“spring” onions)
¼ head of iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
10-to-15 ripe, pitted olives (“black olives”), finely chopped
Salsa, as needed
Sour cream, as needed

Have all ingredients assembled and prepared before beginning. Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Press tortilla shells into folds of oil-sprayed non-stick tortilla bowl baking pans. Bake 8-to-10 min. Remove cooled shells from baking pans and reuse with additional tortillas, as needed. Pans do not need greasing for second and subsequent bakings. Set baked shells aside before proceeding with this recipe.

In small skillet, fry lean ground beef over medium heat until no pink remains. Place hot meat in strainer over small bowl to drain fat. Chill and wrap fat, tossing into garbage (not down the sink!). Run hot water over meat in strainer to further de-fat meat. Blot dry. In a medium bowl, combine meat, taco seasoning, finely chopped green onions, and lettuce. Set side.

To assemble Southwest Taco Salad, fill cooled, baked tortillas (formed as taco shells) with meat-and-lettuce mixture. In this order, top with tomatoes, grated cheese, and olives. Do not fill shells in advance lest they soften. Serve with salsa and sour cream on the side. In the quantities specified above, this salad serves 2. 

Note: I buy a 1.2 oz. (35 g) package of taco seasoning, taking only what I need and reserving the rest for next time. 

Further Note: If you like this recipe, you’ll also enjoy my Tex-Mex Nachos (see the Index under Appetizers).

And Yet a Further Note: No tortilla baker? No wor-ries! Turn a standard muffin tin upside down, spray the bottom, and fold 4-inch tortilla shells between the muffin compartments to produce several small taco shells. Bake as above.

The necessary pans: Any brand will do

Press tortillas into non-stick pans

Bake 8-to-10 minutes, until pale golden

Fry lean ground beef in skillet ...

All pink should disappear; drain fat in sieve over bowl

Wash beef with hot water to remove any remaining fat

Ron helped chop olives very finely 

Two tomatoes: One ripe, one past its prime

Combine meat, lettuce, onion, seasoning

Layer taco shells in order listed

Continue with cheese ...

And ripe, pitted, finely chopped olives

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