Friday, January 15, 2010

Mexican Super Salad with Creamy Chipotle Vinaigrette (vegan)




SALAD INGREDIENTS
1 head romaine lettuce (about 9 oz)
8 ¾ oz corn, canned, drained
2 avocado
2-4 jalapenos
½ cucumber
½ red onion
1 tomato

SALAD DRESSING INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp Vegenaise (or regular mayo for the non-vegans)
½ tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cilantro
¼ tsp cumin
1 dried chipotle pepper, deseeded, finely diced

There’s a certain amount of predictability in life, and as a kid, one of the more predictable things in our house was what we would be eating for Sunday dinner. Unlike the tradition of many families to cook a huge meal on Sunday, I can only guess my dad saw Sunday evenings much like I do today: the beginning of the work week. For that reason, we always ate something simple on Sundays, and on many a Sunday evening I recall sitting in front of 60 Minutes and eating something my dad called the “super salad”. The super salad was always different, but the concept the same – it was a big-ass salad that filled you up just as much as pork chops and potatoes would. Today, I make a super salad once a month or so in the colder months and more often in the summer.

The inspiration for this super salad is a salad I often order at Chipotle. I love Chipotle for many reasons, but at the top of the list is their use of fresh organic vegetables that they prepare by hand daily (their meat is all hormone-free and free-range too!). At times, eating a burrito from Chipotle is like trying to eat a compact car – they’re huge! This is why when I go Chipotle I have them make a salad.

Though incredibly quick and easy to make, this salad is far from boring. Full of crunch and heat and spice, the avocado and creamy vinaigrette dressing with the smoky essence from the chipotle pepper work to cool down your palate just enough so you can take another bite.

Make this recipe on a night when you really wanna just order out or sit on the sofa with your hand in the cereal box. This salad’s delicious, nutritious, and you’ll be done making it so fast you’ll think you’re Speedy Gonzales.

QUICK AND DIRTY

Wash, dry, and chop romaine and place in a large salad bowl. Dice tomato, cucumber, and red onion and add to salad.

Top with sliced jalapeno, removing none, some, or all of the seeds to control the degree of heat you want in your salad.

Add drained corn, and top with avocado, sliced lengthwise.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and whisk until blended.



ROOKIE COOKIES

The difficulty in this salad is all about learning how to cut and prepare different types of fresh vegetables, something that you might not have learned how to do unless you’ve been in food service or really spent some time watching someone in the kitchen. Below I’ll explain how to prepare each vegetable for this salad, using different techniques.

Wash, dry, and chop romaine and place in a large salad bowl.

How to wash & chop lettuce:
There’s many different ways you can buy romaine lettuce – from its most natural form, a head of lettuce, to washed and trimmed hearts of romaine, to a bag of pre-cut and pre-washed romaine. IMO, bagged lettuce is cheating, but that’s just me ;)


When preparing “real” lettuce, you’re going to want to give it a wash and dry before cutting it. Why dry? Because if you don’t, your salad dressing won’t stick, it will be watered down, and the salad won’t keep even if sealed in the fridge because of the high moisture content (moisture breaks down organic material). To give your lettuce a proper wash, you can either:


1. Detach the leaves at the base, rinse under cold water, gently rubbing each leaf to dislodge dirt, and place in a salad spinner to dry; or
2. Detach the leaves at the base, dampen a clean towel, and gently wipe each leaf to rid it of dirt and debris. This method doesn’t require drying.


After washed and dried, chop the lettuce into 2-3” strips by grasping a whole handful of leaves (all facing the same direction) and beginning at the tip of the leaves. The tighter you grasp the lettuce, the easier and cleaner of a cut you will make through all the leaves.

Dice tomato, cucumber, and red onion and add to salad.

Prior to any cutting or dicing, rinse all vegetables under cold water and lightly scrub with a vegetable brush. Pat dry.


How to dice cucumber:
1. To dice a cucumber, first cut it in half lengthwise with a large chef’s knife. You should now have two halves that look like canoes.
2. Next, run your knife down the center of each half, again lengthwise, so the cucumber is cut into 4 quarters. If you want your slices smaller, do this again.
3. Reconstruct the cucumber (putting the pieces back together), and hold tightly while chopping width-wise into half-inch pieces.


How to dice tomato:
For this salad we’re going to use a single large tomato, but you could just as easily use grape tomatoes or sliced Roma tomatoes.


1. First, slice off the tomato stem and discard.
2. Next, slice the tomato in half width-wise (at what would be its equator).
3. Hold over a bowl or the trash and gently squeeze each half, removing the seeds and any extra liquid.
4. Holding your hand over the dome of one half of the tomato, slice the tomato from left to right into half-inch strips, keeping the slices together so even when sliced it forms a dome.
5. Then, repeat this slicing from top to bottom – your tomato is now diced in semi-uniform pieces.
6. Repeat horizontal and vertical slicing with the other half.


As you get more confident with this, you can also cut the tomato on its tropic of cancer and tropic of capricorn prior to cutting each half into strips. This will make your diced pieces even smaller.


How to dice onion:
Dicing an onion can be tricky at first but really satisfying once you get the hang of it:


1. First, with the peel intact, slice off the stem and make another similarly-sized slice at the opposite end of the onion. Discard.
2. Next, chop the onion in half lengthwise (your knife’s cut should connect both ends you just removed). Remove the peel (how easy was that?!).
3. With one half of the onion, place on chopping board so that the cut-off ends are to your left and right. Slice the onion from left to right into half-inch strips, keeping the slices together so even when sliced it forms a dome.
4. Then, repeat this slicing from top to bottom.
5. Repeat horizontal and vertical slicing with the other half.

Top with sliced jalapeno, removing none, some, or all of the seeds to control the degree of heat you want in your salad.

How to cut jalapeno:
1. Cut the stems off the jalapeno.
2. Cut each jalapeno width-wise into quarter-inch “rings”.

Add drained corn, and top with avocado, sliced lengthwise.

How to de-seed & slice avocado:
An avocado contains a large seed the size of a golf ball in the center of the most bulbous part of the fruit.


1. Remove the seed by slicing the avocado in half, length-wise. When your knife hits the pit, rotate the avocado to continue the cut all the way around the pit until you reach where you began the slice.
2. Hold each length-wise half in a hand, and twist the halves until they separate. The seed will remain in one half of the avocado.
3. To remove the seed, either use a spoon to scoop it out or slightly whack it with a sharp knife so that the blade becomes stuck and leverage the knife to twist the seed out. Discard the seed.
4. With a half on the cutting board (flesh-side up), make 3 lengthwise slices. Repeat with other half.
5. Gently remove the sliced flesh from the skin.



For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and whisk until blended.



TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS

I love spice, and this salad is certainly a reflection of that. It’s been said that eating spicy foods is good for weight control. While some claim it raises the metabolism (I don’t know about all that), others indicate that the “full” signal is triggered faster when you eat spicy foods, which causes you to eat less volume and still be satisfied.

For me, it’s all about the combination of hot and cold. While I put all four jalapenos (with all their seeds) in this salad, I include the creamy dressing (instead of a typical vinaigrette) and avocado to cool down the spice. The addition of these two ingredients doesn’t really make the salad any less spicy, but the coolness of the ingredients tricks your taste buds into somehow being okay with it.

Avocado is one of my favorite fruits to use in salads! It has a creamy, buttery taste and is full of “good” fat. Before using an avocado, you’ll want to ensure the fruit is ripe. Under-ripe, an avocado will be very firm and have little taste. Over-ripe, the flesh of an avocado will start to turn from green to brown and be very mushy. To find out if your avocado is ripe, give it a gentle squeeze. When an avocado is ripe, you should be able to leave a slight indentation with your thumb, but the avocado should still be firm.

When buying an avocado, it’s more than likely not going to be ripe. Letting it sit in a fruit bowl for a few days should do the trick, or if you need it to ripen quicker (in a day), place it in a brown paper bag that’s been folded shut and place on the counter. Conversely, if you have a ripe avocado you’re not going to use for a few days, toss it on the fridge, where it should keep for up to a week.

While I wrote this recipe vegan, I actually ate it vegetarian – adding a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese. Adding these two ingredients makes me feel like I’m truly eating a burrito in salad form. Plus, I really could have gone with the seeds of two jalapenos instead of four (aye-yi-yi!), so the sour cream and cheese helped cool down the spice even more.




I hope you enjoy this super salad - olay!

1 comment:

  1. holy delicious batman!!! now i want a yummy Super Salad!!!

    ReplyDelete