Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Taco Salad

A long, long time ago, I had a job that required that I spend countless hours driving all over the Chicagoland area.

On some days, I went out to lunch with customers. Most days, I ate lunch alone.

If I was in a hurry to get from one side of town to the other, I sometimes grabbed fast food. But if I was close to my next appointment and it was lunchtime, I had plenty of time to have a decent meal.

I had some criteria for where I dined. For example, I didn't like getting seated at a tiny table, even though I was alone. Sometimes I brought work with me to read over, and sometimes I brought a book. I didn't need a huge table, but I wanted a little bit of elbow room, if the restaurant wasn't crowded. It irked me to be seated at a tiny table if the restaurant was only 1/4 full, so I tended to avoid those sorts of places.

As far as food, I wanted something filling enough to get me through the rest of the day, but not so heavy that I'd want a nap in a couple hours. I also didn't want a super-expensive lunch. This wasn't a special treat, it was just an everyday lunch.

And I didn't want something messy. After all, I was going to be visiting with customers after lunch.

Over time, I found favorite places in many of the areas where I had customers, and I had favorite dishes at many of those restaurants. One of my favorite lunches was served at a Mexican restaurant, but it certainly wasn't a traditional Mexican dish. It was taco salad.

The salad was served in an oversized flour tortilla that was deep-fried in the shape of a bowl. While a giant deep-fried tortilla wasn't exactly the most healthy thing to eat, the rest of the salad was reasonably healthy.

I haven't had one of those salads in years, and I'm not sure why not - it's pretty easy to assemble as long as I have chili on hand.

I don't bother with the giant deep-fried flour-tortilla bowl - I just use a normal shallow bowl.

The appeal of this salad is the contrast between the warm chili and the chilled salad ingredients, as well as the spiciness of chili and jalapenos contrasting with the creaminess of the sour cream.

If you look at it, a taco salad is very similar to nachos, with crisp lettuce instead of crunchy chips. And probably with less cheese - depending on how your make yours.

Just like any salad, you can modify it to suit your tastes. You could even add a handful of tortilla chips, if you like.

Taco Salad

Romaine or iceberg lettuce
Sliced zucchini or cucumbers
Pitted olives (sliced, if you like)
Tomatoes, cut in wedges or bite-sized chunks
Pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced
Sliced or cubed avocado or guacamole
Shredded cheese
Chili (home made preferred, but a good canned brand is fine)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Scatter the lettuce in a shallow bowl. I aim for a salad that's at least half lettuce compared to the rest of the toppings, but make it the way you like.

Add the zucchini and/or cucumbers, olives, tomato, and jalapeno over the top of the lettuce. add a few small dollops of guacamole or slices of avocado around the edges.

Add the chili in the center. Sprinkle with cheese, and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Serve immediately.

Note: this salad would also work well as a built-it-yourself meal with all of the ingredients available for everyone to add as much or as little of each item as they like.
If you're going to have salad, you might as well make it a taco salad, right? Want some chips with that?Want some taco salad? I know you do!