Summer has officially arrived and during the hot weather people often enjoy a salad for lunch or dinner. Salad plates piled high with fresh vegetables will fill you up but can sometimes be boring but they don’t have to be. A Southwestern Salad, a Cobb salad with a Mexican flair, is a great meal for warmer weather. It is a colorful, great tasting and good for you as it has a larger ratio of vegetables to protein.
If you are grilling over the weekend, add a few extra chicken thighs or breasts to use for this salad during the week. A rotisserie chicken from your local market is also good in this dish. You can prep many of the ingredients ahead of time (except the avocado) and keep them in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. The recipe is easily doubled or even tripled to feed a large group and served either as a main course or side dish to go along with a Mexican themed dinner party.
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side, adjust the recipe accordingly
Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine 1/3 c. olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime (3 Tbsp.), 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and a few shakes of green Tabasco. Whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Grilled Chicken: Pound a large chicken breast to even out the thickness, generously season with salt, pepper and cumin, drizzle with some olive oil, and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over it. Let the chicken marinate for 10 minutes while you heat the grill to medium high. Grill the breast about 3 minutes, turn and cook until done, about another 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette.
Corn: Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a skillet and sauté 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped until translucent. Add 1 red or green jalapeño pepper, diced and 1 clove of garlic, minced and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 c. frozen corn, thawed (canned may be substituted) and season with 1/2 tsp. cumin, then salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for a few minutes until the corn is cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Tomatoes: In a small bowl, combine 1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered, 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped, 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro and 1 Tbsp. of the vinaigrette, Salt and pepper, to taste. Stir and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.
Black beans: Wash and drain well 1 can of black beans and season with 1/4 tsp. each of oregano, garlic powder and onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add some of the vinaigrette, toss well and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.
Avocado: Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, peel and cut into chunks. Squeeze a little lime juice over it to keep it from turning brown. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette and gently mix. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Eggs: Peel 2 hard-boiled eggs and cut into quarters.
Cheese: Crumble or shred a small block of cheese. You can use a Mexican cheese such as Cotija or queso fresco, feta, Monterey jack, cheddar or a blue cheese.
To Prepare The Salad: Add about 4 – 5 cups of romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into bite size pieces to a large bowl, season with a little salt and pepper and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Place the lettuce on a large platter and arrange the chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, tomatoes, eggs and cheese in neat rows on top. Serve with wedges of lime and any remaining vinaigrette on the side.
You can serve this salad with everything tossed together but I prepared it in a large bowl with all the ingredients layered over the greens. I put crisp tortilla shells on individual plates and let each person create their own salad. Enjoyed along with a cooling pitcher of iced tea or margaritas, a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine while sitting outdoors on a warm summer evening, you’ve got a filling and flavorful meal. I believe your family or guests will enjoy this colorful salad as each and every mouthful is a little bit different.