As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am a die-hard fan of Cinco de Mayo. I love any excuse to consume mass quantities of tacos and margaritas, beat up a piñata with friends, and answer exclusively to “Selena,” so this festive holiday is basically a dream come true. Gracias a Dios for the Battle of Puebla!
To celebrate, my roommate and I decided to throw a little fiesta at our apartment. Nothing major, just a small gathering involving sombreros, tequila, and the sweet, sweet sounds of Menudo Pandora.
Based on his passion for Mexican food, Logan is understandably pumped about the event. This enthusiasm has prompted him to send me several detailed party planning emails this week, including the one below…
I found this email both hilarious and terrifying in all its ridiculous glory. I shall honor the request for quesadillas and tacos, but I had to veto the taquitos. (Deep-frying while drinking tequila es muy peligroso.) Unfortunately for Logan, I think three different types of meat for tacos may be overkill, and I’m going to go ahead and put the kibosh on whatever “the orange cheese money kind with Velveeta” thing is. No.
As far as bebidas, I support the Dude’s beer selection (Coors Lattes=Coors Light, in case you don’t speak Dude), although I think we should also get some Modelos and Tecates involved. Margaritas are a given, and while I find the term “vat” unappetizing, I do love the idea of serving cocktails from a “flower pot.” (For the record, he’s referring to fancy glass vases, not clay planters.) How very Martha Stewart of him! Perhaps he secretly joined Pinterest.
Needless to say, I plan to make a few additions to “Daddy’s” menu, which focuses exclusively on carbs, meat, cheese, and booze. (The flagrant disregard for Dude Diet principles pains me). Yes, these are staples of gringo Mexican cuisine, but Logan failed to consider the possibility that guests may appreciate some lighter fare in order to avoid going home with the meat sweats. A creative vegetable option would be nice.
The Mexican-themed salad ideas that I floated to Logan didn’t go over very well, and pretty much every single one was met with a shriek of, “NO SALADS AT THE FIESTA!!!” Point taken. And ignored. Since I’ll be doing the cooking, I am el jefe, and there will be greens at this party, ¿entendido? Those greens will be in the fabulous form of Vegetable Fajita Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette.
Honestly, this may be my favorite salad that I’ve ever made, and you know I make a lot of salads. The term “unreal” comes to mind. (Along with “mind-blowing” and “life-changing,” but I fear I use those too often and they may be losing their gravitas.)
Crunchy chopped hearts of romaine tossed with fresh scallions and cilantro, black beans, sweet corn and zucchini, and topped with sautéed peppers and onions, creamy avocado and crumbled queso fresco? It’s layer upon layer of fiesta flavor and texture that will knock your miniature sombrero off. And the chipotle vinaigrette is the perfect combo of citrus, heat and honeyed sweetness to tie the whole thing together. Killed it.
What I love most about this nutrition-packed vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) salad is that it’s incredibly hearty and satisfying. However, feel free to bulk it up with meat or fish if that floats your boat. I like the idea of adding spicy pulled chicken, marinated flank steak, or maybe some crispy tilapia. (I’ll make sure to inform my guests of this on Saturday, as Logan’s meaty taco bar will provide plenty of topping options.)
Vegetable Fajita Salad can also be prepared in advance, which makes it a great choice for entertaining, easy weeknight meals, and sassy desk lunches. Just wait to add the avocado and dressing until you’re ready to eat. Duh.
Margaritas coming your way tomorrow. Fiesta on, dudes.
Vegetable Fajita Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette: (Serves 2 very generously as a main course, 4 as a side)
2½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 small zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ lime, juiced
2 hearts of romaine, chopped (about 5 cups)
2 scallions (whites and light green parts only), thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, packed
¾ cup cooked black beans
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco (optional)
For the Chipotle Vinaigrette:
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons adobo from the chipotle can
1 teaspoons honey or agave
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Preparing your Vegetable Fajita Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette:
-Start with the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the chipotle vinaigrette. Set aside while you prepare the salad.
-In the same pan, heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the bell peppers, onions, and a generous pinch of salt.
-Sauté for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned.
-Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lime juice an cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- 2½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 ear of corn, kernels removed
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion, halved and sliced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ lime, juiced
- 2 hearts of romaine, chopped (about 5 cups)
- 2 scallions (whites and light green parts only), thinly sliced
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, packed
- ¾ cup cooked black beans
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
- ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, minced
- 2 teaspoons adobo from the chipotle can
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the chipotle vinaigrette. Set aside while you prepare the salad.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the corn kernels, diced zucchini and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 8 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
- In the same pan, heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the bell peppers, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned.
- Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lime juice an cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Place the chopped romaine, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl or serving dish. Add the corn, zucchini, and black beans to the greens. Drizzle with the chipotle vinaigrette and gently toss to coat. Add the bell pepper mixture, and top with the diced avocado and queso fresco. Serve immediately.
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