Vegetable Fajita Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette

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Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-2As 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, so this holiday is basically a dream come true on the food front.

To celebrate, my roommate and I decided to throw a little fiesta at our apartment. Nothing major, just a small gathering involving plenty of tacos and tequila.

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…

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.57.26 AMI 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 is just dangerous.) 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 drinks go, 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.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-2Needless 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 Americanized 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 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 in charge, and there will be greens at this party. Those greens will be in the fabulous form of Vegetable Fajita Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-3Honestly, 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 flavor and texture. And the chipotle vinaigrette is the perfect combo of citrus, heat and honeyed sweetness to tie the whole thing together. Killed it.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-4What 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.

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.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-1-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.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-2-Transfer corn and zucchini 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.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-3-Sauté for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-4-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.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-5-Place the chopped romaine, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl or serving dish.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-6-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 in an even layer over the dressed salad.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-step-7-Top with diced avocado and queso fresco, and get the fiesta started.

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-6Get some cold beers and/or margaritas involved, sí? A few warm tortillas are also a nice touch…

Healthy-Vegetable-Fajita-Salad-with-corn-black-beans-Chipotle-Vinaigrette-7I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Sensational Sides event this week. For more awesome recipes featuring spring lettuces, check out the blogs below.

The Lemon Bowl: Caribbean Salad with Bananas and Red Onions
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Power Berry Avocado Almond Chia Seed Salad
Weelicious: DIY Salad Buffet
Dishin & Dishes: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Two Dipping Sauces
Taste With The Eyes: Scallop, Micro Lettuce, Farro and Lemon Basil Sauce
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salad Greens with Balsamic Mushrooms and Roasted Asparagus
Red or Green: Green Salad with Grilled Salmon, Avocado and Tortilla Chips
The Sensitive Epicure: Strawberry Spring Salad with Cilantro Flowers
Virtually Homemade: Thai Beef Salad
FN Dish: Get Your Leafy Greens

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  1. Hannah Rounds on May 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    This was amazing! I made it over the weekend and… wow! I never thought to do chipotle + vinegar but this is definitely making it onto the regular dressing rotation!

    • Serena_Wolf on May 6, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Thank you! Thrilled this was such a hit. (And for the record, I put this dressing on EVERYTHING, so I’m glad to hear you were into it.)

  2. Kelly on May 2, 2014 at 7:17 am


  3. cheri on May 2, 2014 at 12:24 am

    What a great salad, love all the components of this. And the vinaigrette is perfect!

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