Fiesta salad with salsa vinaigrette recipe

Whenever I plan the amount of food I make in my classes, I always make sure I have tons of whatever salad I am teaching.  96% of my students are women and women loooooove salad.  And so do I.  I could eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  First course, side dish or main course.  I love lots of color, texture and juiciness.  And I love playing around with what’s in season.

toasted pepitas | pamela salzman

One of my pet peeves is a salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber all year round.  People, this is so boring and completely out of synch with the seasons, unless it is summer.  Get some red cabbage in there or some microgreens, herbs or radishes.  Or something creamy like avocado, feta or peaches.  Crunchy like nuts, seeds or jicama.  There are infinite possibilities for salads and every meal is more complete and more delicious with a salad in it.

cutting an avocado | pamela salzman

If you are planning a Mexican or Tex-Mex meal for Cinco de Mayo or otherwise, this salad is perfecto.  It is super simple as it is written, but I will offer you a dozen ways you can make it more interesting and I’m sure you can come up with a dozen more.  The best part of this salad is the dressing, which uses salsa or pico de gallo as the base.   Chances are, if you are having a Mexican-inspired meal, you very likely have salsa on hand.  And this is a great recipe to make the day after your Mexican meal when you likely have leftover salsa on hand.  Speaking of dressing, I love this salsa vinaigrette not only only a salad, but on top of grilled fish, chicken or steak, too.  Or on a big platter of grilled veggies.

salsa vinaigrette | pamela salzman

In these photos, I used fire-roasted corn, but if you can’t find it or corn isn’t in season yet, use pinto beans.  Shredded chicken or steak is amazing in here, as are cucumbers, grilled red onions or zucchini, cubes of Monterey Jack cheese or tortilla strips.  If you want to add all these, go ahead and make lots more dressing.  The dressing stays fresh in the refrigerator as long as the salsa is fresh.  The pico de gallo in the pictures is made fresh at my Whole Foods, but it only stays good for about 4 or 5 days.

One of the best things about a salad as part of your meal is that you can usually prep the whole thing in advance and just assemble at the last minute.  This salad is no exception.  Greens can be washed and dried two days ahead.  Vinaigrette can be made 2 days ahead. Radishes can be sliced the day before.  This really is the perfect salad for your fiesta!

 

Fiesta Salad with Salsa Vinaigrette
Serves: 6 as a side dish (double to serve as a main dish)
 
Ingredients
  • Vinaigrette:
  • ½ cup fresh pico de gallo (pulse it in the food processor if it’s too chunky)
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ - ¾ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons raw honey
  • a couple pinches of chili powder
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked or 1 ½ cups thawed frozen fire-roasted corn or cooked pinto beans
  • 8 cups chopped lettuce like Romaine or Butter lettuce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1-2 ripe avocados, sliced or cubed
  • ⅓ cup pepitas, toasted and drizzled with ¼ teaspoon olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt OR sub a handful of tortilla strips instead of the pepitas
Instructions
  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl until combined. Set aside.
  2. Preheat a grill to medium. Grill corn directly on the grill, turning occasionally until lightly charred on all sides. Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Cut the kernels off the cob.
  3. Place the lettuce, corn kernels, radishes, avocados and pepitas in a salad bowl. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing and taste for seasoning. Drizzle salad with enough dressing to coat lightly and combine gently.
Notes
You can substitute finely shredded cabbage for some of the lettuce, add shredded Jack cheese or crumbled Cotija cheese, shredded chicken, steak or chunks of grilled salmon or shrimp.  Also, different salsas have different acidity levels, so taste the dressing before adding to the salad and season accordingly.

Slow cooker chicken tacos recipe

You have all waited patiently while my life changed with the arrival of my new slow cooker. Apparently, I am very late to this party.  I had no idea there was this whole huge world of slow cooker devotees.  There are even websites devoted to only slow cooker recipes.  I could wallow in self pity right now, knowing that all these years I could have been starting my dinner first thing in the morning and then return at 6:00 pm to a fully cooked meal.  I could think about all the fall apart tender meats I missed out on or the flavorful soups and stews that could have been.  But who can be down when you’re in love?  Not me, friends.  Because I am in LOVE with my new slow cooker.

I use the words “slow cooker” instead of Crock Pot because Crock Pot is a brand which I don’t have.  But for all intents and purposes, they are used in the same way.  If you don’t have a slow cooker, I am not trying to sell you one here and I will provide directions in this recipe for how to make these tacos without one.  But seriously people, this machine rocks.  I don’t know what took me so long to get one.  I think part of my resistance was that I don’t have any room in my kitchen to store it.  I still don’t, but I did give away a box of Disney DVD’s in the garage to make space for it.  (Shhhhhh!)  I also never had a job where I left early in the morning and didn’t return until 6:00 pm to a house of hungry human beings.  Until now.

The irony is that I bought my sister a slow cooker a few years ago when she had her second baby because she does have a job like that.  She has been raving about it ever since!  A few months ago, I gave my other sister the same slow cooker when she moved into a new house and I think she just started playing around with it.  But I’ve used mine a few times a week since mid-December and I’m hooked.

Listen, no one needs a slow cooker, but here is why I love mine:

–if you spend a little time before you leave for the day, your slow cooker will make dinner and keep it warm for you until dinnertime;

–slow cookers cook at low heat for longer time.  Lower heat prevents nutrient loss.  Also, cooking above 350 degrees (which a slow cooker does NOT) can create AGE’s (advanced glycation end products) which are very inflammatory to the body and considered carcinogenic (ugh.)  Yup, you heard that right.  Preparing food in a slow cooker is better for your health!

–slow cooking can be very beneficial to tougher, leaner cuts of meat by breaking down the muscle and creating a very soft, tender meat;

–you can leave it unattended for up to 12 hours without overcooking your food or worrying about burning your kitchen down.

Again, I am new to slow cookers, and although I have learned a lot just by trail and error, I am no expert.  But so far, I’ve noticed that I prefer the recipes that ask you to brown meat or saute vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker.  You get much better flavor that way.  Yes, I realize you’re getting another pan dirty, but it’s worth it and you’re getting it over with in advance.  Also, I’ve made many non-slow cooker recipes in the slow cooker and just reduced the liquid a bit since there’s almost no evaporation happening and a lot of condensation.

The recipe I’m posting today is a super easy one which I made on Sunday.  This is truly a measure, dump and press start recipe.  I used two different kind of chicken parts to see how they would both turn out and I’ll tell you the truth — although my family much prefers white meat, no one could tell what was what.  Both the thigh and breast meat were super fork-tender.  I personally think thighs have more flavor, but that’s just me.  Everyone L-O-V-E-D these!  I set up a taco bar with lots of toppings so they could just help themselves so I could sit on the couch with a cozy blanket and the new issue of Bon Appetit while watching the football game.  Bliss.  Slow cooker + Me = Together Forever!

Any slow cooker love stories out there?  I want to know it all — how and when you met, how you keep the passion alive, recipes for success, etc!

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs (I used 2 breasts and 3 thighs.)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup prepared tomato salsa (I used pico de gallo.) + more for serving
  • suggested accompaniments: corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, shredded lettuce, cilantro-lime slaw
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in slow cooker and sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, chipotle powder, salt and pepper. Add garlic and salsa and rub around to combine. Cover; cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  2. Either shred the chicken with 2 forks right in the slow cooker or transfer to a plate to shred. Moisten chicken with cooking juices and serve with desired tortillas/taco shells and toppings. You could even serve the chicken over rice with salsa and diced avocados.
Notes
Leftovers are great in a quesadilla!

Oven method: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In step 1, place all ingredients (except accompaniments) in a 5-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups water or chicken stock. Cover and bake until chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours. Proceed with step 2.

 

Chicken and Avocado Soup

Even though I’m a big football fan and I love a good game (especially when my team wins), when it’s over, it’s over.  Whether the outcome of the game is favorable or unfavorable, life goes on and so do I.  So football is finished until next year, but eating happens multiple times a day everyday.  And today I am much more focused on what to do with Super Bowl leftovers!

Quinoa cornbread became breakfast.  Chili went into thermoses for lunch.  And topping bar items can make their way into frittatas, quesadillas or soup for dinner.  This particular soup was not my brain child, but as often happens in my life, my kids leave the house and are amazed by what they’re “missing.”  A while back my mother-in-law took them to Cafe Rio, a “fast casual dining establishment,” and they went bonkers for the Tortilla Soup.  It’s is a brothy and flavorful chicken stock-based soup with some vegetables and whatever add-ins you choose.  Whereas the younger two kids asked me if we could go there for dinner some night and have it again, my older daughter knew me better than that and suggested I try to copy the soup at home.  Great idea!

So one day my friend Cheryl and I went on a secret reconnaissance mission to the local Cafe Rio to check out the famous soup and see exactly how they do this thing.  Truthfully, their method is pretty genius and it’s the perfect soup to make at home for a family or a group.  The server adds into a cup your choice of chicken, guacamole, salsa, cheese, cilantro, and tortillas, and then ladles a flavorful chicken soup on top.  Yep, that’s it.  And except for being unbelievably salty, the soup was rather tasty.   You know how much I love a do-it-yourself situation (less work for me!)  Can you picture how easy this is if you have cooked chicken and salsa already made?  This comes together in minutes, I tell you, and everyone makes it the way they want.  You want it to be vegetarian?  No problem!  Just sub a great vegetable stock for the chicken stock and add in some pinto beans for protein.

Even though my intent was to copy Cafe Rio’s soup, I ended up making a couple of my own tweaks, such as using chopped avocado instead of guacamole (but definitely use the guac if you have it) and adding a squeeze of lime at the end.  I used poached chicken the day I took these photos and give you directions for that in the recipe, but I have used leftover grilled chicken or the meat from a whole roasted chicken, too.  And sometimes I add quinoa to mine if I’m not in the mood for chicken, and I love that, too.  But the method behind this soup is giving me all sorts of ideas for how to use up some tasty leftovers.  If you make the soup base as directed here, I have chopped up leftover enchiladas and added them for an “enchilada soup,” but I bet you could add in taco meat and some tortillas for a “taco soup.”  I’m excited by the possibilities, plus I think I just made my meal plan for the week!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken and Avocado Soup
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 or 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (depending on how much chicken you want in your soup)
  • ½ large onion, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon additive-free kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • A few peppercorns, crushed
  • A few garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded (if you don’t want too much heat) and diced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (double this if you use unsalted stock)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
  • 1-2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks or guacamole
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges (my favorite part!)
  • Other possible add-ins: tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese
Instructions
  1. Poach the chicken: Place the chicken breast, onion half (halved again), salt, pepper and garlic into a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer chicken for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow chicken to sit in the liquid until cool enough to handle.
  2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, scallions, carrots, celery and jalapeno. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Pull chicken from liquid and remove skin and bones. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. You can divide chicken amongst the 6 individual bowls or add it all to the pot.
  5. Put a heaping spoonful of pico de gallo and avocado chunks/guacamole in each individual bowl and ladle soup on top. Squeeze lime on top and sprinkle with corn tortilla chips and fresh cilantro, if desired.