Southwestern Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

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Southwestern Salad

Let me first get past the obvious: this recipe is exactly one week too late for Cinco de Mayo.  I know.  I am also very aware that my last three recipe posts have been: cake, salad, cake, and now another salad.  Thank goodness for Amy’s posts breaking these up a bit! I really have cooked other things.  All that said, this recipe was just too good not to share!

This salad started with a lunch at one of the Nashville Tex-Mex restaurants that we frequent, Taco Mamacita.  They are a small chain with three locations including Chattanooga, TN and Sullivan’s Island, SC.  They have a tasty menu full of unique spins on the taco, among other things.  They also have a salad that Tim choose for his lunch that day.  In the middle of eating it, he asked me if I could make it at home.  I glanced at the bowl and said, “Sure!”

In fact, this salad was incredibly easy to replicate and even improve upon a bit, mainly by adding some more nutritious salad greens and tweaking the dressing.  Taco Mamacita has other dressings, but Tim choose the white balsamic vinaigrette, which is about as non-Tex-Mex as possible.  I made my own version, but added some cumin for a smoky southwestern touch!  The salad also includes jicama for great crunch, tomatoes, hearts of palm, and plenty of protein-packed beans.  Hearts of palm are one of Tim’s favorite salad ingredients, so this was bound to be a winner.  I buy them canned.  Whole Foods store brand are a personal favorite, but you can also find them at most grocery stores, usually near the canned artichoke hearts.  One of my favorite parts of this salad is the roasted corn, an ingredient I found in Trader Joe’s freezer case.  You could replicate this by cooking regular frozen corn in a skillet with a bit of butter until it starts to brown.  The jicama was a new ingredient for me to work with.  I found a good tutorial on peeling and chopping here.

Southwestern Salad 2

Strangely, I didn’t even notice until after we finished eating that this salad is also vegan!  We didn’t even miss the cheese, which is saying a lot in our house.  I served it with some chips and guacamole and it was a very tasty dinner.

Southwestern Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Serves 4 as a main course

1 cup baby spinach
1 1/2 cups romaine lettuce
14 oz can hearts of palm
14 oz can garbanzo beans
14 oz can kidney beans
1 small tomato or 1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup frozen roasted corn
1/2- 3/4 of a medium sized jicama
1/4 cup crumbled tortilla chips
For the Vinaigrette
5 tbs olive oil
4 tbs White Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cumin

1. Cook the corn according to the package directions, then set aside to cool.

2. Tear the spinach and lettuce into bite sized pieces and toss together in a large salad bowl.  Drain and slice the hearts of palm and add them to the bowl.  Drain and rinse both cans of beans.  Remove 1/2 cup of the garbanzo beans and save for another purpose. Add all remaining beans to the bowl.  Dice the tomato or cut the cherry tomatoes in 1/2, and add to the bowl.

3. Rinse and cut off the outside of the jicama, then dice about 1/2- 3/4 of it.  You should end up with about a cup.  Add to the salad bowl.

4. Once corn has cooled to about room temperature, it can be added to the bowl as well.  Toss everything together.

5. Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small mason jar with a lid and shake vigorously to combine.  Alternately you can whisk them together in a small bowl.  This vinaigrette separates easily, so it will need to be shaken or whisked just before serving.

6. Divide the salad among four bowls, sprinkle each with about 1/4 of the tortilla chip crumbles.  Then toss with about 2 tbs of the dressing.  Serve immediately.