The components of an exceptional salad are simple. Begin with fresh, chilled greens. Add several ingredients that harmoniously work together to add interesting flavor and texture and toss them with preferably homemade vinaigrette.
I’m a fan of Mexican and Southwest ingredients so I’ve brought some of them together in Chipotle Chop Salad, timed for Cinco de Mayo. I’ve been playing around with Chipotle powder in both my home and professional cooking and I love how its distinguished smoky and spicy flavor enhance everything it comes in contact with. In this case the homemade butter drizzled croutons and vinaigrette. If you’ve not used it before you’ll find it located in the bulk spice or the Mexican section of grocery stores.
Ah kale. Are you tired of it? Not me. And my conclusion is that it’s a gender thing. Women seem to love it and men not so much. For those that aren’t a big fan, Romaine lettuce is a good substitute, either for all of the kale or just half. If you’re following my blog, you’re kinda stuck with kale. To me it’s not one of those foods that is discovered and then fades away. For its nutritional merits, crisp texture and pleasant grassy flavor I love it.
There are good pre-made bottled vinaigrettes but given the choice and if I have the time I always make it myself. Exceptional vinaigrette can be the difference between a good and a great salad. Controlling how much and particularly what is put into it is why. With this vinaigrette it’s fresh squeezed lime juice and a touch of lime zest, fragrant chopped cilantro, a smidge of honey and the smoky chipotle powder all whisked together with both olive oil and Greek yogurt. But I do understand how at the end of a long day faced with dinner preparation, the necessary measuring and perhaps chopping can be daunting and a deal breaker. I’m always happy if I remember to whisk it together the night before. Problem solved.
The Cotija cheese is optional to sprinkle over the finished salad. If you’re not familiar with it, Cotija is a Mexican style robust, aged cheese, sometimes likened to Parmesan. Its somewhat dry texture and salty flavor give a little extra finish sprinkled on at the end, but it not absolutely necessary.
P.S. You’ll notice tomatoes and corn are both suspiciously absent in this salad. Not their season! But be sure to add them to this recipe later this summer when they are.
- 8 cups center rib removed and thinly sliced Tuscan kale (1 bunch, about 10 leaves) or thinly sliced Romaine lettuce
- 3 cups sliced cooked chicken (see note)
- 1-1/2 cups cooked black beans (15 ounce can drained and rinsed)
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped (1 medium size)
- ⅓ cup chopped green onions (about 3)
- Chipotle Croutons (recipe follows)
- Chipotle Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- ⅓ cup crumbled or grated Cotija cheese (1 ounce), optional
- In a large bowl, toss together kale, chicken, beans, avocado, green onions and croutons with Chipotle Vinaigrette. Sprinkle on optional Cotija cheese.
For the Chipotle Vinaigrette: Whisk together 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon honey, ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, ½ teaspoon lime zest and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk in ¼ cup olive or vegetable oil and ¼ cup plain Greek-style yogurt. Makes ⅔ cup.
For the Chipotle Croutons: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil with ½ teaspoon chipotle powder. Drizzle evenly over 2 cups cubed artisan-style bread (about 4 slices). Transfer to a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Allow cooling to room temperature.