I love the Spring! Especially all the amazing produce that starts flooding into the farmers market and the local grocery stores. We tend to eat a bit lighter in the Spring than we do in the Winter, perhaps because of those veggies and that we love to grill outside when the evenings are warm. Last night, I put together one of my favorite salads I’ve been making for years, my Southwestern Chopped Salad with a Kick. Not only is it light and healthy, but it’s pretty, too!
You can choose whatever ingredients you’d like, but I typically use baby spinach, black beans, cherry tomatoes, persian cucumbers, jalapenos, red onion, scallions, roasted corn, avocado, black olives, pepitas and cojita cheese. It’s best served with crumbled tortilla chips on top for some added crunch. Since I’m still trying to eat paleo (or in this case, mostly paleo), I left out the chips.
Chopped salads are one of my FAVORITE things in the world. I know… that was a big statement, but it’s true. And by chopped, I mean really chopped. One of my pet peeves is ordering a delicious sounding chopped salad at a restaurant and seeing it served with huge pieces of lettuce and veggies that I have to chop some more! I think I love chopped salad so much because, when the ingredients are finely chopped, they mix together in a way that creates food magic. At least to me.
I recommend using a glass bowl for this salad because the layers are really pretty. I take care in how I layer, making sure I don’t put two ingredients of the same color next to each other (with the exception of the jalapenos and scallions, which I mixed together as a layer).
While I was preparing the salad, I began toasting the pepitas on the stove top in a skillet, stirring them frequently, until they were nice and brown.
Next, I prepped cojita cheese by crumbling it. Cojita typically comes in a round shaped that crumbles very easily. If you can’t find cojita, you could substitute pepper pack. But try hard to find the cojita because it’s SO GOOD!
I started out with the spinach on the bottom, followed by the black beans and cherry tomatoes. I then added layers of cucumber, roasted corn, red onion, scallions and jalapenos, and black olives.
As I add the ingredients, I concentrate on the outer sides of the bowl, which ends up leaving a bit of a hole in the middle. But that’s okay! There’s a simple solution.
I make the dressing in just minutes using my Nutribullet. This vinaigrette, made primarily with olive oil, lime juice, chili power, cumin and garlic, is the perfect complement to the southwestern flavors. Just throw it all in the Nutribullet or blender and blast it for a few seconds.
Here’s how you make this amazing Southwestern Chopped Salad!
- FOR SALAD
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 8 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
- 16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 a red onion, chopped
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 8 oz. roasted corn
- 1 persian cucumber, finely diced
- 1 large jalapeno pepper, chopped
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup cojita cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1/2 cup black olives
- Crushed tortilla chips (optional)
- FOR DRESSING
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 TBS chili powder
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- Over low heat, toast pepitas until brown and set aside.
- Crumble cojita cheese and set aside.
- In a clear glass salad bowl, layer the baby spinach, black beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, roasted corn, scallions, jalapenos, and olives.
- Judge the proportions and layer towards the outer sides of bowl.
- If needed, fill in the center with more spinach and beans.
- If using, add crumbled tortilla chips.
- Top with pepitas, cojita cheese and avocado.
- In a blender or Nutribullet, combine chili powder, cumin, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
- Bring the layered salad and vinaigrette to the table. Just before serving, drizzle vinaigrette over the sald and toss to coat completely.
- The salad and dressing can be made the day before, but add tortilla chips (if using) and toss right before serving.
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