Today’s post has two dressing recipes and three meal ideas, woo-hoo! I thought of splitting it up but nah. This post is a good example of how I cook. I like to cook mainly on the weekend and either reheat my dishes, or at least have the more time consuming components ready for repurposing.
As the 4th of July holiday weekend was coming to a close I didn’t really feel like facing the reality of meal planning for a work week; That said, I also didn’t want to have to deal with underwhelming lunches and crickets at the thought of dinner (chirping, not to eat). I decided to make a Mexican Chopped Salad that was quite satisfying, and a hit when I’d brought it along to a family function.
The salad is based on a recipe I’d discovered on Pinterest. I tend to go rogue when it comes to salad components. This time I used red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, red onion, grilled corn, black beans, and cilantro tossed in the dressing. I’ve played with the original dressing recipe a bit and think I finally got it where I want it. The modifications I’ve made were to omit the oil, and make it less sweet and more tangy.
For the Chopped Salad:
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of juice from jarred pickled jalapeño slices
1 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
This is a light, refreshing summer salad. To turn my salad into a dinner, I made brown rice (adding salt, and the zest and juice of one lime at the start of the cooking process) to accompany the salad. Add to a tortilla with some fresh avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños and this makes a great burrito.
As good as this was, I found myself craving something more indulgent and thought a creamy chipotle dressing would do the trick. I took some inspiration from the Briny Caesar Dressing recipe in Isa Does It and thought what if I follow the same basic principle of a cashew base but swap the caesar dressing’s lemon, garlic and capers with lime, chipotles in adobo and pickled jalapeño…Just like that awesome was born.
Creamy Chipotle Dressing
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least two hours
2 cloves garlic
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup picked jalapeños with some pickling liquid
2 chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup water
dash of salt
Drain the cashews and place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes scraping the side of the bowl as needed.
To put together my salad I chopped some romaine lettuce, and tossed it with fresh squeezed lime juice and ground pepper. I layered on some of the leftover rice from my burritos and topped with the Mexican chopped salad. Add avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños; dress with a few drizzles of the chipotle dressing and finish off with a crushed tortilla chip or two. The simple salad is amped up to a delicious burrito bowl.
The dressing was better than I could have hoped with the smokiness of the chipotles with some tang from the lime and pickled jalapeños. It also has a great texture with no added oil. As soon as I tasted the chipotle dressing I immediately thought chipotle pasta. Once upon a time I loved the Cheesecake Factory Chipotle Chicken Pasta; a whole food plant based version hadn’t occurred to me until I had this dressing. It’s a simple reinvention of leftovers.
Cook 4 oz of whole wheat penne until just under done. Reserve 1/3 cup of cooking liquid before draining the pasta, and set the pasta aside. Return the pot to the stove and add 2 cups of the Mexican chopped salad and the reserved cooking liquid. I cooked on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes just to warm through. Add 1 cup of the creamy chipotle dressing and stir. Heat another minute or so before adding the pasta back to the pot, and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce and mix all ingredients. Continue to heat until the pasta is fully done and the sauce thickens a bit, another minute or so. I topped with fresh basil and sliced green onion. This makes two generous servings.
I really enjoyed this dish. You still get the spice of the chipotle without overpowering the tang of the pickled jalapeño and lime. The vegetables add texture and sweetness, while the fresh basil brightens the dish with freshness.
There you have it! With the one big batch of Mexican Chopped Salad I was able to have dinner salads, burritos, and chipotle pasta without too much thought or effort after work.