I challenge you to identify a gal who doesn’t revere a solid Mexican and margaritas night while in front of bad TV or catching up with her best friends. You can’t. She doesn’t exist. There’s something about slushy margaritas, gooey cheese, and spicy tacos that make us swoon.
In college, our Mexi and Margs nights brought us all to the table where we inevitably vented, gossiped, and by the second or third margarita, occasionally bared our souls. These nights were as cathartic then as they are now, nearly ten years later.
As inevitable as a second blender of margaritas, so too were the exclamations of guilt, cries of uncomfortable fullness, and threats of fasts.
This vegetarian taco salad eliminates all of the nasty side effects of a Mexi and Margs night gone wrong, while still delivering on the flavors that bring everyone to the table. Spicy, crunchy, warm, and refreshing; my version of homemade, fresh Mexican will leave you satisfied…and with room for an extra margarita.
I started making a version of this recipe years ago, but instead of using the filling as a salad topper, I originally added chicken and rolled it up in a warm corn or flour tortilla. Delicious, but not exactly light. I find when I combine multiple proteins with a carb (like beans with chicken and a tortilla), I usually end up feeling stuffed and weighed down.
The spicy corn and bean mixture here makes this salad a satisfying meal, and the creamy avocado-cilantro dressing feels indulgent, but doesn’t make you feel as bad about yourself as consuming the schloads of greasy cheese you’d typically find at a Mexican restaurant.
Next time you crave a night of catching up with your best pals, stay in, make this salad, talk until you’ve solved the world’s problems, and then send me a thank you in the comments section.
Oh and PS: men like this salad too. But let’s be honest, mexi and margs will never mean as much to them.
1 head of romaine hearts, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 bunch leafy kale, sliced into thin strips
2 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 orange pepper, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 zucchini, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean of your choice. Kidney or pinto work well)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 medium white onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper (depending on how hot you like your dressing) seeded and de-ribbed
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop lettuce and kale and combine in a large bowl. Cover with a wet paper towel and store in the refrigerator to crisp while you prepare the rest of the components.
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until completely combined and smooth. Feel free to add an additional tablespoon or two of water to reach desired consistency. Transfer to a storage container and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Combine all of the topping ingredients in a large non-stick skillet and sauté over medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Add the spices and stir to combine. Cook the mixture with the spices for about a minute before adding the chicken stock. Continue to cook until the chicken stock is absorbed and you have a saucy consistency.
Once all of the components are complete, you can either dress the greens and then add the topping, or place the topping on the greens and then drizzle with dressing. I prefer to dress the greens and then add dressing to ensure each leaf of lettuce is well incorporated into the dressing.