Do you remember this commercial from a while back?
Yeah, that’s a “salad” all right. Salads have started to get a bad rap since then, with articles ruminating on how your salad is making you fat or proclaiming that your salad is worse than a burger, but the truth is that salad is just like any other food. It all depends on what you put in it and how much of it you eat. Use some common sense – avoid adding fried chicken, copious amounts of cheese, and drowning it in creamy dressing – and you’ll be okay. Salad isn’t bad for you just because it’s a salad, and it isn’t good for you just because it’s a salad either. It’s just food and it is for you what you make of it.
That said, let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that taco salad is inherently unhealthy, shall we?
First, get your taco meat going. Today I used ground chuck, but I’ve used ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork in the past. You can even use shredded rotisserie chicken or leftover steak or no meat at all. It all depends on what you’re feeling like and what you have on hand. For ground meat, a simple browning and the addition of some spices is all it needs. Put a skillet on medium-high heat, add a little oil, then the meat. I also like to add in chopped onions and sometimes chopped bell pepper once the meat is mostly cooked and let those brown as well. Leave these out and add them to the salad raw if you prefer. Once the meat is browned and the onions and peppers are soft, drain the grease off, then add a sprinkling of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. You can also add chilli powder if you like, but I like just these four. You’ll need ¼-½ cup of the cooked mixture for the salad, depending on how much you plan to eat. Save the rest for future salads.
Now, get your veggies together. Prep your lettuce of choice – romaine, green leaf, red leaf, butter, spinach, a combo thereof, it’s all good here. I like to chop mine up nice and small. Once you have your base of greenery, you can add whatever’s your fancy. I usually do a mix of black beans, tomatoes, black olives, and avocado. Always avocado. Can never have too much avocado. Sometimes I add a bit of cheddar or monterrey jack cheese. If it’s summer, I’ll add some raw sweet corn, another one of my favorites.
For dressing I do a variation on my usual citrus vinaigrette. I zest a lime and combine that with a teaspoon of lime juice, two teaspoons of olive oil, and a nice spoonful of salsa. Mixed up with the greens and veg, you really get the tartness of the lime and the spiciness of the salsa all throughout.
So what are we missing here? Sour cream. Fatty dressing, A fried tortilla shell. Greasy meat. All of those things that give the “salad” part of “taco salad” a bad name. And once everything is combined, you won’t miss any of those things at all. There’s no reason that taco salad can’t be healthy or why you can’t enjoy it just as much as you ever would. Genius or no, it’s just delicious.