Mid-September days are here, but creating comfort food is put on hold due to warm days lingering on the South Shore. So, I am putting pumpkin fudge and chocolate cake on the back burner until October. It’s fun salad with a punch that’s on the table this week.
Several days ago, when I was shopping at the grocery store I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips — I couldn’t find the whole-grain kind — and a plastic container of “fresh” salsa. Once home, the snack was doable but nothing to write home about. It was a quick fix for something crunchy, something hot. But I really wasn’t satisfied.
I got vivid flashbacks of my favorite long-gone Mexican hub in Bijou Pines. During my pre-fall cleaning adventures, one day I went to a laundry mat to wash bulky comforters and delicate kitchen curtains. I paid a visit to a small place next door that served chips and salsa. For a few dollars I got unforgettable salsa and chips. These gems had a genuine taste that made the store bought kind forgettable. The snack made waiting for washing and drying cycles go by faster. As uneventful as this memorable day sounds, it fed the senses — taste, smell, sight and touch. I give kudos to the snack.
On Wednesday afternoon, after raking and bagging too many pine needles, another must-do fall chore, I opened the fridge and took out fresh vegetables including lettuce and tomatoes and soft tortillas. I was ready to make a homemade taco salad, the kind I’ve ordered at many Mexican restaurants. The prep time was amazingly quick. And I felt self-sufficient putting together my own salad with all the trimmings.
Tahoe-Style Taco Salad
1/2 cup provolone cheese, grated or cut in thin slices
1/4 cup avocado, sliced
2 cups mixed greens, prewashed, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, shelled
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1/4 cup salsa (use recipe below)
1/4 cup sour cream
Tortilla chips (use recipe below)
In a large salad bowl, mix tomatoes, cheese, avocado, lettuce, seeds, and olives. Top with salsa, sour cream. Surround with tortilla chips. Serves two.
Chunky Hot Salsa
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 green chili pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon lemon olive oil
In a small bowl, mix tomatoes, onion, and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on top. Mix and chill. Serves up to two people.
Baked Tortilla Chips
2 whole-grain tortillas (I used handmade-style corn tortillas, soft and whole grain), cut in triangle shapes
1 teaspoon European style butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
Place triangle shaped tortilla pieces in a pan. Place butter and oil and top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes till light golden brown. Serve warm. Serves up to two people.
Once the salad surrounded by chips was placed in a bowl, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a friendly sight with fall-colored — gold, green, and red — ingredients, and healthy fatty foods like cheese and avocado down to fresh greens, made it a tasty and fun dish for an early dinner. Serve extra chips with extra salsa. So, the lesson I learned is that sometimes it’s easier and less time consuming to do it yourself at home, rather than wait for someone to dish it up for you.
Motto: It’s fun to create a favorite meal at home because you get exactly what you want. That will make you smile.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) The Healing Powers of Coffee, Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Honey are sold at Walmart stores nationwide. This autumn, the author is revising and updating the second edition of The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. Her website is www.calorey.com.