Mexican ceasar salad.....
When I lived in California, I ate a lot of Mexican Food. Next to Italian, its probably my favorite food. Believe it or not, I wasnt as big of a foodie as I am now. I was so busy with college and then law school, that I didnt have a lot of time to read cookbooks, watch cooking shows, troll the internet food boards or even cook for that matter. I wasnt familar with which hole in the wall Mexican restaurant wouldnt make me sick so I stuck to the tried and true. I ate at El Torito a lot!! It was cheap, reliable and good. One of my favorites was their Mexican ceasar salad. The salad starts with the typical romaine but then adds crunchy fried corn tortillas, salty cojita cheese, toasted pepitas( pumpkin seeds) and slivers of sun-dried tomato. They top this crunchy, salty, cheesy salad with a wonderful cilantro-pepita dressing. If you live in California, you can find this dressing for sale at Ralphs, Von's and other area markets. I once did a trade with Nicole of Baking Sheet. I sent her the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine and she sent me the dressing. I guarded that dressing with my life, I got 3 salads out of it that I served to guests. I wondered how I could get more dressing, then a thought came to me. I'll ask my ex. Well, she said NO( can you believe it?) so I went looking on the internet and found a copycat dresssing. But, no anaheim chilis were to be found in this small community. No problem, I hopped the border and bought them in MI. I peeled them and froze them and chucked them in the freezer.
When we were planning the brunch menu at work, I mentioned this salad to my boss. She was all for it. She tried to order the cheese and chilis too, but she couldnt find them either( why oh why do I have to live in such a small town). Anyway, I brought her my chili's and a bag of corn tortillas and I made this dressing on Saturday. It smelled so good!! We ate a bowl of it for lunch with avocado( my addition) and some really big shrimp that my boss boiled up for the classic shrimp cocktail( for sunday's brunch). The salad has everything you could want, salty, crunchy, creamy and just really freaking good. Both of us could not find Cojita cheese( and I looked in MI and so did she) so we subbed out Feta that we grated on a box grated and drained on paper towels).
Robin stopped by my work on Saturday to bring me something( the subject of another post) and I gave her some salad. She said she thought the homeade dressing was better than the bottled( and I'd have to agree).
When Sunday came, I was nervous because the salad is very different from what ppl around here are used to. I cut up 12 romaine hearts but held back some just in case. I ended up having to make more salad because ppl just ate it up. I was so proud. I spoke to my boss yesterday and she asked if I could give her the recipe again. She is teaching a salad class and some of the ladies that are attending that class were at the brunch and want to learn to make that salad. * big grin*.
If you try it, please let me know how you like it.
Yield: Makes 1 quart
I N G R E D I E N T S
2 medium Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled
1/3 cup roasted pepitas
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt( I left out the salt since the feta was salty)
1 1/2 cups salad oil (or mild avocado oil)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
2 small bunches cilantro, stemmed
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup water
I also added a lot of fresh cracked pepper.
I N S T R U C T I O N S
Place all ingredients except cilantro, mayonnaise and water in a blender or food processor. Blend about 10 seconds, then add cilantro little by little until blended smooth. Depending on the size of the blender/processor, it may be necessary to do in batches.
Place mayonnaise and water in a large stainless steel bowl and mix with a wire whip until smooth. Add the blended ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
I added avocado to the actual salad. I cut up the tortillas and fried them at work. My boss bought the raw pepitas at Trader Joe's so I pan toasted them for a few minutes.
I like to cook fresh ravioli ( either chicken or cheese) and toss them into the salad for a nice main dish meal.