The kind of salad Mexican restaurants should serve


Have I told you that I watch a little too much Food Network?  I have to confess that I do.  The worst part is that I have begun to watch Food Network when I am at the gym.  I enjoy it, but I feel self conscious like I am a cliché:  the tubby girl watching Food Network while she works out.  Now the reason why I am making this admission to you is because of Rachel Ray.   For a while there, I was addicted to 30-minute meals.  The thing I noticed after watching scores of episodes was that although Rachel Ray uses such short cuts as bagged pre-cut veggies and bagged pre-shredded cheese, she always takes the time to make salad dressing from scratch.  I tried making a couple of her dressings and they weren’t half bad.  I had made some salad dressings from scratch before watching 30-minute meals, but watching that show made me realize that there was really no reason to buy salad dressing.  A good dressing could be constructed in a few minutes.


I often make Mexican style meals because they are as easy to improvise as pasta.  Do you have a bag of corn tortillas, a jar of salsa, some leftover chicken and some cheese?  Well, my friend, you have enchiladas!  One day when I was tossing things together, I decided a nice crispy green salad would be great to go with our meal.  I didn’t want a regular creamy style dressing and vinaigrette didn’t seem right either.  I hate it when you go out for Mexican food and they can’t give you a salad that seems authentic.  The choices are usually Ranch or Bleu cheese.  I wanted something that felt more like the simple tomato and cucumber salad my friends make but would also be reminiscent of something like ceviche.  I had a lot of citrus fruit and the idea of something tart sounded so good.  I thought about what would compliment the flavor of orange juice and lime juice and chili powder sounded good.  I improvised a dressing and loved the result.  I made it maybe one more time and forgot about it.


Tonight, I decided to use some leftover chicken to make quesadillas.  As I was making guacamole, I realized I had plenty of limes left over and a bowl of oranges.  I made the citrus chili dressing from earlier in the summer, adding ground cumin to the recipe.  I scavenged in the fridge and found all sorts of yummies to make salad with.  In a stroke of insight, I decided to add fresh cilantro and chunks of cantaloupe to the salad.  Those two additions to the salad complimented the dressing well. 


Salad is a lot of work but I felt really good about balancing out a cheesy meal with something really healthy.  I hope you like the result of my improvised salad.  As a suggestion, add tomatoes and avocado if you have them.  I had to use mine up for the guacamole but they would add even more flavor to the salad.

Cilantro and cantaloupe green salad with citrus chili dressing



½ cup olive oil


juice of 1 orange


juice of 1 lime


1 tsp chili powder


½ tsp ground cumin


salt to taste




½ head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces


½ large cucumber, peeled and chopped


6 radishes, sliced


1 small red pepper, sliced


¼ – ½ cantaloupe, chopped


½ red onion, thinly sliced


2 handfuls chopped cilantro


Mix together citrus juices, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Slowly pour oil into citrus mixture as you whisk with a fork or small whisk.  Set dressing aside.  Chop and slice all of your salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl.  Add as much dressing as you like to the salad and toss.  This makes close to a cup of dressing and the dressing is pretty thin.  I use it all but you may want to add less, toss and taste.  If you feel like you need it all, add it all.