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.



  1. me said,

    September 29, 2008 at 1:04 am

    try it

  2. Linda said,

    April 25, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Excellent dressing – light and refreshing!

  3. January 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    […] dressing to go with a batch of enchiladas I made the other day. It was inspired by a recipe from here. Fresh, healthy and yummy. Do make sure you use fresh citrus […]

  4. March 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    […] dressing to go with a batch of enchiladas I made the other day. It was inspired by a recipe from here. Fresh, healthy and yummy. Do make sure you use fresh citrus […]

  5. Roxy said,

    July 31, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    This was a hit! I added a splash of simply mango orange juice to thicken the dressing up a bit. The cantaloupe and avocado really make the salad a nice and hearty dish!

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