Monday, March 7, 2011

Falling off the giant bird that's been carrying me/It's like I'm falling out of bed from a long and weary dream - Meatless Monday Taco Salad!

For the last few days we've either eaten stuff that didn't require much cooking (smoked pork chops) or we've eaten out and then the leftovers. Tonight, though, for Meatless Monday, I got a hankering for a big taco salad. Taco salads in our houses trace back to a long-ago temporary work gig I had. The particular department I was assigned to did a lot of pot lucks and one dish that stood out was the taco salad made by a long-forgotten woman. I can almost maybe sort of picture her, but beyond that vague notion and her salad recipe, I remember nothing about her. The original recipe includes browned ground beef, but for our meatless purposes today, I used dried TVP chunks.

To start, cover the chunks (actually more like crumbles) with hot water and a little vegetable stock base. After the water is absorbed, cook the TVP in a little oil, add some chili powder and various other herbs and spices (cayenne, onion and garlic powders) and saute until the texture is a little drier and the spices are evenly distributed (the chili powder goes a long way towards turning the TVP a more "meaty" color). In the meantime tear up as much iceberg lettuce as you want for your salad (I know, iceberg is the least nutritious lettuce, but its crunch and crispness is perfect for this), dice some tomato, slice up either some sweet onion or scallions, and add as much grated cheddar as you'd like. Drain and rinse a can of red kidney beans and add them to the bowl. Unless you haven't gotten the picture yet, you'll need a big bowl!

Once the TVP is done, let it cool a bit before adding to the salad bowl. Then, crumple a handful of corn chips and add (you can also use tortilla chips, but corn chips are better). I think the dressing of choice is the thing that makes this recipe unlike others - it's Catalina/California French/honey French or whatever you call that particular kind of bright red sweet and tangy dressing. Add that to taste, toss and you are ready to go.

This recipe is also easily adaptable. You can skip the meat or fake meat altogether and still have a hearty meal-sized salad. You could substitute black beans for the kidneys, add whatever cheese you have on hand (or skip entirely to make it vegan), throw in some corn kernels or even some other vegetables to up the vitamin content, like grated carrot or zucchini. If you are so inclined, you could also add a dollop of sour cream.

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