This is the best salad for summer abundance. The tomatoes are bursting, cucumbers dangling on the vine, and a spicy light salad is the perfect way to dig in.
I looooove nachos. Like they got me through college. My parents are super bland eaters, so I don’t remember ever really eating nachos as a kid, but once I was making my own food, you better believe it was nachos all day every day. I’m kind of not exaggerating here… but I’m not ashamed. Nachos are amazing though because you can get all of your major food groups in one dish, and if proportioned right, it can be super healthy. I always added loads of veggies, but I never skimped on the chips, either. But now as I’m approaching 30, I’m realizing I can’t eat standard nachos like it’s my job any more. Perhaps the saddest realization of my adult life?
Enter the nacho salad. All of the comfort and flavor of traditional nachos, with far more veggies, and far fewer chips.
Layer spinach and tortilla chips on large plate, and add cucumber, tomatoes, and 2 tablespoon size scoops of black bean dip or canned black beans. Add chopped raw onions and frozen corn, which will thaw while you are cooking your protein. If you don’t like raw onions, you can cook them in the pan with your protein.
Next, make your dressing and set aside while you make your TVP or veggie burger. First, mix tahini (or vegan sour cream if you don’t have tahini) with nondairy milk or water, chili powder, freshly squeezed lime, salt and pepper. By the way, I strongly recommend Seeds of Collaboration tahini for their quality product and their incredible non-profit mission. If you like it spicy, you can also add sriracha or hot sauce to this dressing for an added kick. Whisk with a fork until smooth, and set aside. You can also double or triple this recipe if you’re meal prepping. Put into tiny containers to bring to work along with your lunch or keep in a big dressing bottle to sprinkle on salads, burgers, and even sweet potato fries at home throughout the week.
In a pan, mix textured vegetable protein (TVP) and water to rehydrate. Mix in a scoop of jarred vegetable bouillon if available, or veggie stock to replace both water and bouillon. I use Better Than Bouillon brand, as it’s super flavorful and a little goes a long way. It’s definitely my best trick for getting a lot of extra flavor into dishes like this. Mix in garlic powder, chili powder, cumin (if available), and salt and pepper to taste. If TVP is unavailable, heat a veggie burger in a pan or toaster oven according to package directions, or use canned beans. To use canned beans, simply heat in pan or microwave with a dash of salt, pepper, chili and cumin.
Assemble everything, and then top your salad with protein and dressing.
Leafy greens: You can change up the veggies, swapping arugula, kale, or frisee for the spinach if that’s more you’re speed. Just make sure you toast the kale in a toaster oven, heat in a pan, or massage with your fingers before eating, as kale contains oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring compound (toxin) that is found in kale to protect it in the wild and deter animals from eating it. This doesn’t mean I just gave you permission to tell everyone kale is toxic and to avoid it at all costs, though I guess I won’t blame you if that’s how you need to interpret this information. Simply heating or massaging kale causes the acid to break down so it’s totally healthy to eat and you get the benefits of Vitamins A, C, K.
Veggies: I like peppers, onions, tomatoes, cukes, and corn on my salad, but you can of course switch this up too. Chopped broccoli or cauliflower would be great here, pickled veggies like onions or carrots would add a pop of acidity and crunch. You can even add some jalepenos if you have them on hand and like it spicy. I can’t handle the heat, but maybe you’re braver than me. I use frozen corn and just pop it onto the salad without heating, as it thaws while you make the rest of the salad. If you have fresh ears of corn though, my favorite cook method is to soak in water with the husk on and then bake in the oven or on the grill, still in husk. This steams the corn inside and creates an extra sweet flavor. Just peel the husk right off, and no corn silk is left behind. Waaaay easier than shucking corn on the back porch and making a royal mess. Just cut right off the cob and enjoy! You can even freeze this cut corn for several months if you have an abundance.
Protein: Does TVP (textured vegetable protein) seem too weird? So first of all, it’s just dried crumbly bits of soy, similar to tofu, but twice as amazing because it cooks in like 3 minutes and absorbs way more flavor. You can find it at regular grocery stores, usually in the flour aisle with the specialty flours like almond meal and couscous. I usually go for Bob’s Red Mill brand because that’s what my local store stocks, but there isn’t a wrong way to go here. If you don’t have TVP, opt for a veggie burger or simply heated canned black beans.
Dressing: You can use store bought dressing, or sub a little sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese if you like, and simply mix in with the veggies if you don’t want to go to the bother of making a homemade dressing.