My extended family has gotten in the tradition of eating a simple Mexican meal on Christmas Eve, centered on a chicken soup that my sister-in-law orders from our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Taqueria del Sol's catering department. I offered to bring salad because I was dying to make Rick Bayless' Avocado Mango Salad from his book, Mexican Everyday. (I highly recommend this cookbook)
Although I first tried this recipe on Christmas Eve, the good news is that it is not wintry at all, making it a perfect salad for any time of the year. I've made it a half dozen times since December, and I'm always thrilled to have the ingredients on hand in my fridge.
- You can find the recipe online here or here.
- To make this a quicker, you can use bagged butter lettuce, and even pre-sliced fresh mango. Frozen mango is a bit too watery when it thaws, I found. If you cook bacon lardons ahead of time, you can keep them in the freezer and pull them out to sprinkle on the salad as needed.
- For a vegetarian version, you can replace the bacon with caramelized onions.
- You might want to taste the jalapeno before using it; the ones from the market seem to vary greatly in heat. After tasting, you can decide how much or how little to use to suit your tastes. I've made the dressing with milder and hotter peppers, and it's good both ways, although I prefer when it has a bit of a kick to it.
- The dressing is a tiny bit of work, because you brown the whole garlic cloves and whole pepper in the oil before tossing it in a blender it with the rest of the ingredients. But if you make a double batch of the dressing, you can keep it in the fridge for salads all week!
- If you have an immersion blender, it works well for the dressing, and saves on the cleanup over using a full blender.
- Rather than the cheese mentioned in the recipe, I always use goat cheese in the salad, sometimes a local goat cheese from my farm box that's coated with hot Southwestern spices.
This is my new favorite salad! I love the way that the savory, creamy, salty, and sweet flavors combine, all tied together with the smoky, slightly spicy dressing. The salad is not aggressively "Mexican," so it's versatile enough to accompany any kind of main course. I've even eaten it as leftovers (already dressed) 2 days later, and still enjoyed it.