Sun-dried Tomato and Avocado Salad isn't nearly this pretty when I eat it; I like to layer the salad and shake it up in a closed container to spread the dressing, salsa and avocado throughout. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)
This week, I’ve been enjoying one of my favorite salads, which takes me back to one of the happiest weeks of my life.
My husband always wanted to honeymoon in the Alps. When we got married, we decided we could about afford the Appalachians — and that’s where we went, to the beautiful little Harman North Fork Cottages in West Virginia. We had such a good time, I don’t think bigger mountains would have upped it much; we went back twice the first year we were married.
Down the road a bit, we discovered a Jackass salsa, a wonder in flavor (if a bit tackily named), in the little gift shop for Smoke Hole Caverns. Spicy and sweet (yet sugar-free) with chunks of tomato, corn and green chiles, it comes with a little packet of add-your-own habanero powder attached to it for those who want it super spicy (“mild until you make it Jackass wild,” the packet touts).
I can’t say it wasn’t awkward the first time I set the very clearly labeled jar on the table near my sweet, conservative Christian inlaws, but I’m not one for extra dishes if I can help it. Thankfully, they opted to smile and not focus on the big donkey with the “hello my name is” sticker on the label.
Anyway, the salsa is so good, it’s almost hard to use (or let my husband use) it fwith ordinary things like tortilla chips. But it’s excellent in other dishes, including my aforementioned favorite salad.
By the way, neither the salsa nor the dressing I use on this salad — and yes, it must be this salad and this dressing in this quantity to be THE salad — are easy to get your hands on. I’ve been doing some hunting though; come back Monday for my “Let’s Talk Food” on hard-to-find ingredients.
Meanwhile, this salad — spicy with hints of sweetness from the dressing and the corn in the salsa and chockful of creamy avocado, chewy sun-dried tomatoes, earthy mushrooms and crunchy romaine lettuce — is a flavor and texture adventure befitting of a honeymoon reminder.
Sun-dried Tomato, Avocado & Mushroom Salad
This is the most labor-intensive salad I make — mostly because, since I eat salad twice a day and am a working mom with limited time, I make a few days’ worth ahead of time and nestle ingredients in a careful pattern to protect them best I can — but totally worth it. By the by, if this doesn’t appeal yet you are on the hunt for new salad ideas, check out the piece we ran on 25 ideas for making a salad a meal a bit back; Kate also wrote about kid-friendly salads in her back-to-school lunch piece this week and had two recent Simply the Best columns on salad, a Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios and a Grilled Sweet Potato and Scallion Salad, plus we recently ran a recipe for a Chili Mango Beef Salad. Now that I look, wow, we’ve had a lot of salad pieces; tis the salad season even for people who don’t eat it twice a day!
¾ ounce salsa (heaping regular spoon)
4 ounces romaine
1 ¼ ounces avocado
1 ounce sun-dried tomato (approximately 4 big pieces, each cut in half), dry (not marinated)
1 ounce sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon Olde Cape Cod All Natural Olive Oil & Basil Sun Dried Tomato dressing
If you’re making this fresh, compose it however you like — as our photographers keep pointing out to me, we eat with our eyes first. However, when I pack two or three (I’m not proud of it, but up to four) at a time, I do it in a very specific order I don’t tend to vary.
I put the salsa in a contained dollop on the bottom of the container so it wets the smallest amount of lettuce. I cover that with 2 ounces romaine. Here’s where I depart from the moisture theory, though (many of my theories have limits for application!). I chunk and distribute the avocado evenly over that layer; I like to get the avocado scattered as best you can for creamy chunks that like to stick together. Another ounce of lettuce covers that layer. Next come the pieces of sun-dried tomato, also distributed, before the final ounce of romaine topped by the sliced mushrooms.
While I like to make ahead, I’m not nuts — I wait to add the dressing until right before I eat it. Because I’m a bit picky about making sure I get the best possible distribution of flavors, I remove about half the salad, dribble the tablespoon of dressing over the revealed layer and replace the removed salad to shake it like crazy in a covered container to distribute the dressing, salsa and avocado all through the salad. For me, this makes one large one-person salad.
I love this with pork loin — it helps add flavor and moisture to the meal when, as I’ve mentioned before I dry out the meat (sigh) — and spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. Yum!
Do you have a favorite salad? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for, which is how I managed to have one for years and ignore it except for this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow me on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!