While strolling through my local farmer’s market I found myself gathering ingredients to make a fresh, garden-inspired fruity salsa. But, I remembered I had a head of lettuce that absolutely needed to be used or it would rot a slow, slimy death in my crisper – ‘cause who knows when I would think of it again? So, I changed my mind from making a sweet salsa to an inspired summer southwestern salad. By playing with the same ingredient profile – mixing it up in a fun new way, it became a bright, groovy salad; a winner at your next pot luck.
Southwestern Summer Salad
1 head Romaine lettuce, sliced
1 cup cucumber, sliced and quartered ½ inch
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup mixed baby bell peppers, sliced
1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup colorful mix of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup nectarine or mango, sliced
8- 10 leaves basil, chiffonade – rolled leaves and then sliced thinly
Palmful of cilantro, minced
6-8 strands garlic chives, or regular chives, minced
Pinch of garlic powder and salt
Peach- Tomato Salsa Essence
Makes about 1 cup
1 large tomato, about 8 oz
1/3 cup diced onions
1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno
2 limes, zest and juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon pepper
2-3 Tablespoons peach jam or apricot jam
Pinch of sumac, (optional)
Fried Tortilla Strips
4-5 small flour tortillas, sliced into ½ inch strips
1 cup canola oil
Wash and prep salad ingredients, dry well.
Sprinkle the black beans with a pinch of garlic powder and salt.
In a vita-mix blender or other powerful blender, combine the peach-tomato essence ingredients. The amounts given are variable depending on the intensity of the flavors; the ripeness and sweetness of the tomato, the heat intensity of the jalapeno, or the tartness of your lemon and limes. So, as always, taste as you go. The taste I was going for was a refined, bright, fruity- salsa essence; more tart than tomato-y with a slow, background heat from the jalapeno.
Once the essence is well blended, strain through a sieve and place in the fridge until ready to use.
Slice the tortillas into strips; heat the oil over medium-high heat. Gently brown the tortillas strips when the oil is hot, but not smoking. Drain on paper towels and salt immediately.
Pull all the salad ingredients together in a lovely bowl with a drizzle of peach-tomato salsa essence and a smattering of fried tortilla strips. Enjoy!
To make it a meal, serve with seared cilantro-lime marinated chicken, shrimp, scallops or mahi-mahi.
The peach-tomato salsa essence is also delicious on its own served as a gazpacho on a hot summer day. Serve with a garnish of cilantro, lime wedges and grilled peaches or nectarines.
P.S. If you are wondering what fruit I am using in the aquamarine container that looks like an under ripe yellow, nectarine. It’s actually a new fruit I found at the farmer’s market that is a cross between a nectarine and a mango. It ripens to a yellow color like a mango and tastes sweet at first like a nectarine, but finishes like a ripe mango. Totally cool new fruit! Look for it at your farmer’s market. Obviously, a nectarine, a mango or heck, a combination of both would work great as substitutes in this recipe.