Taco Salad with Salsa Vinaigrette

August 20, 2012

Another dish to use the plentiful tomatoes of midsummer! The original recipe (from the Gourmet Cookbook) calls for frying your own tortilla chips, but I decided to use chips from the store to turn this salad into a quick and complete weeknight supper.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients – the preparation is nearly as easy as using a taco seasoning packet (since the meat needs to be cooked and all the fresh ingredients need to be chopped and prepped regardless). The results of seasoning your own meat and adding onion and garlic are so much more delicious that it’s worth the few extra seconds it takes to measure the spices.

If you have a stick blender, I highly recommend using that to make the dressing because it’s perfect for the small amount of liquid, and it’s much easier to clean than a full-size blender. Enjoy!

Taco salad

Serves 6 as a main course



  • 1½  tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4  cup finely chopped onion
  • 1  large garlic clove, minced
  • 2  teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2  teaspoons chili powder
  • 1  pound ground beef chuck
  • 2  tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Corn tortilla chips
  • 2  heads romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)
  • 3  tomatoes, cut into ½-inch wedges
  • 1½  cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/3  cup thinly sliced scallions


  • 1  large garlic clove, chopped
  • 3  tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2  cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1  cup chopped seeded tomatoes
  • 1  large jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded if desired and chopped
  • 1/2  cup loosely packed fresh cilantro


  1. Cook the meat: Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder, and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add beef and cook over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until meat is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Blend garlic,vinegar, lemon juice, cumin, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream and blend until well combined. Add tomatoes, jalapeño, and cilantro and blend until smooth.
  3. Arrange the salad: Spread romaine on a large deep platter or in a large shallow bowl and top with beef mixture. Arrange tortilla chips and tomatoes decoratively over beef and scatter cheddar and scallions over top. Serve with vinaigrette on the side, or drizzle over salad and toss well.

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