When we lived in Hawaii, we were on a low carb diet and this was when this salad was born. It has since morphed into what it is today, with a delicious corn and black bean salsa, fried tortilla strips, and a southwest ranch dressing.
I have made this for a lot of friends and family and it has become a favorite. In fact, whenever I would fly home, my sisters would have all the ingredients bought so I could make it for them while visiting. They love it that much!
While this salad may look tedious to make, much of it can be made a day or two in advance. It's a delicious dish that I hope your family will enjoy.
We'll begin by making the corn and black bean salsa and dressing.
corn and black bean salsa
Seed and dice two roma tomatoes. Put in a bowl.
Finely dice half of a red onion. Put that in the bowl too.
Take a can of black beans. Drain and rinse well. I let them sit in a sieve for a while to "dry" off a little. I don't like them horribly wet when I add them to the bowl.
Normally I pull out frozen corn from the freezer, thaw and add to the bowl, but I surprisingly didn't have any! I did have fresh corn so I steamed up 2 and cut off the kernels and added it to my salsa.
If you don't want to go to that much trouble, use a cup or so of frozen corn.
Seed and pith a jalapeno then dice. If you want it spicier, leave the seeds or add another pepper to the mix.
Chop up some cilantro.
Squeeze in half a lime. Season the salsa with a little salt and pepper.
Stir well then cover with saran and put in the fridge.
This can be made a day in advance. I wouldn't make it too far ahead because the onions will lose their flavor. Yummy and the colors are gorgeous!
southwest ranch dressing
Take one package ranch dressing mix. Dump the dry mix into a bowl.
Add 1 cup mayonnaise.
Add 1 cup milk. Mix the dressing together.
Add 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce. I eyeball it. If you want this spicier, add a little more.
Add 1 tsp garlic powder.
Add 1 tsp chili powder.
Add 1 tsp cumin.
Squeeze in half of a lime.
Mix everything together. This dressing can be made days in advance. In fact, the longer it sits, the better the flavors will have a chance to marry and balance out. It's a wonderful dressing.
Now to make tortilla strips!
Take 4-5 fajita sized tortillas and cut in half.
Cut them into thin strips.
Heat some oil in a pot and fry the strips up. When they're nice and golden, pull from the oil and place on some paper towels.
As soon as you pull the tortilla strips from the oil, season lightly with salt. These *can* be made the day ahead. Put the strips in a ziploc or any airtight container so they don't get stale or soft.
Now it's time for the main body of the salad!
Take a package of McCormicks Grill Mates Southwest marinade. My sister, Marcia, was here visiting in March. When we were at the commissary she bought almost their entire stock. I looked at her inquisitively and she told me they can no longer find this in their grocery stores back in Seattle! I can't even believe it. So.. I hope you guys don't have trouble finding this. If you do, use any southwest marinade you can find. This one, in my opinion, is the best though.
Put 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a ziploc. Dump in the marinade (as prepared according to the directions on the package). The packaging says you only need to marinate for 15 minutes. Personally, I like it a little more seasoned, so I let them sit in that marinade all day, overnight if possible.
Now I normally grill these on my bbq, but when I went to go start the bbq, the flame was very small, then extinguished itself. Out of propane. Dang. So, I had to use a skillet on the stove.
Cook until the breasts are slightly firm. This means they're cooked perfectly. If they're squishy when pushed in the center, leave them on a little longer. They're not done!
Remove from the grill or pan and let cool.
Using two forks, start pulling the meat apart. The shredded meat goes a long way vs. cutting into cubes.
Yummy shredded chicken breasts. Mmmm...
Put the chicken in a large bowl.
Chop up 1 head of iceberg lettuce and add to the bowl.
Grate some cheese. I grated more than this. I actually used some cheddar and some monterey jack. Put all the cheese in the bowl too.
Slice up one avocado. You can dice this and add directly to the lettuce bowl if you want. Since I like to make it fancy, I leave them in slices and use on top. You're about to see.
Toss everything in the bowl together. If your family likes olives, you can add some sliced black olives. I'm the only one who likes them here, so I don't put any in. :( Poor me.
Begin by putting some of the salad on the plate.
Put a big handful of corn and black bean salsa on top in the middle.
Put slices of avocado around the plate.
Put a small stack of tortilla strips on top like a haystack. These will be your "croutons" for the salad. I break them up with my fork and mix everything together.
Drizzle on some of the salad dressing and you're done! Time to eat up.