Fast and Light for Cinco de Mayo

Photo vy Lorelle Del Matto

 Deconstructed Taco Salad

 See me along with this recipe on Seattle’s Komo TV First News@4 (Channel 4)  Friday, May 4 as I talk about lower-fat cheeses.


A common excuse for not eating healthfully is, “I don’t have time!”  Because I’m (almost) always thinking about food, I do most of the work in my head so when I do get to the kitchen I can literally toss together a meal that doesn’t compromise my family’s nutrition or expectations for an interesting meal.  Here’s an example.

Recently, before leaving the house for a crazy-busy day, I marinated some black beans in a chili and cumin-spiced dressing and constructed an idea for a deconstructed taco salad.  The beans went in the fridge for later.  Returning home late my entrée-salad came together in minutes:

1. Grab a salad bowl, squeeze in lime juice, salt and pepper.  Swirl in a little olive oil.  Toss with thinly shredded greens.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  A ready-to-use coleslaw mix or greens makes it quicker.

2. Spoon a circle of tomato salsa on each plate.  Go spicy if you dare.  Top with salad greens. Add a handful of shredded cheese. For instant convenience I used a bag of pre- -shredded cheese, Reduced-Fat Four Cheese Mexican Blend.  Add a scoop of beans over the cheese and garnish with another sprinkle of cheese.  Surround with baked tortilla chips.

This simple meal offers  fresh colors, flavors and textures and includes four food groups:  “Dairy” in the cheese, reduced in fat and calories for better health, “Protein” in our beans, “Vegetables” in the tossed cabbage and romaine and a “Grain” serving in the tortilla chips which, because the ingredient statement said “whole corn” they can be classified as a whole grain. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Deconstructed Taco Salad

For more time saving, use a ready-made dressing for the beans and adding thinly sliced green onion or chopped cilantro for freshness.  Add more taco ingredients if you have them such as sliced avocado, roasted corn and fresh cilantro. 

Cumin & Chili Marinated Black Beans:

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

1 can (15-ounce) black beans, drained


4 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce

3 cups coleslaw mix (finely shredded cabbage and carrots)

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To Assemble Salads:

2 cups homemade or prepared tomato-based salsa

1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend or other shredded cheese

4 ounces baked or reduce-fat tortilla chips

For dressing, place olive oil in small saucepan over low heat.  Add garlic, cumin and chili powder.  Stir for a few seconds, until fragrant.  Remove from heat.  Stir in oregano, salt, vinegar and green onion.  Place beans in a bowl and stir in dressing.  Cover and chill for 1 hour or longer.  For greens, in bottom of salad bowl mix lime juice with pinch or two of salt and pepper; add olive oil.  Top with romaine and coleslaw mix. Toss just before serving.  Taste and adjust dressing ingredients to taste. To assemble salads, spread about 1/2 cup salsa on bottom of 4 dinner-size plates.  Top with greens.  Set aside about ¼ cup cheese for topping.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on greens. Top with a scoop of beans and sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Surround each salad with tortilla chips, dividing evenly.  Makes 4 servings.

 Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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