I spent last week gallivanting around Denver with old friends, sharing meals with favorite bloggers and admiring those Colorado clouds—clouds so fluffy and low that I wanted to reach up and run my fingers through them.
In contrast, this week has gotten the best of me. It started going downhill when my short, direct flight home turned into a lengthy tour of Missouri by air. Too bad I couldn’t see out the window from the middle seat. Since then, I’ve been trying to do two weeks’ worth of work in one, all while starring in my own personal episode of Extreme Makeover: Pantry Edition. (You should see my pantry now!)
Sometime between Denver and now, summer changed to fall. It’s still tomatoes-and-sandals weather here in the middle of the country, though, so I thought we could hang onto summer’s last breath with one more colorful, crisp salad. Pumpkin-and-scarf weather will be here soon enough.
(Although, if you’re raring for fall produce, I’ve got you covered. Try this sweet potato burrito smothered in avocado sauce, butternut squash chipotle chili with avocado or chipotle-glazed delicata squash. You might also like this kale, black bean and avocado burrito bowl.)
Heart of Romaine Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado Dressing
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Mexican
A “hearty” romaine salad served on a bed of spicy black beans with pico de gallo and creamy avocado dressing. This beautiful salad would be great to serve for company or a casual night at home.
Cherry tomato pico de gallo
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced into small rounds
- ½ small purple onion, chopped
- ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
- 1 jalapeño, deseeded and membranes removed, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Creamy avocado-cilantro dressing
- 1 large avocado, halved and pitted
- 2 limes, juiced
- ⅓ cup cilantro leaves
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Spicy black beans
- olive oil
- ½ small red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 cans (14 ounces each) black beans or about 3 ½ cups cooked black beans, with the cooking liquid
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- salt, to taste
- 2 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
- Optional garnishes: toasted pepitas, crumbled feta cheese
- Make the pico de gallo: in a medium bowl, toss together all of the ingredients and set aside to marinate.
- Make the dressing: in a food processor or quality blender, combine the avocado flesh, lime juice, cilantro, red pepper flakes and salt. Blend while drizzling in the water and olive oil. Continue to blend until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
- Warm the beans: in a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the cumin and sauté for another minute. Pour in one can of black beans with all of its cooking liquid, then drain the other can, reserving the juices for later if necessary. Pour the remaining beans into the pan and stir in the chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high and simmer the beans for 7 to 10 minutes. Use a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to mash up about ½ of the beans. Reduce heat as necessary and add more of the cooking liquid if the mixture seems too dry. Remove the beans from heat and stir in the sherry vinegar and salt, to taste.
- To serve, place a generous amount of beans on a salad plate, then top the beans with a romaine halve. Spread several spoonfuls of avocado sauce over the romaine and top it with lots of pico de gallo. Garnish with toasted pepitas or crumbled feta cheese, if you’d like.
Feel free to substitute fresh lime juice for either (or both) of the vinegars.