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Frito Salad…a fresh take on a classic

Well, this one has been around the block a time or two. If you are from anywhere near Texas you have had this salad in a number of forms. There are two constants: Catalina dressing from a bottle and Fritos. God knows I love Fritos. Let us all take a moment to appreciate Fritos in silence.

There. I’m keeping the Fritos. Obviously. But, I’m ditching the bottle of dressing. This dressing is a sort of French dressing with a few tweaks. It seems like all of the recipes I came across had ketchup or condensed tomato soup, and mind blowing quantities of sugar. I have significantly reduced the sugar and it is still quite sweet. And I just use tomato paste and a little extra water instead of the soup and ketchup. I like less “stuff” in my “stuff” and there are far fewer words on the label of tomato paste than there are on a can of condensed soup or ketchup.  And, it is really good dressing. I think you will like it.

Everything else is fresh, healthful, and delicious. This dressing thickens up after an hour in the refrigerator. Make sure you blend in the tomato paste completely or it will sit at the bottom of the jar in globs and it is also an important part of the texture of the dressing. Not to mention that no one wants you to serve a blob of tomato paste on top of their salad. There is one other factor about this old favorite salad that makes it seem worse for you than it is…and that is that it is invariably prepared ahead of time and the dressing is mixed in before serving. I’m not saying I don’t like that version. I’ve certainly eaten my share. But, it is typically over-dressed, and it absolutely kills the potential for leftovers. I have prepared everything separately here. I dress the salads individually. That way you can put the unused components back in the refrigerator for later and they will not be sitting in a puddle of dressing the whole time.

Now, if you are putting this out in a buffet line, go for it. Mix in the dressing immediately before you put it out. I’m feeding four people who do not like each and every component, and who at least at this meal, were coming and going. So, this is great if you have kids coming home from practice an hour apart from each other…and neither at a time when you want to serve dinner. Or, if you and your person have to eat dinner separately, you can just pull out the tray of goodies, build a salad, and put it back in the fridge for the next person. Or if you want a salad that you can eat four nights in a row…done. And, I’m telling you…this might use every bit as much dressing, but it just tastes fresher and less naughty when the ingredients haven’t been swimming for an hour or two.

Big Reminder: When you rinse your lettuce, beans, and tomatoes, give them ample time to drain or dry. Adding excess water really diminishes the result. So drain the beans and tomatoes on a paper towel for a bit if you are in a hurry. And take the lettuce outside and give it a swing in a towel to get all of the water out (just don’t let go because you don’t want to have to go ask your neighbor to fetch your head of lettuce out of their back yard like kids have to do for their soccer balls).

Recipe for Frito Salad:  (yield: 4 large salads)

Ingredients:

Dressing:
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chile powder
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Salad:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon chile powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed and thoroughly drained, and then chopped
1 bag Fritos original corn chips
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 ears of corn
1 cup chopped tomatoes
½ cup green bell peppers, sliced (whatever is left over from the dressing)
¼ cup thinly sliced white onion or green onions
Optional: black olives, avocado, minced fresh jalapenos

Instructions:

1. For the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a large lidded jar. Shake thoroughly to combine, checking to make sure the tomato paste has been fully incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This is also a good time for you to rinse and drain the lettuce so that it will be chilled and ready at the same time as the dressing.

2. Brown the hamburger meat in a non-stick skillet. In a small bowl, mix the chile powder, salt and cayenne. Add the seasoning and stir it in to evenly coat the meat. Drain excess fat, if needed, and transfer the meat to a bowl. Set aside.

3. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook the corn for 4 minutes. Remove the corn and set it aside to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the corn off of the cob. (Hold the corn up vertically on a plate and use a very sharp knife to cut off the kernels holding the knife in a slightly diagonal position. Be careful). Set the corn aside.

4. Prepare and chop the remaining vegetables.

5. To prepare the salads, place a handful of iceberg lettuce on each plate. Place a handful of Fritos on top of the lettuce. Then divide the seasoned hamburger and beans amongst the salads. Garnish with cheese, corn, tomatoes, green bell pepper slices and onion slices. Add dressing to each salad, to taste (about 1/3 cup dressing per salad).

Eat immediately, and store the components separately.

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