In summer, I want quick dinners – no baking or standing over a hot stove. On the hottest days, even grilling seems out of the question. During our last heat wave, this Make-Ahead Layered Southwestern Salad became an instant favorite.
Now it is going into my summer dinner rotation and I’ll try many other recipes in the book where I found it – Susan Pridmore’s new Simply Vegetarian Cookbook. (While I received the book from the publisher for review purposes, all views expressed are entirely my own. Neither Susan nor the publisher saw this post before it went live.)
As the author of The Wimpy Vegetarian, Susan is an active participant in the online food community. She is a member of the Progressive Eats group (as am I) and I’ve long enjoyed her blog. Her simple, flavorful recipes and relaxed tone draw me in every time.
While she’s a vegetarian (most of the time), Susan is not doctrinaire. She has made culinary peace with her carnivorous husband through patience and compromise, not foot-stomping confrontation. Her story is filled with humor – from her nickname for him, Carnivorous Maximus, to the description of how the mostly vegetarian wife and the carnivore husband achieved happiness in their “mixed marriage.”
Susan Pridmore’s Simply Vegetarian Cookbook: Fuss -Free Recipes Everyone Will Enjoy
The cookbook reflects Susan’s personal values and experiences. Although the recipes are vegetarian, they include “flexitarian” options, adding meat protein where appropriate. Even the title of Chapter 1 draws non-vegetarians like me in – “Meatless Made Easy.” And it goes on in that vein.
If you’re considering a more vegetarian diet, congratulations! There are many reasons to make this change, but remember that change doesn’t have to be either absolute or immediate.
Susan believes in big tent, healthy eating. We’re all welcome. She doesn’t chuck us out even if we have a weakness for pork BBQ or chocolate cake.
On her “Beyond Basics – Give Boredom a Kick” chart, Susan matches “balanced basics” with “flavor kicks.” For example, she suggests flavoring quinoa, Swiss chard and potatoes with a dash of smoked paprika or garam masala and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Intrigued, I ran out and bought Swiss chard at the farmer’s market.
Another handy reference is the produce guide at the back of the book. More than simply a list, it includes options for how to prepare and cook each ingredient, helpful tools, and serving ideas. Some are mundane, but others are quite creative. Use a portabella mushroom in place of a bun for a veggie burger? Can’t say I would have thought of that.
Susan reminds me of Sam Kass, the Obama’s former chef and senior nutrition policy advisor. Shortly before Susan’s book came out, I attended an interview that Sam did with The Washington Post’s Joe Yonan. Sam advocates common sense eating and healthy choices in the same down-to-earth manner that Susan does. Reading Simply Vegetarian, I can imagine these two talking to me, encouraging good eating habits and simple changes to my cooking and eating patterns. If I were on a culinary lifeboat, I’d be glad to have both of them aboard.
Make-Ahead Layered Southwestern Salad
To showcase a recipe from Simply Vegetarian Cookbook, I chose this Make-Ahead Layered Southwestern Salad. Like Susan, I’m a huge fan of Mexican-style seven layer dip. (She calls the recipe Southwest Layered Salad. Although I turned the phrase around, it’s the same delightful, one-bowl dinner.) While you could use entirely homemade ingredients, Susan doesn’t opine on that. And I opted for store-bought ranch dressing and optional roast chicken. After all, I am the woman who admits to using boxed mix for her tried-and-true family favorite (poppyseed) cake.
Of course, all of the salad ingredients are delicious.
But truth be told, I’m all about the dressing. It’s tasty, super easy and versatile. I look forward using the formula – ranch dressing + BBQ sauce or taco seasoning – on other salads. Now I happened to have leftover BBQ sauce. Next time, I’ll dig out the extra taco seasoning from my Crustless Low Carb Taco Pie. I bought Trader Joe’s organic ranch dressing, though there are plenty of recipes online for homemade if you’re really into DIY.
I made individual-sized Layered Southwestern Salad bowls (for two of us) instead of using a single, larger bowl. While it was nice to photograph, My glass bowls were too small to allow me to easily toss the salads.
So I ended up moving them into larger bowls when adding the dressing and tossing the salad.
Make-Ahead Layered Southwestern Salad
This salad comes together in minutes. With fresh summer ingredients you'll find it irresistible. And you can make it ahead, then pull it out of the refrigerator for lunch or dinner.
- 1 can black or pinto beans, rinsed. I used black beans
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 3 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels About 3-4 ears of corn.
- 1 cup cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved
- 1 orange, yellow, or red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled, or Cheddar cheese, shredded I used Cheddar
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 cup crumbled tortilla chips. I used unsalted
- Optional - cooked, crumbled bacon or roasted chicken, shredded or diced
- 1/4 cup ranch dressing
- 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce or taco seasoning I used BBQ sauce
In a small bowl, stir together the beans and salsa. Spread across the bottom of a large serving bowl.
Layer the following ingredients in the serving bowl (on top of the beans and salsa) in this order: lettuce, corn, tomatoes, bacon or chicken if using, bell pepper, cheese, avocado, and top with tortilla chips.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ranch dressing and BBQ sauce or taco seasoning. Serve on the side.
The easiest way to cook the corn is to microwave it.
Here's how to cut the kernels off the cob.
If you're trying to cut down on salt, use unsalted tortilla chips. The dressing and salsa have plenty of flavor, so you don't need that salt to add flavor to the salad.
To make the salad ahead and refrigerate, leave off the tortilla chips and dressing until ready to serve.