Southwest Summer Salad

Here is a spicy, savory meal that makes great use of prime summer produce — corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocados — in one delicious salad.  This is a crowd pleasing superstar, as it’s dairy and gluten free, vegan, deliciously nutritious, and easy to do much of the prep in advance.

Southwest Summer Salad

This salad uses one of my prior recipes, Spicy Tofu Crumbles.  If you would prefer, you may substitute grilled chicken breast for the tofu crumbles.  The quick to make dressing can be adjusted for spiciness depending on your preference.  (for Hannah & Caleb) Enjoy!

Southwest Summer Salad
(all quantities are dependent on number of servings needed)

romaine lettuce, washed and cut
tomatoes, rough chop large tomatoes, or halve cherry tomatoes
fresh sweet corn – kernels cut off cobs, sauteed briefly in a little olive oil, then cooled to room temp.
avocado, peeled and diced
bell pepper, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
pinto beans, cooked and cooled
toasted pepitas
Spicy Tofu Crumbles
Chipotle Lime Dressing (recipe below)

Assemble all ingredients in a large shallow bowl.  Dress the salad just before serving.  Add tortilla chips for extra crunch.

Chipotle Lime Dressing
3 TB fresh squeezed lime juice
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 tsp. chipotle powder (depending on how spicy your like dressing)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

Butternut Squash Steak with Spicy Pepitas Pesto

Squash are reigning supreme at my local market, and one of my very favorites is the smooooth, sweet, easy on the taste-buds butternut squash.

Butternut squash

I found a big, blocky hulk of a butternut squash at my market, and decided it deserved to be treated right.  Butternut squash flesh is firm, velvety, and subtly sweet.  I paired the grilled squash steak with a rich, spicy, flavor-blasted pesto made from pepitas, chipotle, and tequila. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Steak with Spicy Pepitas Pesto

one large, blocky butternut squash
3/4 cup raw pepitas, lightly toasted
2/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 TB for squash
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
Garlic – four cloves, crushed
Chipotle pepper powder – 1/2 to 1 tsp, to taste
3/4 tsp. sea salt
juice of 2 limes
3 TB tequila (water or stock may be substituted)

For the pesto: Combine all ingredients except the squash in a food processor and process until a paste forms.  Taste and adjust seasoning — adding more salt, lime juice or chipotle powder if desired.

For the squash:  Cut off the stem and peel the squash.  Butternut squash has smooth, pale skin.  Using a vegetable peeler, make sure you get down to the vivid orange flesh of the squash.  You will likely have to do two swipes with the peeler in the same area to reveal the vivid orange flesh.  Then split the squash vertically, and scoop out the seeds in the round hollow portion of the squash.

Butternut squash steaks, just before grilling

Next, cut the squash into thick steaks, about 1/2 inch thick.  If your squash is really huge, you can cut the steaks into smaller planks.  The goal is to have each steak be a single serving.  Cut the rounded portion of the squash into smaller pieces to grill, or reserve for another recipe.  Lightly brush the steaks with remaining 2 TB olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Heat your grill or large frying pan until hot.  Lay the steaks on the grill and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Then flip the steaks over, and cook until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

Serve the hot squash steak with a generous dollop of Spicy Pepitas Pesto.  If you made your pesto ahead of time, gently bring it to room temperature before serving.

Make Ahead notes:  This is a great dish for a fast dinner on a week night.  Make the pesto a couple days in advance and store in the fridge.  Prep the squash up to three days in advance, wrapping the peeled and sliced squash tightly and storing the in the fridge.  Then all you have to do is brush the squash with oil, grill, and serve with pesto.  For a complete meal pair with a fresh green salad and fresh seasonal fruit.