Taco salad, despite the word “salad” in the name, isn’t really a dish that anyone considers healthy. Most taco salads are drenched with cheese, beans cooked with lard, meat, sour cream, and often come served in a deep-fried (but delicious) tortilla bowl. It’s possible, though, to recreate the best things about the salad — including the tortilla bowl — in a much healthier way without sacrificing taste. Instead of beef or chicken, we’re going to use shrimp in our taco salad, topping it with a fresh tasting homemade pico de gallo and a dollop of lime cream. And in place of heavy refried beans, we’re going to make a purée of seasoned black beans, and best of all, we’ve got a low-fat way to make a crispy tortilla bowl in just minutes. Some parts of the dish can be prepared as much as a day in advance, so if you spend a little time making preparations, the final dish will pull together with very limited time or effort. We’ll start with our pico de gallo.
Pico de Gallo
- 2 medium tomatoes.
- 1 medium onion. I prefer yellow onion in this, but feel free to use whatever type of onion you like best (red onions are also good).
- 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped.
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro.
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice.
- Kosher salt
Remove the seeds from your tomatoes and cut into pieces. The size of the pieces is your choice; we prefer larger chunks of tomato with our pico. Toss all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and stir until mixed thoroughly. If you can, let this sit for a few hours in the fridge before you use it, stirring periodically — the flavors really mingle nicely over time. Once you’ve completed your pico, you can go ahead and make your lime cream by stirring together 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon buttermilk, 2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon lime zest, and a tablespoon of chives together; store covered until ready to use.
You can also make your black bean purée ahead of time. Put one can of black beans (with liquid) into a blender with a clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper, and a dash of salt and blend until it has reached your desired smoothness. Simply heat the puree in a saucepan on low heat a few minutes before you’re ready to build your salads, taking care not to burn the beans on the bottom.
Now that we’ve made our advance preparations, it’s time to grill our shrimp, make our tortilla bowls, and eat! Marinate your shrimp in 1 tablespoon each of lemon and lime juice and a dash of red pepper for five minutes. Grill them in a grill pan or saute them until done; set them aside and keep them warm. To make your crispy bowl, you’ll need the following:
Guilt-Free Taco Salad Bowl
- 1 flour tortilla per bowl (low fat tortillas are fine)
- Non-fat cooking spray
- 2 ceramic soup or cereal bowls
Spray each side of the tortilla with the cooking spray. Invert one of the bowls and place the tortilla over the center of the bottom. Place the other bowl gently over the top of the tortilla to form the shape of the finished edible bowl. Put the bowls and tortilla into the microwave and cook on high for around four minutes — and be careful because those cereal bowls will be HOT when you’re done. Carefully remove the top bowl and the tortilla bowl should slide easily from the the bottom bowl, and you’ve got a nice, crisp bowl for your salad without deep-frying.
Build your salad by spreading a layer of the bean purée on the bottom of each tortilla bowl. Fill the bowl with mixed salad greens and top with shrimp, pico de gallo, and the lime cream. You’ve got a taco salad with all the flavor and spice you might ever want without breaking the bank on calories, right down to the satisfying crunch of the tortilla shell. If you prefer your tortilla soft, this also makes an excellent wrap. In either case — Enjoy!