This salad is a cross between gazpacho and an updated version of that ’70s classic, the taco salad. Old-school taco salad was usually a combo of ground beef, taco seasoning mix, iceberg lettuce, chopped beefsteak tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and chopped-up taco shells— literally a taco in a salad. My salad begins with the same basic idea, but what’s deconstructed here is gazpacho.
You want to make this salad in the summertime, when the farmers’ markets are full of super-ripe tomatoes. When the tomatoes are fresh and seasonal, it’s so delicious—clean-tasting but with lots of cilantro, a rich mouthfeel from the avocado and mango, and some tang and crunch from the crumbled cheese and tortillas—that you don’t miss the beef that was the heart of that ’70s salad. But like the old taco salad, this one is great with a nice cold Corona.
SERVES 4 TO 6
FOR THE SALAD
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 1 English cucumber, cut into thin flat strips
- 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on the size of your tomatoes (about 2 cups)
- 3 medium celery stalks, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium mango, peeled, cut away from the pit, and sliced thin
- 12 large fresh basil leaves, washed and torn
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves 2 ripe avocados
FOR THE DRESSING
- Grated zest of 3 limes
- Juice of 3 limes (1/3 cup)
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
- Juice of 2 lemons (5 tablespoons)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon jalapeño-flavored Tabasco sauce, or more if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more if needed 1 tablespoon dried oregano
TO CRUMBLE ON TOP
- 1 cup Cotija cheese
- 2 cups tortilla chips
Pile all of the salad ingredients, except the avocados, into a large bowl.
Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
Cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Then use a knife to make lengthwise and widthwise cuts in the avocado meat of each half while it’s still in its skin. Scoop out the meat with a large spoon and let it fall, already cut into pieces, into the salad bowl. (Do this right before you’re ready to serve the salad—otherwise, the avocado will turn brown.)
Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it well with your hands, so that all the vegetables are coated in the dressing. Taste a piece to see if you want to throw in a little bit more Tabasco or salt.
Crumble the cheese and tortilla chips over the top, and serve the salad right away.