I recently purchased Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, which promised a small tome of easy, healthy, and flavorful recipes. My first outing was a bit of a misfire with a decent but not amazing slow-cooked chicken and tomatillo stew. Surely I could do better.
For my second attempt at Mexican Everyday, I decided to take on the very first recipe that caught my attention: Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. Not the shortest of names, but intriguing nonetheless.
Would my second attempt at a Rick Bayless recipe bring vindication? Or was I doomed to culinary failure yet again? Answers after the jump…
Mexican Everyday, we meet again.
I always question the health benefits of a salad that starts with this much bacon. I do not, however, question my ability to eat it. Nevertheless, the recipe calls for four strips to be microwaved for two and a half to three and a half minutes. My impulse purchase at Target of a microwaveable bacon plate finally comes in handy.
Macro shot! For those of you concerned, this bacon stretches over four servings.
The bacon is soon covered by a modest paper towel, perhaps in shame, but most likely to prevent splatter.
While the bacon parties in the microwave, I place half a cup of pepitas (or pumpkin seeds) in a dry skillet over medium heat. I’m supposed to stir until they’ve all “popped” and become round, not flat. I dunno.
After two and a half minutes, the bacon emerges from the microwave with certain attachment issues. I opt for an additional minute of nuking.
The rather uninspiring final product.
Meanwhile, after about five minutes of toasting, I become concerned that my pepitas are burning. They appear to all be puffed, and a few have had exhilarating pops that have sent them careening out of the pan and into the netherworld that is the space between my oven and my fridge. Goodbye, brave pepita.
It was only a matter of time before limes entered the picture.
A third a cup of lime juice goes into the Magic Bullet alongside a third of the pepitas (the rest are reserved in a little bowl).
A third of a cup of olive oil then goes into the skillet along with two cloves of garlic and a jalapeño. This may seem like a lot of oil, but remember that this is a dressing. Plus, this salad is supposed to serve four. SO, CHILLAX.
The oil becomes rather feisty. Mesh safeguards are summoned.
After a few minutes, the garlic is golden brown and the jalapeño scorched. It’s time to move on.
A tablespoon of honey heads into the Magic Bullet.
Next I drop the garlic and chile into the mix.
I carefully pour the hot oil from the skillet into the Bullet. Bubbling and popping ensues.
Oh hai, half-a-teaspoon-of-salt.
I timidly whir all the ingredients together. I stop every five or ten seconds to open the Bullet and diffuse the pressure. I don’t want that hot oil causing an explosion.
Once everything is blended, I give the dressing a taste. OMG it’s amazing. People, if you only get this far in the recipe, you’ll be well served. Also, it wasn’t that spicy. Methinks the pan-frying mellowed out the jalapeño. Don’t worry though — there still was a pleasant tingle.
*I’d like to note that making this dressing takes about ten minutes total. Not too bad, especially if you’re not taking pictures the entire time.
Let’s get salad makin’! Bayless calls for butter lettuce, but I just use some romaine because, well, I like it more. #truth
Time for some mango slicing with my handy-dandy mango slicer. Word to the wise: peel the mango before sending it through the slicer. It makes thin slices about ten times easier.
Meanwhile, the assemblage gets into high gear. I splay out an entire avocado on my romaine lettuce. At this point I forgot about my camera; so you can’t see the process as I lay the mango slices on next, followed by a drizzle of dressing and a scattering of blue cheese, the reserved pepitas, and the bacon (now crumbled).
The final result: a super pretty salad! Also, that’s the name of my new Twee band.
A healthy lunch, and for those who wish to be even healthier, the bacon can be swapped out for turkey bacon or simply grilled onions.
The Verdict? Pretty amazing. Consider Mexican Everyday vindicated and then some. This salad was exactly what I was looking for from Rick Bayless: bright flavors, complementary textures, easy creation, and a generally light quality. The saltiness of the bacon plays off perfectly against the sweet mango, and the blue cheese serves as a great savory foil to the tangy dressing. The pepitas add crunch without destroying your fillings, and the avocados add creaminess, especially as it gets mashed up as the salad dwindles down. My only problem was that my mango wasn’t terribly ripe. Despite that, this salad was a winner (especially when I bit those few random sections of the mango that were actually ripe).
Definitely give it a try. Full recipe here.