The Food Matters Project: Healthy Taco Salad with Salsa Fresca

This post is part of the Food Matters Project, a cooking collaboration among participating bloggers. Each week, we will cook a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which places an emphasis on mindful and sustainable eating. Follow along with us!

Ain’t nothin’ more fresca than salsa fresca. Probably not even Fresca the beverage. And Fresca is pretty fresca; I should know because I use Fresca (or Vanilla Coke Zero) as a mixer for various types of booze and am routinely the coolest kid at the party.

Fresca means “fresh,” for any non-Spanish class takers out there, and when paired with “salsa” it means a salsa that is not cooked, but simply a mingling of fresh vegetables that get along well. This week’s Food Matters recipe was Five Salsas for Chips, Dips and Other Stuff, chosen by small kitchen kindred spirit Alissa of Big Eats tiny kitchen. Bittman offers a traditional (and fresca) salsa and four variations, and I chose the old standby.

The verdict? This salsa is classic. And I don’t mean classic like “kind of boring and lacking in flavor, so I’ll just say classic.” This simple recipe, mild enough for most tastes, deserves to be a classic, used over and over especially as summer gardens overflow with ripe tomatoes. While I value and often practice the skill of adjusting recipes according to taste or preference, I found Bittman’s ingredients and proportions created the exact salsa of my dreams. Tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and exactly half an onion. He has perfected the simple art.

I wanted to fully appreciate this perfected art by making a full meal of chips and kick-ass salsa. My personal strategy to Mexican meal-making? Add black beans. Check. I didn’t season them, but you could add cumin or chili powder for something extra. After that, chop some romaine for a makeshift vegetarian taco salad, no dressing needed since the salsa develops its own juices. And of course, the reason we came, chips. Homemade baked tortilla chips cut out some needless fat as does a finishing dollop of fat free Greek yogurt instead of full-fat sour cream.

I work under abhorrent conditions with neither microwave nor refrigerator and am pretty excited to tupperware this salad up for a healthy lunch that will remain (relatively) fresca all the live-long 10-hour work day. Or half the live-long day, anyway. Full disclosure, I did this today and it leaked its sweet juices everywhere in my bag. Check your tupperware twice, kids! But let me tell you, it smelled amazing and still tasted great.

To give Bittman’s classic salsa or one of his variations a go, see page 46 of the Food Matters Cookbook, and check back at Big Eats tiny kitchen to see what Alissa came up with. See even more salsa creations at The Food Matters Project.

Jen Cantin is a new Philly resident with an English and journalism degree from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to the satisfying venture of bringing your own food wherever you go. Food: Don’t leave home without it!

Originally posted on Monday, May 7th, 2012

8 Responses to “The Food Matters Project: Healthy Taco Salad with Salsa Fresca”

  1. Casey

    May 7th, 2012

    This looks perfect for lunch.

  2. Lena

    May 7th, 2012

    Oh I hate when that leaking thing happens with my lunch, lesson learnt the hard way: Always put the tupperware in an extra plastic bag.
    I’d love to bring this taco salad to work, my workplace is the same, no frige no microwave, so I am always looking for things that keep well enough. And I really need to give the homemade chips a try, Im always looking for this to snack on that are a bit healthier.

  3. Margarita

    May 7th, 2012

    This can definitely stand alone as a dinner! Especially with the beans.

  4. Evi

    May 7th, 2012

    Love doing a salad with the salsa- this is exactly what we did too. Delicious, healthy and fantastic for leftover lunch!

  5. Lexi

    May 7th, 2012

    Your salad looks great!

  6. Jen

    May 8th, 2012

    Tough conditions..no fridge. lol.Good job.

  7. Gracie

    May 9th, 2012

    I made homemade tortilla chips also. Did you use the Bittman recipe?
    Thanks for the tip on Vanilla Coke Zero, I always forget that exists. The salsa and chips look delicious.

  8. Joyce Rossignol

    May 9th, 2012

    Sounds great to me. Looks great too. Bring some over when you come.

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