My favorite salad – hands down – is the classic Italian panzanella salad. This salad is a match made in heaven of stale bread, mozzarella cheese, fresh garden tomatoes, and cucumbers tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. For as much as I like it, to eat it every day would turn to a sad experience.

But what if I took the essence of that salad – the bread – and applied it to tortillas? Change out the cucumbers for raw tomatillas, change the mozzarella cheese for queso fresco, and play with a poblano dressing instead of balsamic? It’s still a panzanella salad but just a Mexican version instead of Italian!

Using raw tomatillos gives a nice crunchiness to the salad which in the original version comes from the cucumbers, but it also gives a fruity/tangy flavor that kicks up the salad. The roasted poblano vinaigrette brings a smoky, peppery flavor that plays off the fresh oranges.

This may not replace the original panzanella as my favorite, but it’s a great option and works nicely in the winter while waiting for the summer tomatoes. It’s a Fat & Happy version that works as a great side salad or a light lunch!

Mexican Panzanella Salad

  • 1 orange
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla (choose gluten free if preferred)
  • 4 raw tomatillos
  • 1/4 cup thin sliced red onion
  • 2 ounces queso fresco (crumbling Mexican cheese)

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut the tortilla in half, then in half again, and then again (you should end up with 8 pie-shaped pieces). Place the tortilla pieces on a cookie sheet. Bake until they are crispy.

Zest the orange for use in the dressing (recipe below). Cut the rind and all the white pith off of the orange and cut into segments over a bowl to help catch all the juices. Carefully slice the avocado in half and remove the pit, slice the avocado, and add to the orange segments. Squeeze the lime over the avocado to help keep it from turning brown. Slice the red onion as thin as possible and add to the salad along with the cheese.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss lightly. Break up the crispy tortillas and layer over the top. Enjoy.

Roasted Poblano Dressing

  • 1 roasted poblano pepper
  • 1 thumb of  fresh ginger (about 2 inches)
  • 1 small shallot
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbls honey
  • salt and pepper
  • up to 1/4 cup water

Roast the poblano pepper, remove the core and seeds, and set aside. Chop the ginger and the shallot, cook over medium low heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil for 2 minutes.

Place all the ingredients (except the water) in a blender, blend on high to combine. Add a few drizzles of water as needed to thin out the dressing and reach desired consistency. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Tip and Techniques: If you want to make this salad ahead of time, wait to add the tortilla’s until you are ready to serve. Use gluten free tortillas for a GF options. To peel the tomatillo’s, run them under water. This will help remove the outer brown paper skin and the sticky surface left on them.

For more recipes, go to Monique’s blog:

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