Layered Taco Salad and Rocky Road Bark

by Kelly on October 8, 2010

I’ve made this layered taco salad a few times, each time planning to post the recipe because it’s so easy to make and pretty to look at once assembled. Unfortunately, it’s so tasty I’m never able to resist immediately sitting down to dish up a plate, ruining the picture-perfect ensemble of beef, beans, cheese, avocados and lettuce, so you’ll have to use your imagination on this one. If it helps, think of  your favorite nachos, then imagine them with better, fresher ingredients on a bed of tangy lime-dressed lettuce.

For those in need of a picture, I give you dessert – rocky road bark. Sam is a huge fan of marshmallows but I try to limit his intake. This inevitably leads to opened bags of marshmallows growing stale in my cupboard. This recipe took care of a handful of them and provided a few days of bite-sized after-dinner treats that the whole family enjoyed.

Layered Taco Salad
adapted from Gourmet, August 2003

Serves 4

for the dressing:
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil

for the beef:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano chiles (including seeds), finely chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb (450 g) ground chuck
6 oz (175 ml) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

for the salad:
1 firm-ripe California avocado
1 large head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 lb (110 g) coarsely grated sharp Cheddar
1 x 15 oz (425 g) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 6 oz (170 g) can sliced pitted black olives, drained
tortilla chips, to serve

To make the dressing, whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, then add the oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

To cook the beef, cook the onion, garlic, chile, chili powder, and cumin in the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is well softened, about 6 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up lumps, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then spoon off any excess fat from the skillet. Add the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper to the beef and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To assemble the salad, peel and pit the avocado, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Spread the lettuce over the bottom of a shallow 4-quart dish or other large shallow bowl (for example, a large pasta serving bowl). Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss lightly. Spoon the beef mixture evenly over the lettuce and continue making layers with tomatoes, cheese, beans, avocado, and olives.

***

Rocky Road Bark
adapted from Cook’s Country

Makes 16 pieces

5 or 6 whole graham crackers
6 tablespoons (90 g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (40 g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz (110 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (40 g) mini marshmallows
1/2 cup (50 g) chopped pecans, walnuts or sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure the foil is tucked into all corners and at least 1 inch of foil overhangs the top of the pan on the sides. This will create a type of handle, which you’ll use later to pull out the bark. In a single layer, line the bottom of the pan with graham crackers, breaking them if needed so that they fit tightly.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Scrape the mixture onto the graham crackers and smooth so that the mixture covers the crackers completely. Bake until the caramel is bubbling, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with the chocolate pieces, and return the pan to the oven to soften the chocolate, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and use a spatula to gently smooth the chocolate into an even layer.

Sprinkle the marshmallows and then the nuts over the chocolate, pressing lightly with your fingertips so the marshmallows and nuts adhere to the chocolate. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then freeze until the chocolate hardens, 30 minutes.

Grabbing the overhang, lift the foil from the pan onto a cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the bark into 2-inch squares. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

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