Mom’s recipe begins with standard taco beef – browned ground beef made with a pack of taco seasoning.
Two components have always made my mom’s taco salad my favorite – crushed tortilla chips and prepared Catalina salad dressing. These days, I like to use corn chips (Fritos) in place of the tortilla chips, but even though I like to make salad dressings from scratch, this is a throwback recipe and it just wouldn’t be the same as Mom’s if I didn’t use the prepared Catalina.
The remaining components of the salad can be mixed and matched: shredded lettuce, diced tomato, rinsed and drained pinto beans, sliced black olives, drained canned Mexicorn, shredded cheese and sliced black olives.
You can toss everything together in a huge bowl, but if you have picky eaters it’s easier to let diners assemble their own salad. Additional tortilla chips, sour cream, and taco sauce or salsa can be served with the salad.
CAROL GAGE’S TACO SALAD
1½ pounds extra lean ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
Water (as needed for the taco seasoning mix)
2-3 hearts of romaine, washed and sliced into thin ribbons (about 8 cups of lettuce)
2-3 tomatoes, cored and diced, about 2 cups
1 can pinto, black or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Mexicorn or corn niblets, drained
1 can sliced black olives, drained
8 ounces shredded cheese
1 bag tortilla or corn chips, 1/3 crushed
1 bottle Catalina dressing
Sour cream, taco salsa or salsa, for serving
Brown beef in a nonstick skillet. Drain the beef and return to the skillet, then add the taco seasoning and water according to package directions. Set aside to cool slightly or cover and chill until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, reheat the beef slightly in the microwave.
Toss with remaining ingredients, adding the crushed chips and prepared Catalina dressing to taste. Serve immediately with the remaining chips, sour cream and salsa on the side.
Alternately, set out each of the ingredients in separate bowls and allow people to create their own taco salads.
Makes six big salads.