Judge Rosemarie Aquilina shares her flavorful taco salad for graduations or summertime parties.
By Rosemarie Aquilina
Photography by Viviana Pernot
For summertime and parties, I serve this taco salad because it is outstanding warm or cold. My children and their friends enjoy it after a day of swimming or other sports. Easy to make, it can serve as a meal or be part of an appetizer table, and it’s perfect for gatherings and game days. You can easily double the recipe or modify it to your tastes. The Catalina dressing brings a special flavor (bottled Catalina works well, but you can also make your own).
1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 small chopped onion
1 package dry taco seasoning
1 bag romaine and iceberg lettuce, or your preferred mix, or 1 head of lettuce washed and pulled into pieces
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (can sub black beans or pinto beans)
5-6 seeded and diced roma tomatoes, or grape tomatoes left whole or halved
4 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 can drained, sliced black olives, optional
1 bottle Catalina dressing
1 bag Doritos or Taco Doritos, or combination
2-3 avocados diced, or as desired (serve on side)
1 block shredded cheddar, or 1 bag (serve on side or add in 2-3 cups as desired)
Taco-flavored sour cream (see below)
Hot taco party dip (see below)
Fry ground beef and diced onion until beef is brown and onion is soft. Drain. Add taco seasoning package with water, per packet directions. Set aside to cool, or proceed and serve warm.
While mixture is cooling, place the following in a large mixing bowl: lettuce, beans, tomatoes, celery, cucumber and black olives. Set aside if waiting for ground beef to cool.
When ready to serve, add in ground beef and mix in ½ bottle or more of Catalina dressing.
Crush Doritos and mix in. I usually add in batches as the mixture does not keep the next day (the Doritos will turn soggy). For a large crowd, mix all together. For a smaller crowd, mix half, then the next half when needed. Or, serve crushed Doritos as a topping that everyone can mix in to their taste.
Serve with sides of avocado, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, grated cheeses, taco-flavored sour cream, hot taco party dip, etc.
I serve this with any Mexican meal and sometimes as is with chips!
Taco-Flavored Sour Cream
Mix 12-ounce container of sour cream with a package of your favorite taco seasoning. Begin with half and taste. Add in as much as needed to flavor sour cream. Makes a great taco chip dip, taco topping, nacho topping or taco salad topping. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Hot Taco Party Dip
In college my brother and I ate this dip as dinner. I often double it when we have large gatherings.
This can be a standalone appetizer, side dish or served with any type of Mexican dish! It’s easy to make when guests drop in. You can keep it warm in a mini Crock-Pot.
1 8-ounce block cream cheese
1 can No Bean Hormel Chili or Vegetarian Hormel Chili
Place ingredients in pot on stove on medium heat, stirring until hot and well blended. Place in serving dish or small/mini Crock-Pot. You can also microwave for a minute at a time, mixing in between, until well blended and at desired temperature.
Serve with your favorite grated cheese, Tostitos Scoops and/or Fritos Scoops or a bag of your favorite taco chips.
Scoop chips are easiest to use, and if desired can be pre-filled before serving, which makes a wonderful appetizer. Top with grated cheddar or Mexican cheese, if desired. However, this tastes so good no additional topping is required.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in refrigerator. It reheats easily in a microwave — heat 30 seconds at a time, mixing in between until desired temperature.
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