What more crunch in your summer salads? Toasted croutons and chow mein noodles have long served that purpose. But in recent times, tortilla chip strips have become the modern touch. We have a recipe to make your own, below.
You can also add slices of bell pepper, bok choy, carrot, celery, fennel, kohlrabi, radish or water chestnut; florets, and stalks* of broccoli, and cauliflower; and even nuts (try cashews).
Romaine is the crunchiest lettuce; you can substitute or add shredded cabbage.
But one ingredient we’ve been enjoying lately is fried tortilla strips.
It had not been top-of-mind for us until the lightbulb turned on as we were crunching on the Skinnylicious Mexican Tortilla Salad at The Cheesecake Factory. These strips are more flavorful than chow mein noodles and most packaged croutons.
We asked ourselves: Why don’t we use them on every salad?
We headed to the supermarket and found bags of fried tortilla strips, from Fresh Gourmet’s slender Tri-Color Tortilla Strips to Mission’s standard strips that are wide enough for dipping.
But you can easily make your own, simply by cutting corn tortillas into strips and frying or baking. The only difference is that yours will be fresh, warm, and all-natural. Bonus: You can control the amount of salt.
1. STACK the tortillas. Cut them in half, then crosswise into thin strips (you can use a pizza cutter). Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels, for draining.
2. POUR 3 inches of oil into a 4-5 quart pot. Clip the thermometer to the pot and heat the oil over medium-high to 350°F. Test the oil with a drop of water from the tap. If it sizzles, it’s ready; if it splatters, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat for a few minutes.
3. ADD half of the tortillas to the oil carefully—that oil is hot!—and use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to stir often so they don’t burn. The strips should be submerged in the oil until golden brown (about 3 minutes).
4. REMOVE the tortillas with the skimmer or a slotted spoon, allowing the excess oil to drain back into the pot. Spread the strips on the paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
 Mexican Tortilla Salad. Here’s the Skinnylicious recipe from the Cheesecake Factory (photo © Cheesecake Factory).
If you won’t be using the strips within a few hours, let them cool and store them in an airtight jar.
This option brushes the tortillas with seasoned oil, before stacking and cutting.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.
2. SPRAY a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the strips, trying not to let them overlap. Sprinkle with salt.
3. BAKE for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
In addition to a salad garnish, try them on:
*There’s no reason to toss the bottom stalks of broccoli and cauliflower. The reason people do is because we’re accustomed to eating the “pretty” florets. The stalks are just as delicious—and they’re the parts used to make fancy purées. We cut them into coins and steam or roast them.
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