Sunday, March 6, 2016

Taco Salad: Minnesota-style

Remember the hullabaloo last year when the New York Times claimed that the iconic holiday Minnesotan dish was something called grape salad? Across the state outraged eaters cried "Grapegate!" and bombarded the food editors with angry messages about wild rice, corn and SPAM (you know, actual regional delicacies).

Enter the taco salad debacle. A recent buzzfeed quiz rated test takers' Minnesotan-ness with questions about our state's unique cuisine. One question about two essential ingredients in a Minnesota-style taco salad had many quizees stumbling. But not this quizee! I fondly recall those special dinners when Mom served up her special taco salad a la her favorite community cookbook: seasoned ground beef and kidney beans, shredded cheddar, chilled iceberg, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, and cucumbers; and a happy heaping helping of Doritos and French dressing. On really really special nights, Mom might include a dollop of sour cream.

My daughter turned her nose up at the thought of sweet gooey red dressing on her taco salad. I tried to explain the goodness of the sweet-savory blend, but she shook her head in disgust. I asked T if he remembered taco salad tossed with French, or perhaps Western dressing. He had no recollections.

It was a perfect time to reinstate our state salad staple, with a few updates, of course. This isn't Siberia during the Cold War for goodness sake: spinach replaced iceberg, baked taco shells replaced Doritos (a girl's got to watch her figure). And I whisked together a Minnesota version of French dressing rather than reaching for the bottled.

Ah, just as I remembered.

I am so happy for this French dressing taco salad revival, regardless of how short-termed it is. Once you go back, there's no looking elsewhere.

French Dressing

1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon each grated onion, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil (use your favorite whether it's olive or canola)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients. Chill until serving.


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