spicy sausage, tomato and avocado salad
I had the idea for this salad when I was making a traditional caprese for dinner one night. You know, tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella — with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. While that Italian classic is a summer staple in our house, I wanted to change it up a bit.
This is a layered salad, but not in the way you’d think of caprese. Since the ingredients vary in size and texture, that really wasn’t an option. In any case, it’s wonderfully light and fresh, with ripe, perfumed tomatoes, buttery smoothness from the avocado and a spicy heat from very thinly sliced red onion and jalape?o. What makes this more substantial is the spicy chicken sausage tucked into the veggies.
Instead of a balsamic drizzle, I made a tangy cilantro dressing and in place of that compulsory mozzarella – some mildly salty queso fresco — a fresh, crumbly Mexican cheese that I am currently fixated on. Depending on your spice tolerance, you could add or drop the jalape?o — personally, I like the tingle. Also, a squeeze of lime at the end adds that last pop of brightness. This would delicious with some corn muffins and a cold cerveza (or two).
Incidentally, you may notice that I wrote this recipe to serve two. Since Emily left for college and it’s just the two of us, I’m trying to pare down the amount of food I make, lest my refrigerator be overtaken by leftovers. If you have more diners, feel free to double or triple the salad recipe. The dressing makes about a cup as it’s written.
- 1/2 pound spicy chicken sausages (like Aidell's or Casual Gourmet), cooked, sliced into 1/2" rounds
- 1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 3-4 plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 1/4" wide rings
- 1 jalapeño, very thinly sliced crosswise, ribs and seeds removed depending on your spice tolerance
- 1 haas avocado, peeled, pit removed, sliced
- 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro (use leaves and stems) plus more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 limes (one lime for the dressing, the other for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the sausages. The method is up to you. Grill them, pan sauté, or roast in an oven. If the sausages are pre-cooked, it should only take about 10 minutes over a medium-high grill, stove top, or oven -- about 375-400 degrees. Slice sausages into rounds.
- In a blender combine, cilantro, garlic, juice of one lime, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or lime juice if needed. Set aside.
- On a large platter begin to assemble the salad layering onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, sausage slices, avocado, queso fresco and cilantro leaves. Garnish with lime wedges to squeeze over the salad just before eating.
- Drizzle some of the cilantro dressing over the salad and serve the remaining dressing on the side.
- You can double the recipe for the salad to easily serve four, but you may not need to double the dressing. I had leftovers to dress another salad the next day.