Friday, February 5, 2010

One of our family's favorite restaurants to eat out at growing up was El Torito. They had this fabulous Mexican Caesar salad. I've been holding on to the recipe for years now waiting to live somewhere where I can actually purchase pepitas and cotija cheese. Well, luckily I found this recipe that substitutes Parmesan and pine nuts. While I'd still like to try the real thing someday, this will at least fulfill the craving. The cilantro pesto dressing is SO GOOD! I think we'll have it again on Sunday.

Cilantro Pesto Dressing:

1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 C. pine nuts, toasted*
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
juice of one lime
splash of white vinegar
olive oil

1. In a food processor or blender combine garlic, pine nuts, cilantro, lime juice and vinegar. Process until everything is well-combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
2. While machine is running, pour olive oil in a stream until dressing reaches desired consistency and flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dressing will be on the thick side.

* To toast pine nuts: Put pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shaking pan or stirring nuts frequently, toast until they take on a light brown color. Don’t leave them unattended because they will burn quickly! As soon as they are toasted, remove them from the pan to a small bowl to cool. Make sure you toast enough to use both in the salad dressing and in the salad itself!

Caesar Salad:

Chopped romaine lettuce
toasted pine nuts
shaved parmesan (parmigiano reggiano) cheese
fried tortilla strips*

1. Just before eating, put lettuce in a salad bowl.
2. Top with desired amount of pine nuts, cheese and tortilla strips.
3. Add some cilantro dressing and toss well.
4. Divide salad among plates or bowls and top each serving with sliced carne asada if desired.

* To make tortilla strips: Heat some oil in a deep fryer or in a deep skillet or dutch oven. While oil is coming to temperature, stack a few corn tortillas on a cutting board. Cut the stack in half and then slice into thin strips. When oil temperature reaches 350 degrees, fry tortilla strips in small batches, stirring them so they don’t stick together. Drain on paper towels and toss with a little salt while still warm.

I honestly can't remember if El Torito serves their entrees with a scoop of sweet corn cake. Most likely, since that reminds me of our family restaurant dinners growing up as well. And the honey-lime enchiladas, that's just a gem I came across first on MyKitchen Cafe and have seen many times since. It's a keeper. I only made a couple of changes this time. I added more enchilada sauce and used less cream. Not really by choice, more by obligation. I've gained about all I wanted to and I still have eight weeks before Claire will grace us with her presence. I also added some cilantro and I substituted half of the Monterrey Jack cheese for pepper jack- just for the extra kick.

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