Yes, there is such a thing as healthy Latino salads, like this one made with chayotes by Chef Iliana de la Vega. (Photo/Courtesy Iliana de la Vega.)

A healthy idea: Latin-style salads

Yes, we Latinos love our carbs. (Can you say arroz con everything?) And yes we love our meats (pasteles, empanadas, tamales, sancochos…they would be nothing without a good, hearty protein.) And as for fat, well, we’re the people who deep fry plantains not once…but twice!

So it might come as a surprise to some to learn that Latinos do actually know their way around salads too. And none of this leafy green stuff either. We’re talking salads of substance, salads that make you chew and feel like you’re really eating something. As autumn and her starchier staples make their seasonal entrance, we bring you recipes for two fresh and healthy salads that take advantage of what’s left of summer’s bounty.

They come from formidable Latina cooks. The first is an ensalada de chayote from the great Chef Iliana de la Vega, who not only owns the critically acclaimed Oaxacan restaurant El Naranjo in Austin, TX but also teaches at the venerable Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus. The other salad, called a solterito, hails from Peru and comes to us from the mamá and daughter team behind the beautiful blog Why is it called solterito? No one really knows, but the bloggers suspect it’s because the recipe is so easy, even a single man—a solterito!—can make it.

Ensalada de chayote
3 medium chayotes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 T white vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T dried Oaxacan oregano, crumbled (or 1 tsp dried oregano plus 1 tsp dried marjoram)
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
thinly sliced red onion, for garnish

1. In a large sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the whole unskinned chayote and cook until “al dente” or when the chayotes have turned bright green. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool down.

2. Peel the chayotes with a knife or peeler. Slice them thinly, and place on serving dishes, in a decorative pattern, using the chayote slices as flower petals.

In a small jar with a lid, pour the olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it well and pour the dressing over the chayote. Sprinkle with oregano, queso fresco and garnish with slices of red onion. You can substitute the chayote for cooked zucchini. Serves 6.

A healthy idea: Latin style salads solterito 11 1024x768 copy food NBC Latino News

The Peruvian solterito salad. (Photo/Courtesy

Soleterito Salad
1 cup fava beans, cooked in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Strained and peeled.
½ cup red onion, diced
1 cup tomato, seeded, diced
1 cup giant kernel corn (or white corn), cooked
1 cup white fresh cheese (queso fresco) cut in cubes
¼ rocoto (Peruvian red chili pepper), diced
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
¼ cup black olives, sliced

1. In a bowl combine the fava beans, onion, tomato, corn, white cheese and rocoto.

2. Season with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

3. Add the parsley and black olives. Serve over lettuce (optional). Serves 3.

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