Comida Latina, Mains, Recipes, Salads, Side Dishes

Chopped Garden Salad with Queso Fresco and Crispy Tortilla Croutons

August 16, 2014
I’d like to have a moment of silence for my beloved pumpkin plant whose life was cut short by a very ugly white worm infestation. Time of death: approximately 8pm, Friday night; at least that’s when I yanked the gigantic tangle of monster vines from the ground in hopes of saving its neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Delicata Squash.

I get a tinge of sadness now when I look out at the garden and see the huge empty spot and overgrown grass where it had once stretched out into the lawn, but it did manage to produce two very solid Jack ‘O Lanterns before its passing, which was kind seeing as I have two children who would not be satisfied with one pumpkin to share.

Other than the pumpkin fatality the garden is producing in full August fashion, we’ve had three consecutive meals (breakfast included) of tomatoes and actually have watermelons (!!!!!). I’m really excited about that last one (can you tell?) because that was a complete shot in the dark. I’ll take some garden pics next week so you can see how things are progressing.

I was so overwhelmed by the garden’s bounty when we got home last week that there was nothing left to do but dive in head first with supper salad after supper salad. Salad for lunch! Salad for dinner! Salad for breakfast?! Yay!

This one is a riff off one of my very favorite salads where thick slabs of avocado meet crispy-fried tortilla strips all tossed in a sharp lime-cilantro vinaigrette but this time I used tarragon and red wine vinegar instead of the cilantro and lime juice because….you guessed it—I’ve got tarragon coming out the wazoo. I used plenty of crunchy garden lettuce and lightly blanched green beans then finished it all off with a sprinkling of creamy queso fresco. Chop! Chop!

Chopped Garden Salad with Queso Fresco and Crispy Tortilla Croutons

Yield: 2 (as a main course)


  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 sprigs tarragon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups torn lettuce
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into thick slices
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled


  1. Bring a medium saucepan of heavily-salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and submerge in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Set aside to cool completely then remove from water and pat dry.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the red onion slices, teaspoon salt, vinegar, and lemon juice. Set aside to marinate while you make the tortilla strips.
  3. Cut each tortilla in half vertically, then each half into strips horizontally. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Once oil is hot, add tortilla strips a few at at time and fry until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips.
  4. To finish the dressing, add tarragon, olive oil, and black pepper to the onion mixture and stir with a fork to combine.
  5. Arrange lettuce, avocado, radishes, green beans on two large plates. Drizzle dressing over the top then sprinkle with tortilla croutons and queso fresco. Serve immediately.

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  • momskitchenhandbook August 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I hear your pain, Kate, as someone whose entire pumpkin patch was wiped out by a wild boar just before Halloween. I’m still not over it. P.S. that salad looks killer.

    • Kate Ramos August 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

      A wild boar?!!!! Whoa, your story is WAY better than mine! Love it!

  • Flick August 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Oh what a poor pumpkin, I live in an apartment without a garden so I just have my herbs but I understand what it’s like to raise a war against insect infestations (my thai basil is currently recovering from an aphid invasion!). This salad looks amazing, also I’d love to know what your recipe was for your cilantro pizza for your daughter’s birthday?!

  • Heather Christo August 20, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    this salad is just so beautiful Kate! I love the tortilla croutons!

    • Kate Ramos August 21, 2014 at 2:23 am

      Thanks Heather! Tortilla croutons are my favorite!