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Tijuana Caesar Salad

Did you know that Caesar salad actually originated in Mexico?  It’s true!  The story goes like this:  apparently an Italian chef named Caesar Cardini created the salad at his restaurant in Tijuana when hungry customers arrived and the restaurant was running very low on food.  He didn’t want to send them away hungry, so he combined whatever ingredients he could find and voila–Caesar salad!

Here’s my South-of-the-Border version of the classic.  It makes for a great side dish to a Mexican-themed dinner, on Cinco de Mayo or any day of the year!  I absolutely love the Cilantro Jalapeno Agave dressing!  I hope you will as well.

Tijuana Caesar Salad
Yield:  4 servings
Time:  30 minutes total

For the salad:
8 cups romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (I use a Microplane zester to get it super light and fluffy)

For the tortilla strip croutons:
2 flour tortillas
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. dried cilantro
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. coarse sea salt

For the Cilantro Jalapeno Agave dressing:
2/3 cup plain yogurt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. agave (or honey)
¼ cup lime juice
2 tbsp. finely diced cilantro
1 tbsp. finely diced fresh jalapeno
½ tsp. salt

1.  Prepare the tortilla strips:  Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.  Cut the tortillas into bite-sized pieces (roughly ¾-inch squares) and place in a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk together the olive oil, chili powder, cilantro, and garlic powder.  Pour over the tortillas and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 400ºF for 12 minutes, then finish by broiling for 2-4 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside to allow the strips to come to room temperature.

2.  Prepare the dressing:  Whisk all ingredients together.

3.  Toss the lettuce, cilantro and Parmesan cheese together in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle in half of the dressing and two large handfuls of tortilla strips.  Toss to coat.  Serve with the remaining dressing and tortilla strips on the side, adding more as desired.

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