Here’s what Bobby Flay has to say about this salad. While I’ve never met his daughter, I can heartily agree with the last bit.
“This salad is named for my beautifully energetic daughter, Sophie. It has so much going on that you can’t help but love it-just like the girl. Creamy beans, two kinds of cheese, crispy tortilla chips…It all makes for one great salad.”
Yes it does. This is one (insert expletive) good salad. If you’re weird (just kidding) like my husband and don’t like olives, you could substitute black beans and still get the pretty dark purplish brown color that rounds out the look of the salad. However, the Niçoise olives lend a salty punch of flavor that I can’t do without. I switched the original dressing (balsamic, Dijon, salt, pepper, and oil) with another one of Flay’s, a red chile mustard vinaigrette which I think suits this salad perfectly. I also substituted pepper jack cheese for the Monterey jack. I enjoyed the leftovers for 2 consecutive days, and I really think it tasted better and better each time. If you anticipate any leftovers, store the beans, lettuce, dressing, and crispy tortilla strips separately. The morning of, put the lettuce and bean mixture in a container, with the dressing separate, and the crispy strips in a Ziploc bag in order to preserve the crunchiness of the salad. Assemble just before eating. Just writing this is making me crave this salad. I think it will be going on the menu again next week!
adapted from: Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook
Red Chile-Mustard Vinaigrette
makes about ¾ cup
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder*
2 teaspoons of honey
agave syrup to taste (my contribution, I think it needed a bit more sweetness. About 1-2 tsps)
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
½ cup canola oil
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, ancho powder, honey, agave, and salt & pepper to taste in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. This can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated.
3 cups finely chopped romaine lettuce
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
¾ cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained
½ cup Niçoise olives, pitted**
¾ cup ½” cubed sharp white cheddar cheese
¾ cup ½” cubed pepper jack cheese
fried blue and white corn tortilla strips (instructions follow)
chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Toss the tomatoes, beans, chick peas, olives, and cheeses together in a bowl. Arrange the lettuce on each dinner plate. Top with the bean mixture, and drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with the crispy tortilla strips and chives. Devour.
Fried Blue & White Corn Tortilla Strips (aka, The Crowning Glory)
2 cups canola oil
3 (6 inch) blue corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
3 (6 inch) white or yellow corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
Heat the oil in a high-sided saute pan or shallow pot until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer. (Or heat over medium high, and when a small strip sizzles and fries, it’s ready.) Add the tortilla strips in two batches and cook, turning once, until crisp, 15-20 seconds. Using a bamboo skimmer/spider strainer, or a similar tool, transfer the crispy strips to a paper-towel lined plate and season immediately with salt if desired. (I chose not to.) These can be made up to a day ahead and stored in an airtight container.
*Ancho chile powder is made from the ancho chile. The rich, slightly spicy fruit-flavored ancho is the sweetest of the dried chiles. In its fresh, green state, the ancho is called a poblano chile. I use it many times in place of regular, old chili powder. If you can’t find it in the spice aisle, it can many times be found in an international aisle in the Mexican or Southwestern section.
** Niçoise olives come from the Provence region of France (but are also grown in Italy & Morocco). These small, oval olives range in color from purple-brown to brown-black. They are cured in brine and packed in olive oil and should have a rich, nutty, mellow flavor. You can find them in a jar, but I hope for your sake (if you are a fellow olive lover) that you have an olive bar at a grocery near you.