Southwestern Fattoush


I hate to be a bore, but a big salad is about all I can manage these days. When it’s 108, or 112 or whatever (I’m now driving a car that thankfully doesn’t tell me), eating becomes less of a priority than just trying to stay cool…and not be so cranky about it all.

Truth be told, I’m not doing too well on either. The crankiness took hold a few weeks ago, and not coincidentally around the same time I crossed the state line between Texas and New Mexico. I’d just gotten used to cool nights, sleeping with the windows open, and waking to a chill that required an extra blanket and a hot cup of coffee in bed. Just writing that makes me feel like I must have been hallucinating. Yesterday I barely managed to get out of the car, where the A/C was blowing on high, to walk to the ATM to make a long overdue deposit. It all just seemed like too much.

I’m doing what I can to perhaps not fully embrace the blistering heat, but at least survive. I’ve swapped out my daily iced coffees for iced tea (for reasons I cannot fully explain but somehow tea seems cooler and I can drink more of it); I’m making ice cream every three or four days; and I’m using the oven only in the case of a culinary emergency (ie, a tart crust must be baked or veggies roasted), and if I can, in the mornings.

But that’s not the worst of it. In the interest of my own survival, I’ve been forced to make some somewhat unsavory concessions, too. I’ve put away my cowgirl boots. I now wear flip-flops — and in public (something I’d never consider doing in France, where I’m pretty sure they have laws against such things). I’ve even begun to wear shorts.

Give me a baseball cap, some chewing gum, and paint my toes hot pink. Poke me with a fork. I’m done.

That said, I made this salad the other night and felt slightly more like moi-même. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it seems fancier than it really is. It is a perfect summer salad, wherever you happen to be.

Even in silly old Texas, where the thermostat seems permanently stuck on Hotter Than Hell.

Southwestern Fattoush

Makes 2 dinner-size or 4 side salads

  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • NM red chile powder or plain ol’ chili powder
  • sea salt
  • 5 ounces/142 grams of mixed salad greens
  • a big handful of cilantro
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 green onion, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce)/160 gram can of tuna in olive oil
  • Cilantro-Lime Oil, recipe follows


1. Preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C and line a cookie sheet with foil.

2. Tear your tortillas into bite-size pieces and toss them into a bowl with the canola oil, New Mexico red chile powder (or regular chili powder), and sea salt, and toss with your hands until all of the strips are oiled-up and covered in the spices. Lay the tortillas pieces out on the cookie sheet, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, then turn the strips over to cook for 5 to 7 more minutes, or until they’re crisp.

3. Put the greens, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, green onion, avocado, and tuna in a big salad bowl. Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of Cilantro Oil, and toss. Taste for seasonings. Serve right away.

Cilantro Oil

Makes about ½ up

  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • the zest of one lime
  • cup of olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper


Put the first 4 ingredients in a jam jar, and shake shake shake. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper, and taste. Let sit for at least an hour before using. Keep the leftovers in the fridge. It’ll be good for a week or two.