Thursday, October 6, 2011

Southwestern Chili-Mac Salad

This was printed up in a Rachael Ray magazine as a "make-over" recipe for traditional chili-mac. Not that there is anything wrong with chili mac; I am a huge fan of it myself. But it's fun to change things up every once in awhile, and in the summer, or in this case early fall, the produce stands are stuffed to the rafters with fresh veggies, so rather than having a side salad next to your bowl of standard chili mac, why not put your salad IN the chili mac? This dish makes use of fresh seasonal veggies like tomatoes, corn, spinach (my addition), and red onion. The chili-spiced meat and beans are mixed in with the veggies and the whole thing is tossed with a zesty vinaigrette and topped with sharp cheddar.

CSA Week 18:

In the box: 1/2 pound spinach, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 pound Romano beans, 2 sweet Italian peppers, 8 ears corn, 2 pounds Nicola potatoes, 1 watermelon, 1 basket French petite plums, 2 pounds Gala apples.

We used the carrots from last week along with the Romano beans and sweet red peppers from this week to make a veggie stir fry. To go with that, we made beer-glazed black beans.

The corn, most of the spinach, and the cherry tomatoes were used in the chili mac.

We made home fries with the potatoes for breakfast on the weekend. My pan was too crowded though so they weren't as browned and crisp as I would have liked. Good to remember for next time.

Also noteworthy: apparently Nicola potatoes are reported to be lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes. We've been trying to cut out excessive carbs and sugars lately so every little bit helps. I just read Gary Taubes' book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About Itand it has given me a whole new perspective on carb and sugar consumption! Have you read it? What do you think? It pretty much contradicts everything I was told in Weight Watchers, but I find his arguments and interpretations of the research very convincing.

I used the rest of the spinach to go with this really awesome sun-dried tomato and chili walnut layered dip!

Check out the recipe over  at Leanne's blog, Healthful Pursuit. I followed her recipe almost exactly, except that I didn't have this one ingredient called Herbemare, but from what I could tell online it is a mixture of salt and dried spices so I improvised with sea salt, dried celery flakes, oregano, and thyme. I used lime juice instead of lemon juice, because that's all I had, but it seemed to work out fine. I didn't have a clear bowl to layer it in so I went with the platter instead, and topped with some sliced cherry tomatoes from our garden just for fun. We brought it to a going-away/board game night at a friend's house and it was a hit! I would definitely make this again.

We didn't do anything special with the fruit, just had it with breakfast and snacks. I loved those little plums!

Southwestern Chili-Mac Salad
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray - June/July 2008
Serves 6

Notes: My only changes to this recipe include using whole wheat pasta instead of regular, sharp cheddar instead of medium, and adding steamed spinach. I also didn't use cilantro this time, only because when I took it out of the fridge, I discovered that it had gone bad. If you have it, I suggest you use it. Oh, and I added coriander too, just for fun.

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
4 ears corn, husks and silk removed
2 cups whole wheat elbow pasta
1 small red onion, half finely chopped, half thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander
1 pound lean ground beef
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges, or a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
Large bunch fresh spinach, big stems removed (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice and the cilantro. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn and cook for three minutes, it should be just tender. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Return the water back to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente, drain and transfer to a large (serving) bowl. Drizzle about a tablespoon of oil over the pasta and toss so it doesn't stick together. Set aside.

Cut the corn kernels from the cob, add to the bowl with the pasta.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the finely chopped red onion, chili powder, and coriander. Cook for about 2 minutes or so, until the onion has softened. Add the ground beef. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the meat is lightly browned and cooked through. Drain any excess fat.

Wash the spinach, and put the damp leaves into a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for a 2 minutes. Put the spinach in a towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Chop the spinach and add to the pasta and corn.

Add the beef mixture to the pasta bowl. Toss to combine. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the kidney beans, spinach, tomatoes, sliced onion, and vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Taste again and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Scoop into bowls, top with cheese, and serve.


  1. Wow, your presentation is absolutely lovely, Robyn! I'm glad everyone liked it, and I love how bright the mac salad is. Wow! (Rachael Ray is pretty awesome, eh?)

  2. Beautiful and mouthwatering photos...they make me HUNGRY!


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