There’s this favorite restaurant of mine, Donkey Taqueria, near our house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is pretty much my default answer whenever the question of where to go out to eat comes up. In fact, I think we’re going there tonight!
Donkey (as I call it) is in an old timey gas station building that they converted to a small dining room with concrete walls, minimalist furniture, and a stone gravel outdoor patio with large umbrellas and strung-up globe lights for the summertime. It’s a little dark and a little hipster, yet still somehow cozy. It’s super popular, so we usually end up there on a random Tuesday or Sunday night, when there’s less likely to be a 2 hour wait and the food tastes just as good.
Donkey Taqueria has amazing guacamole and margaritas. Stop. That’s really all you need to know, right? I could eat meals of only chips, guacamole, and margaritas from May through September and be perfectly fine with it. And I probably wouldn’t scoff at doing so the rest of the year, either.
Because of this, when I go to Donkey, I tend to overload on the guac and chips. You know the drill. They are sitting right there on the table in front of you, you’re washing them down with tangy margaritas, and all of a sudden you forget that you haven’t even ordered an entrée yet! When that happens, I usually order their “Ensalada Central” as my meal. It’s a healthy way to balance out all the chips and margs while still getting to enjoy all of the citrus, spice, creaminess, and crunch that you’d get from a taco plate or other entrée.
This is my rendition of Donkey’s Ensalada Central. It is quite close close to theirs and uber-yummy…so yummy in fact that I’ve eaten it three times this week! It makes a great weeknight meal or make-ahead lunch to take to work. I like the sweet potato and cauliflower combination that Donkey uses in their version, but you could really use whatever leftover roasted veggies you have from dinner the night before if you’re throwing this together for lunch.
This salad is tangy from the lime juice, crunchy from the romaine and pepitas, savory and a tad sweet from the roasted spiced veggies, and creamy from the mountain of avocado on top. It has all of the components of a dish that will make it onto my weekly meal list quite regularly. I hope it becomes a staple on yours, too!
- 1 small or ½ a large sweet potato, chopped into small cubes
- 1 small or ½ a large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ¼ cup quinoa, dry
- 1 romaine heart, chopped
- 3 cups mixed greens
- 3 small carrots, grated
- 4 radishes, grated or chopped
- 1 tablespoon pepitas
- ½ an avocado
- 1 anaheim chili pepper, or another mild variety
- ¼ cup cilantro
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- Transfer the sweet potato and cauliflower to a medium bowl and add the olive oil, spices, and maple syrup. Stir to coat evenly with the spice mixture. Coat your chili pepper (for the dressing) in a small amount of olive oil. Spread the sweet potato and cauliflower onto a baking sheet, and place the pepper on the baking sheet, whole, as well. If any of the veggies overlap, separate onto two sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes and flipping the chili pepper. When veggies are done remove them from the oven and let cool. The pepper should be soft and blistered on both sides.
- While the veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa. Add the quinoa and ½ cup of water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let cool.
- Make the dressing. Cut the top off the roasted pepper and dig out most of the seeds. Add the chili pepper, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper to a food processor and process until smooth. Taste and add more lime, olive oil, or a touch of agave nectar for sweetness if needed. Different types of peppers will influence how much pepper flavor comes through in the dressing. I like anaheim peppers because they provide a small amount of spice with a light, not overpowering pepper flavor.
- Prepare the salad. Combine the lettuces, fresh veggies, roasted veggies, quinoa, and pepitas into a large bowl. Add the dressing and gently toss. Transfer to bowls or plates for serving and top with sliced avocado.