Gluten-Free Topopo Salad

This recipe is a version from one of my favorite Mexican restaurants ever, El Azteco (in all places, East Lansing, MI).  Topopo Salad is a wondrous combination of hot and cold, gooey and crunchy, creamy and tangy that will feed 6 adults (or 4 really hungry ones). In addition to being a complete meal, it’s tasty, cheap, and gluten-free!  You can easily make it vegetarian by skipping the chicken and using vegetarian refried beans, too.

1 medium bag gluten-free tortilla chips
1 can refried beans, heated with 1/4 C water
1 8oz. block of Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 avocados, mashed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T + 1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can pitted black olives, drained and sliced
1 tomato, chopped and drained
2 scallions, chopped and divided into 2 piles
1 bag spring mix or 1 head Romaine lettuce, rinsed, drained, chopped, and chilled
1 lb. cooked and shredded chicken (optional)
3 T salad oil
1 T white vinegar
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

You will need a presentable 9×13 pan for this dish, as you will be serving in it (a cookie sheet will not do, since you build this salad in the pan, and you need all the depth you can get).  It’s important to work quickly as you assemble this to ensure the hot portions stay hot, and the cold stay cold; so, it’s best to prep everything ahead of time so that all you have to do is assemble once it’s out of the oven.

Crush the two garlic cloves into the avocado, add 1 tsp. of the lemon juice, the salt, and mix well.  Set aside.

Layer the chips in the bottom of the 9×13 pan, overlapping them so it is entirely covered.  Spread the heated beans evenly over the chips and sprinkle on the Monterey Jack cheese, covering each chip.  Broil on High until the cheese is bubbly and remove from oven.

Spread the guacamole all across the top of the melted cheese.  Sprinkle with the sliced olives, tomatoes, and half  the scallions.

In a zip lock bag, toss the salad greens, remaining scallions, chicken, and oil, lemon juice, and vinegar until fully coated.  Add the Parmesan cheese and shake again.  Pile the salad mixture on top of the chips and serve with a big spatula!

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