Inspiration and a Cowboy Ciao Salad

When cooking, baking, menu planning, creating food, you never know where your inspiration might come from … who knew that an experience at a restaurant in the Sky Harbour Airport Terminal in Phoenix, an eating experience that had more going against it than going for it, would inspire a dish I made last night for supper. The dish itself isn’t very original or complicated, but the story, and the inspiration behind it is interesting.

“Tom” and I had a 2 and a half hour layover, around lunchtime, in Phoenix when flying from Vancouver to Yuma last month. We wanted to eat our lunch in a restaurant where we could sit at a table and be waited on (as opposed to standing in line at a take out stand), so chose Cowboy Ciao. The menu didn’t appear very vegan friendly at first, but a helpful and friendly server pointed out a few options and I decided to order the Stetson Chopped Salad (hold the cheese). When the salad came, the ingredients were all lined up separately on the plate and the server explained what each was before pouring on a little dressing and tossing it all together. This is what it looked like after it was tossed (she was too quick for me to snap a picture of the original lay out of the salad):

Cowboy Ciao salad

It was made of Israeli couscous, dried cranberries, arugula, avocado, some interesting crunchy freeze-dried or something corn, tomatoes, pepitas (otherwise known as pumpkin seeds), and drizzled with a simple vinaigrette. It was pretty good. What wasn’t so good was the evidence of poor hygiene and cleanliness that we saw all around us as demonstrated by the staff … a server dipping her fingers into a bag of Cheez-Its, then into her mouth, then serving plates of food, a server sniffing and coughing openly around food, dirty dishes on our table, slovenly attire such us partially tucked in shirts, exposed midrifts … Although I enjoyed the Stetson Chopped Salad, we won’t be eating at Cowboy Ciao next time we pass through Sky Harbour Airport.

In honour of the tasty Stetson Salad and the effort made by the one bright light at Cowboy Ciao – our server – I give you …

Cowboy Ciao Salad


2 carrots, peeled and grated

1 red bell pepper, chopped

several leaves of green lettuce, chopped

about 1/4 of a head of green cabbage, sliced thinly and chopped

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can)

several grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cup corn (1 used frozen, thawed in boiling water, then cooled)

1 avocado, sliced

Dressing (this is the same dressing I use in my Black Bean, Corn, Quinoa Salad which can be found on my other blog):

2 tbsps. lime juice

2 tbsps. rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chipotle paste (you can make chipotle paste by dumping a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce into the blender, blending until smooth – just store the paste in the fridge and use whenever you want a chipotle flavour in your cooking)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp veg oil

tortilla chips

Prepare all your vegetables, then portion out into two big bowls, keeping the ingredients separate and not tossed together, like so:


Put the dressing on the side and add as much or as little as you please, and toss together as much or as little as you please. You can go real Cowboy Ciao by dressing and tossing the salad for your eating partner right in front of them. (Even more authentic Cowboy Ciao would be to serve the dressing in a dirty and greasy pitcher, but you can forgo this step if you want)!  Serve with tortilla chips.



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