After the holidays I feel like I am moving a bit slower…so I am happy to say the freshness of a new year is calling….

One of my personal goals for 2014 is to increase my salad intake throughout the year. I always kick off the New Year by eating lighter. So I look for hearty and tasty salads on local menus (and will feature them throughout the year). Eating more salad is such a convenient way to work in a couple of cups of veggies a day! Luckily for those of us in the Mesilla Valley, there are luscious green salads on practically every menu in town, with many featuring local produce!

In my quest for lighter fare I had to swing by Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant on University Avenue. Lorenzo’s is very popular among tourist as well as locals, in part for location right off the interstate but mainly due to the wonderful Italian fare.

I ran in to my friend and owner, Vince Vaccaro. He is a “hands-on” restaurateur, always mindful food quality and customer service and so fun to talk with! I was enjoying the Vegetarian Salad. Lorenzo's salad I love the versatility of romaine lettuce, the combination of outer leaves with crunchy spines and the tender smaller leaves from the heart.  Lorenzo’s tops the greens with fresh grated mozzarella, artichoke hearts, thinly sliced mushrooms and black olives. The salad is dusted with Italian seasonings and chopped green onion offering additional flavor and scent of freshness! Tangy homemade olive oil based dressing crowns this salad with goodness.

While chatting about the restaurant business Vince commented on my choice of salad and explained how popular this salad has become. “I had a customer from England send me an email about how delicious our Vegetarian Salad is. That makes me happy!”  Lorenzo’s is very popular among tourists, in part for it’s’ location right off the interstate, but more importantly for the delicious Italian fare. Homemade recipes have been handed down and preserved for fresh spaghetti, pizza, lasagna…so many Great Italian favorites.

I love it all but this salad hits the spot! Great talking to ya Vince!

Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant 1753 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001 (575) 521-3505. Open 11am to 9pm.

Now let’s create a fresh salad at home. How about a grand twist on a traditional Caesar salad? Start with fresh, crunchy Romaine lettuce, and top with tasty artichoke heart and bits of bacon. The tangy dressing laced with a bit of chile adds tons of flavor. That is my Festive Caesar!

Festive Caesar Salad (Excerpt from Simply 7, Quick Southwest Recipes Just 7 Ingredients Away, Kelley Cleary Coffeen, Northland Publishing, 2003) 4 cups romaine, torn into bite-sized pieces 1 cup artichoke hearts, water-packed, drained and quartered 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled 1 large avocado, peeled and diced 4 ounces freshly grated parmesan ½ cup crushed corn tortilla chips

Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Add the artichoke hearts, bacon, avocado and cheese. Toss gently until well blended. Chill in refrigerator until just before serving. Remove from refrigerator. Pour dressing over greens and toss gently. Top with tortilla chips and serve immediately. Chile Dressing Spicy Dressing 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped 4 tablespoons cider vinegar ½ tsp sugar 1 tsp salt ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional) Pinch of black pepper ¾ cup olive oil 2 T. Spicy brown mustard

In a medium bowl combine onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Whisk in olive oil and mustard, blending well. Keep in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Enjoy this special salad throughout the year…even in those chillier fall months!