Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Roasted red pepper vinaigrette

I enjoy making vinaigrette dressings at work. It's a fun way to introduce new flavors into the menu. And it provides a refreshing break for the residents from bottled dressings (Ranch, 1000 island and Italian).

Like most chefs, I treat the basic vinaigrette (called French dressing when I started cooking in 1971) as a vinegar and oil canvas that's ready to accept a host of flavors. By varying the supporting flavors, the cook can tailor the classic dressing so that it fits almost any cuisine.

I've used flavors like cilantro and lime juice or tomato and orange to give a salad of mixed greens a wonderful boost in flavor. It beats ranch dressing any day. And remember that a vinaigrette can double as a marinade or sauce for chicken or fish.

Yesterday I prepared a robust vinaigrette with roasted red peppers and served with chef's salad for the lunch meal. I pureed two freshly roasted sweet peppers with red onion, Dijon mustard, garlic and seasonings in the blender.

Then, as the blender whirled on high, I streamed in olive oil to form a rich sauce. The emulsifying power of the mustard helped hold the oil and vinegar together in perfect union.

Even today as the last bit of the dressing was served next to the tossed green salad for lunch, residents continued to tell me how much they enjoyed it.

"This was good," said a resident kitchen helper, pointing to the vinaigrette. "This stuff was the bomb!"


Add a tablespoon or two of honey or sugar to counteract harshness from the roasted red peppers, if needed. Add several dashes of hot pepper sauce to give the dressing a spicy tone. Or replace up to one-third of the vinegar with fresh lemon juice to add zip.

2 roasted red peppers, seeded, skin removed and chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil

Blend red peppers, onion, mustard, thyme, salt, black pepper and vinegar in blender until combined. With blender on high, stream oilive oil into red pepper and vinegar mixture until blended. Adjust seasoning.

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