Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on roasted red pepper vinaigrette

I use the process of creating something new to draw residents and staff into the kitchen. They often stand to the side, watch and ask questions.

"I learn something new everyday," a senior resident said last month as she watched me roast two large red sweet peppers.

I had set the peppers over the gas flame about the time the 10 o'clock group session out of the group room. I then prepared a robust vinaigrette with the roasted peppers and served it with chef's salad for the lunch meal.

With the vinaigrette, I wanted to introduce an alternative to bottled dressings. It's my way of teaching the residents that there's more to salads than ranch dressing.

Once I draw a small crowd, I'll explain what I'm doing. The culinary lesson isn't limited to the preparation of one recipe. I fold several techniques into the discussion.

The simple process of charring the peppers concentrates flavor and caramelizes the natural sugars in the fruit. Once charred, the peppers -- either sweet or hot peppers -- can be used to flavor a variety of dishes.

Endless options abound, I explained. Poblano chili peppers can be roasted, stuffed, breaded and fried for chili rellenos. For a smoky salsa, roast serrano or jalapeno chili peppers. And don't forget the roasted red peppers.

After I whirled the vinaigrette in the blender, I let each participant taste it. I explained that it's important to get their feedback.

Is it too sweet? Bitter? Sharp? A simple taste-test brings feedback. We'll discuss what can be done to adjust the flavor of the vinaigrette if it's needed.

The simple process of cooking something new can open the eyes of those around you to new dishes. And you may teach something new to a budding cook.

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