Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Salad for the Season

                 Going through some of my old cooking class files, I came across a recipe for a North African roasted red bell pepper dip.  I hadn’t made it in ages, but I remembered loving it.  We had guests coming for dinner that night, and although I didn’t need an appetizer, I did want to make a salad.               
               This time of year it’s sometimes difficult to come up with seasonally appropriate salad ideas.   I tend to do a lot of roasted vegetables: butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower—all easily available and easy to work with.

                I had roasted cauliflower and thought the red pepper dip recipe would make a great base for a dressing, and that’s what we had.
                This is very light and relatively low fat, but still very flavorful. It would make a perfect first course for a “bigger” main course, such as steak or pork roast. 
                If you wanted to serve this as a luncheon or supper main course, grilled or broiled shrimp would be a quite tasty addition.  If you like, you could sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese for an even heartier version.
                I used half a jalapeño pepper, removing the seeds and veins. If you want a spicier dressing, you can use the veins and seeds, and more of the pepper. 
North African Roasted Cauliflower Salad

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil cooking spray
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 2-inch square cube of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
½ small jalapeño pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 7-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce, cut crosswise into 1” strips
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
16 pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

                Preheat oven to 400.  On a baking sheet, spread the cauliflower in one layer and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  (Or brush lightly with olive oil.)  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast until crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.  Let cool.
                Mix the garlic, ginger, pepper and onion in a small bowl. With the motor running, drop the mixture down the feed tube of a food processor. Scrape down the sides and add the roasted peppers, vinegar and mustard.  Pulse several times to combine. With the processor running, drizzle in the oil.  You can use the dressing immediately, or cover and chill until ready to use.
                To assemble the salad, divide the lettuce among four plates.  Top with the cauliflower. Garnish with the red onion and olives.  Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of dressing over each salad, and sprinkle with feta cheese if you’re using it.  Serves four.

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