Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Romaine Salad with Radishes, Cucumbers, Black Beans, Red Onion, Avocado, Pumpkin Seeds, Mint & Queso Fresco

Inspired by The Big Star Salad, at Big Star, Chicago
Serves 6

Chopped Romaine Salad with Radish, Black Bean, Cucumber, Red Onion, Avocado, Pumpkin Seeds, Mint, Queso Fresco & Roasted Pepper Ranch Dres
For the dressing:
2 medium-sized poblano peppers
1 large egg yolk
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
juice from 1 lime
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbl finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbl finely chopped fresh chives
2 green onions, finely chopped (both white and green parts)
2 Tbl finely chopped cilantro leaves
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sliced Green Onions, Parsley, Chives & Cilantro
For the rest of the salad:
3 medium-sized heads romaine, rinsed and dried, chopped cross-wise into thick ribbons
about 6 to 8 medium-sized radishes, very thinly sliced cross-wise into circles
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced cross-wise into rings
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed well, drained and dried
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced, then soaked in cool water for about 20
     minutes, drained and dried (this will soften some of the pungency)
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup queso fresco cheese (found in most stores near the shredded cheeses), crumbled
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To make the dressing:
First, roast and puree the poblano peppers:  If you have a gas stove-top, turn a burner onto high heat.  Place the peppers directly on the grate over the flame.  Keep an eye on the peppers, turning pretty frequently, until the skin is evenly charred all around.  Place the peppers in a container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap.  Allow them to set for about 15 minutes.

[If you don’t have a gas stove-top, pre-heat the oven to 500°F.  Place the peppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, turning every 5-7 minutes, until the skin is loose and blistery.  Remove from the oven and place the peppers in a container. Cover with a lid or with plastic wrap. Allow them to set for about 15 minutes.]

Remove the peppers from the container.  Slice each pepper in half, length-wise, and then into quarters, lengthwise again.  Remove the stems, seeds, and any tough, pithy membranes inside.  Using a knife, scrape off the charred skin from the outside of the peppers. Place the pepper flesh into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Roasted Poblano Peppers
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolk until it is slightly foamy.  Slowly add the vegetable oil, just a few drops at a time, constantly beating with the whisk, until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture is thick and smooth, the consistency of mayonnaise.  Add the buttermilk, mustard, lime juice, onion powder, parsley, chives, green onion, cilantro and roast poblano puree, and stir to combine.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.  Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container until needed, up to 2 days.
To assemble the salad:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped romaine with the sliced radishes, cucumber, black beans, red onion, avocado, pumpkin seeds, mint and queso fresco.  Add a few spoonfuls of the dressing, just enough to lightly coat everything, and toss well to combine.  (You won’t use nearly all the dressing.  Safe the rest for another salad, or for dipping veggies.)  Taste and season as needed with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then toss again to combine.  Serve immediately.