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Tomatoes in the Raw

May 25, 2010

My devotion to Rick Bayless has reached a dangerous level.  Exhibit A: he has a new restaurant opening in Los Angeles called Red O. I will be in that area in early July, and I already called to make a reservation.  Already.  Exhibit B:  he is now making me eat food I wouldn’t normally eat.  Let me explain.

I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes.  I do like them if they’re diced up in salsa, but otherwise not so much…not on sandwiches, not in salads, not in a box, not with a fox.  And I certainly wouldn’t make a tomato salad featuring large slices of raw tomato…but apparently if it’s a Bayless recipe, I would.  Last night I made the following recipe – it’s so simple, so basic and yet bursting with flavor, spice and general goodness.  The sweetness of the tomatoes and the tender and mild green onions are a great match with the slightly spicy dressing, topped by the tang of the cheese.  The cilantro was my own addition (yes, I dared to slightly alter a Bayless recipe!), and I substituted chipotle peppers for the guajillo peppers, being that I live somewhere where guajillos are not in large demand.  For the cheese, he suggested goat, queso fresco or bleu – I opted for bleu, but any would work well.  I paired this with some cheese quesadillas for a light, healthy vegetarian meal, perfect for summer weather.  Enjoy!

Rick Bayless’ Tomato Salad with Queso, Pan-Roasted Green Onions & Guajillo Chile Dressing

(serves 4)

¾ cup olive oil

2 medium dried guajillo or New Mexico chile peppers, stemmed and seeded (about ½ oz.)

2 cloves garlic, cut into quarters

¼ cup sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar

¾ tsp. salt

6 green onions, trimmed (roots and wilted leaves removed)

2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick

Sea salt

½ cup cilantro, chopped

½ cup crumbled queso fresco (Mexican farmer cheese), goat cheese, or bleu cheese

For chile dressing:  In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When warm, add chiles and garlic. Stir, turning constantly, about 30 seconds or until insides of chiles have lightened in color and smell toasty. Remove skillet from the heat. Transfer chiles to a blender, leaving oil and garlic in the skillet to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  (If using chipotles, just add 2 chipotles to the blender.) Add vinegar and ¾ teaspoon salt to blender. Cover; blend for 30 seconds. When oil and garlic are cool, add to blender. (Set skillet aside without washing.) Cover; blend chile mixture for 1 to 2 minutes more or until nearly smooth. Cover and set aside. Return same skillet to medium heat, adding a little oil if necessary.  Lay green onions in skillet. Cook, turning often, about 4 minutes or until onions are wilted and browned in places. Remove from skillet; cut crosswise at ¼-inch slices. To serve, arrange sliced tomatoes on 4 salad plates. Sprinkle tomatoes with additional sea salt. Top with green onion slices. Stir chile dressing to combine thoroughly; drizzle some of the dressing over tomatoes.  Sprinkle salad with cilantro and cheese.  Eat!

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