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The flavors of this salad are inspired by one of my most memorable meals. That is a strong statement, especially when the meal was a humble roadside picnic. But it’s not too surprising given that the picnic was in the Spanish countryside and the meal consisted of Spanish cheese and peppers roasted minutes before at a nearby market.
The smell of red peppers roasting in my oven takes me back to that day. My parents were visiting me in northern Spain and we were driving through the Pyrenees. The name of the little town slips my mind but we stopped at a market festival where they were roasting red peppers. We bought a bag of the roasted peppers, cheese and baguette. Not far from the town we pulled off at a lookout at the top of a hill where from our picnic table we savoured each bite of our make-shift sandwiches and the expansive view of rolling green hills and sheep below.
The combination of slightly smoky, melt-in-your-mouth roasted red peppers and sharp cheese is now one of my favorites. In this salad I used Manchego cheese but queso iberico, Idiazabal and many other Spanish, Basque and French cheeses can be substituted. And truth be told, if you don’t like or don’t have access to the aforementioned cheeses, roasted red peppers also pair well with mozzarella, Jack and many other cheeses.
I made my basic balsamic vinaigrette but I used a mixture of white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
- Spinach or mixed greens
- Roasted red peppers
- Roasted asparagus
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Manchego, Idiazabal or another Spanish cheese
- 4 Tbsp white or red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Squirt of lemon juice, to taste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp powdered Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Mix all of the ingredients except for the olive oil and the Parmesan cheese.
- Gradually add the the Parmesan cheese and then the oil as you whisk the vinaigrette to help make a smooth dressing.
- Wash the peppers and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake the peppers at 400 degrees for 45 minutes-1 hour, turning them periodically
- so that all sides roast evenly. The skin will start to crackle and even burn in some spots.
- Remove the roasted peppers from the oven, place them in a paper bag and roll down the top of the bag.
- Let the peppers rest for 10 minutes in the bag. (This step will make it easier to remove the skins.)
- Remove the peppers, cut off the ends and peel off the skins.
- Cut the asparagus spears into 1-2 inch pieces.
- Spread them on a baking sheet and drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top of them.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top and then toss the pieces on the pan to ensure that they are all seasoned and lightly coated with the oil.
- Roast the asparagus in the oven at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes, stirring them halfway through.
- The asparagus will be a bright green and should be al dente (tender yet firm).
- Toss all of the salad ingredients together.
- Add the vinaigrette to taste.