I've shared with you a recipe for creamy queso añejo dressing from Rick Bayless's superb book Mexican Everyday. I've been testing other salad dressings from the book, without any great finds — until I stumbled upon this one . . . roasted garlic dressing with green chile. It's incredibly tasty, incredibly easy — and hot. Not for the faint of heart.
Roast one fresh jalapeño pepper and four to six unpeeled garlic cloves in a skillet over medium heat — until they're slightly soft with dark brown blotches. This should take about ten minutes for the chile and fifteen for the garlic. Remove them from the pan and let them cool. Stem (but don't seed) the chile and chop it up coarsely. Peel the garlic cloves. Put them all into a blender with three-quarters of a cup of olive oil and one-quarter of a cup of balsamic vinegar. Add a bit less than a teaspoon of salt and blend thoroughly. Add more salt to taste, if necessary. Refrigerate until needed.
This will give you a wondrously spicy dressing for salads — it will make even iceberg lettuce seem exotic. (You can use two seranno chiles instead of the one jalapeño if you want to totally wimp out.)
BUT WAIT — THERE'S MORE!
Bayless suggests a variation on the above recipe, which makes an even more stupendous dressing. Substitute two canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce for the jalapeño. No need to roast the chipotles, of course. Add a teaspoon or two of Mexican oregano — easily found in most supermarkets but you have to check the label . . . Mexican oregano is made from a different plant than regular oregano. The chipotle variant has a sweetish, smoky flavor which is irresistible.
These two dressings, between them, along with the creamy queso añejo dressing, will turn you into a salad-eating fool, even if the very word “salad” makes you gag.
Bayless, by the way, is well-known in food circles for his encyclopedic knowledge of Mexican cuisine and his imaginative takes thereon, and familiar to TV viewers from his cooking show on PBS. He's gained an added measure of fame recently because his restaurant in Chicago, Topolobampo, is a favorite spot of Barack and Michelle Obama, when they're dining à deux. One more reason to admire the good judgment of America's new first couple.