Friday, May 4, 2007

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Mango Basil Vinaigrette

Before I get into this, let me tell you, I've been on a baking kick. Thank goodness for the gym. I have been feeling very catholic about it lately. I bake a batch of cookies and then go confess my sins to the elliptical. I need to see my friends more often so I can unload cakes and other pastries on them. My problem with baking, and cooking in general, is that I want to make things and have a bite to see how they turned out. I do not want to eat the whole thing. Friends, please stop by, any time, day or night. I will make stuff for you.

This week, in addition to cinnamon bread, I made snickerdoodles and inside out carrot cake cookies. I didn't snap a pic of the carrot cake cookies because I was not entirely satisfied with the presentation that turned out and I think the recipe from Epicurious needs tweaking. I will try it again at some point and post about how I think the recipe should be done but in the mean time let me say this -- I did not care for their cream cheese frosting recipe. I suggest mixing cream cheese and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Honey + Cream Cheese + Food Processor = Runny Mess. I also suggest halfing the size of the cookies, so you have smaller manageably portioned servings.

Any way, enough digression about baking. Let me tell you all about one of my most favorite recipes. Roasted veggies with homemade vinaigrette is great because it's a fancy recipe that's super easy. No complicated procedures, no special gear needed, and your friends will still ooh and ah if you serve this at your next dinner party. So here's how to go about it.

Roasted Veggies:
(You can use any veggies you like honestly, tons of them well work -- summer squash, eggplant, etc. Do not feel like you've got to use the veggies I used. I'm just telling you what I used for the sake of suggestion -- or for any one afraid to experiment with the ingredients. For non vegetarians: if you can't bear the thought of a meal without meat I am sure chicken would also make a fine addition to this dish.) You need:
- 1 large bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 lb asparagus
- 6 large portabello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 lb extra firm tofu, sliced into thin rectangles

You can prepare the veggies on the grill if you've got one but I make mine in the oven. I cover a baking sheet with foil, coat lightly with olive oil and arrange my tofu slices on top. I cook the tofu under the broiler -- set to high, until browned. Flip the tofu and repeat until the other side browns, then set aside. Make sure there's still a coating of oil and then cook the asparagus under the broiler until it starts to brown. Repeat this process with the bell pepper and mushrooms or any other veggies you like until everything is cooked.

The Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette is pretty cool because it can be changed if you do not want basil or mango. You can use the leafy herb and fruit of your choice. Raspberries, strawberries, mint, kiwi -- all of these work very well in vinaigrettes but for the purposes of this rendition I went with basil and mango. You need:
1 handfull of basil, chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup mango, chopped (along with any mango juice that comes out while chopping)
balsamic vinegar, to taste
olive oil, to taste

Combine your basil, shallot and mango in a bowl. Add in your vinegar and oil in equal parts until your basil, shallot and mango are immersed. Then have a taste to see if you prefer your vinaigrette with a tarter taste (add vinegar) or a more mellow flavor (add oil).

To serve this this dish:
Arrange a bed of baby spinach on a large plate. Top the spinach with some rice. Top the rice with your cooked veggies. Stir your vinaigrette and spoon some onto the top of each plate.