Exotic & Spicy Salads

Exotic and Spicy Salads, Part 3

Fiery Foods Manager In the Kitchen with Chile Peppers Leave a Comment

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By Dave DeWitt, Mary Jane Wilan, and Melissa T. Stock

Exotic & Spicy Salads

Part 1  Part 2  


Santa Fe Serrano Dressing

Poppy Seed Dressing

Creamy Jalapeño Dressing

Jicama and Orange Salad

Rujak (Spicy Padang Fruit Salad)

Red Hot Potato Salad

Vegetable Medley Potato Salad

Succulent Southwest Potato Salad

Recycled Salad


We begin our third look at fired-up salads with a collection of hot and spicy salad dressings. Santa Fe Serrano Dressing, with avocado, cilantro, and serranos is great over greens or chilled, cooked vegetables. Fruit salads, if not spicy already, can be charged up with Poppy Seed Dressing, with red chile flakes as the primary incendiary spark. Creamy Jalapeño Dressing, a versatile dressing, is a tasty topping for cooked asparagus.

Jicama is one of our favorite root crops and combines deliciously with quite a variety of fruits. This crunchy tuber is mild in flavor and is similar in texture to an apple. Our focus on fruits starts with our Jicama and Orange Salad, spiced with New Mexican red chile powder. Rujak (Spicy Padang Fruit Salad) is one of the most unusual fruit salads we have ever encountered, featuring a medley of fruits, serrano chiles, and peanuts.

Our trio of potato salads stars Mary Jane as the top gun potato salad chef. Over the years, she has tested so many different recipes for potato salad that she has reduced the hot and spicy ones to the following three favorites. Red Hot Potato Salad is flavored with dill, shallots, and serrano chiles, while Vegetable Medley Potato Salad features Italian parsley, garlic, and New Mexican chile. Cilantro, hot sauce, and carrots season-up our Succulent Southwest Potato Salad.

Our final salad, Recycled Salad, is so named because leftover bell peppers and scallions are tossed with black beans, tomatoes, and poblano chiles.

And remember, if you are serving these salads with bland foods, feel free to increase the heat levels by adding more of the specified chile.

Santa Fe Serrano Dressing

It is necessary to make small batches of this dressing because the avocado will discolor slightly on the second day; however, it is so good and so versatile, that it probably won’t last that long anyway. We have found that using Champagne vinegar adds zest without the harshness associated with other types of vinegars. For a tasty and unusual touch, serve the dressing over cooked chilled vegetables, such as fresh asparagus or artichokes.

  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, seed removed, and cut into quarters

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup unflavored low-fat yogurt or sour cream

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 fresh serrano chile, seeds and stem removed

Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed. If the dressing seems too thick, add more water or yogurt. Use as soon as possible; store, covered tightly in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Heat Scale: Mild

Poppy Seed Dressing

This makes an unusual dressing for fruit salad because of the spice of the dry mustard and the red chile flakes. It can even be used for basting during the last two or three minutes of grilling vegetables; because of the sugar content, you don’t want to use it too soon, or the vegetables will burn.

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt

  • 1 teaspoon hot red chile flakes (such as piquin)

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a small electric beater until the salad dressing is thick. Refrigerate.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Heat Scale: Mild

Creamy Jalapeño Dressing

The use of watercress gives this dressing peppery overtones, and the jalapeños are what really gives it some zing. It is good served over salad greens, as well as poured over tender-crisp cooked vegetables such as asparagus. You might even like it as a dip for carrots, jicama, turnip spears, and celery.

  • 1 small bunch parsley, washed and drained

  • 1 bunch watercress, washed and drained

  • 1/2 cup canola oil

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1/3 cup tarragon vinegar

  • 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed

  • 2 shallots, cut in fourths

  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard

  • 1 tablespoon horseradish

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. If the mixture seems too thick, add a few teaspoons of yogurt or ice water.

Yield: 2 cups

Heat Scale: Medium

Jicama and Orange Salad

Jicama is a Mexican root vegetable, and its taste and consistency is a combination of a water chestnut, an apple, and a potato. In fact, some cooks substitute jicama for water chestnuts in Asian recipes. It can be combined with any number of fruits and vegetables because it blends so well with so many flavors.

  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, cleaned and dried

  • 1/2 pound jicama, peeled and sliced paper thin

  • 6 seedless oranges, peeled and sectioned

  • 2 red onions, sliced

  • 2 teaspoons ground New Mexican red chile powder

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Line a shallow bowl with the Romaine leaves. Alternate overlapping circles of jicama, oranges, and onion rings on the leaves.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Rujak (Spicy Padang Fruit Salad)

World traveler Jeff Corydon, who provided this recipe, says that the secret of this spicy salad is in the sauce, and the local taste is honored by including crushed peanuts and additional chiles. Any firm fleshy fruit can be used, such as under-ripe bananas, carambolas, Asian pears, and even some vegetables like jicama or cucumber.

  • 1 quart water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 pomelo or tart pink grapefruit, sectioned

  • 2 mangoes, slightly underripe, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 2 tart apples, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 4 serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed

  • 2 tablespoons dried tamarind pulp

  • 2 tablespoons hot water

  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted crushed peanuts, or 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

Mix the water with the salt and add the pomelo or grapefruit, mangoes, apples, and the pineapple and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Place the chiles in a blender and process until smooth.

Make the tamarind water by mashing the dried tamarind in the 2 tablespoons of hot water until it softens and dissolves. Strain the mixture to remove any seeds or tissue.

Melt the brown sugar in a pan with 1 cup water over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed peanuts, processed chiles, the tamarind water, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often, until a fairly thick, sticky syrup forms. Put the syrup in the refrigerator to chill.

When ready to serve, drain the water from the fruits. Pour the syrup over the fruit and toss to coat evenly. Serve at once.

Yield: 8 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Red Hot Potato Salad

This simple potato salad is served warm and can be put together quickly after the potatoes are boiled. The recipe can be doubled or tripled easily. It’s a nice change from the ordinary potato salad, and the flavors will really charge your palate.

  • 10 small red potatoes, scrubbed thoroughly, skins left on

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar

  • 1/4 cup chile-infused oil

  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill or 1 tablespoon of dried dill

  • 3/4 cup chopped shallots

  • 2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, stems removed, sliced into thin rings

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a large Dutch-style oven and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn it down to a low boil. Cook the potatoes, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, testing them by inserting a sharp knife through the center of the potato. The potatoes should just start to yield to the knife. Do not overcook. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.

Using a sharp knife, cut the potatoes into halves (if they are small) or in quarters (if they are large.) Sprinkle the vinegar over the top of the potatoes and then sprinkle them with the chile oil. Toss gently. Add the dill, the shallots, the pepper rings, the salt and pepper, and toss gently. Serve warm.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Vegetable Medley Potato Salad

Here are a few recommendations to make this salad as tasty as possible: first, buy good white wine vinegar; second, make sure you use Italian parsley for its spark, and, if you can’t find it, grow it or substitute watercress with its peppery overtones; and third, be prepared to run out of salad–it really is that good.

  • 4 large russet potatoes

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions

  • 1 cup celery, diced

  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chop the whites only (feed the yolk to the dog)

  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

  • 2/3 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

  • 1/2 cup chopped New Mexican green chile

  • 3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon horseradish

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down so the water is at a gentle boil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overcook, or you will have mashed potato salad! Drain the potatoes and peel quickly–they still need to be hot. Pierce the potato with a fork and peel quickly. On a cutting board, slice the potato lengthwise and then slice into 1/4 inch thick slices and put them into a large bowl. Sprinkle the slices with the vinegar.

Add the garlic, green onion, celery, chopped whites of the hard-boiled eggs, parsley, cucumber, and chile to the potatoes and toss gently.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, horseradish, mustard, salt, and black pepper together. Pour this mixture over the potato-vegetable mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve slightly chilled.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Succulent Southwest Potato Salad

Here is the third in our trio of potato salads. It calls for chile powder and sauce instead of pods to elevate the heat level.

  • 4 medium Russet potatoes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons red New Mexican chile powder

  • 1 teaspoon bottled hot sauce (we prefer Uno hot sauce)

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 1 8-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed

  • 1/2 cup coarsely shredded carrot

  • 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup sliced ripe olives

Place the potatoes in a large Dutch-style casserole and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down so the water is at a gentle boil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife pierces them easily. Drain, peel, and cube the potatoes into a large bowl while still warm.

In a small glass jar, combine the oil, vinegar, chile powder, and hot sauce and shake vigorously. Pour over the potatoes and toss gently. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Recycled Salad

We don’t know about everyone, but we always seem to buy one too many bell peppers and scallions at the store. Scare up a few black beans, and you’ll be able to give some of the orphans in your refrigerator a second try with this textured, tasty salad.

  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 red or green bell pepper (whichever you have on hand), seeds and stem removed, diced

  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

  • 2 scallions, sliced

  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans in a bowl. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, poblanos, and coriander. Toss well.

In another bowl, whisk the corn oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper together. Drizzle the dressing over the bean salad, and toss gently to coat.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

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