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New Mexico Chile Dressing

If you ever go to Portland Oregon, you gotta go to the downtown farmer’s market and order the absolute best veggie salad in the whole Pacific Northwest. This New Mexico chile dressing springs from the bright orange-red sauce they’ll drizzle on top of your salad.

Portland Farmer's Mkt veggie display

I just came back from the Hood River Oregon, about an hour east of Portland. Twice this trip I hitched a ride to the Wednesday market with my girlfriend; she drives there every week to pick up vegetables and fruits for her beautifully crafted farm wedding dinners. Praise the day we discovered the wood-fired brick oven on wheels that serves the salad we can’t resist.

New Mexico chiles on grill

As we finish packing her RAV4 with cases of organic produce, my mouth begins to water thinking about our salad lunch. ASAP, we hurry over to Tastebud’s food cart, ahead of a line of office workers who I imagine get the pizza or salad every week. They know.

Portland Farmer's Mkt tomato display

Take-out salads in hand, red chile dressing and all, we sit down on a shady bench, dive in with forks and enjoy the show. Between the people watching and the ample salad—it’s a downtown feast for the eyes, ears and palates. I love Portland.

Tastebud salad with New Mexico chile dressing

Our PDX food cart salad comes with both tahini and red chile dressings, a tasty mingle of creamy toasted sesame and vivid red-orange tang.

New Mexico chile dressing

This red chile dressing sparkles more than salads, though. Quick and easy, it’s a fine condiment for burgers, my veggie and his beef. When Robbie’s Dad came to visit from Bend, we turned it into a marinade and sauce for grilled fish tacos.

Expect your dressing to have minimum spicy heat and a pleasant earthy chile flavor. (New Mexico chiles are mild, making them a good choice for chile sensitive palates.) Olive oil, a little salt, and a splash of apple cider vinegar are the only other ingredients—minced garlic optional.

New Mexico chle ristra

The New Mexico chiles in this dressing are one and the same as the dried dark red chiles braided into colorful hanging strings called ristras. You don’t need to rob a ristra—I found my bag of New Mexico chiles in a grocery store in Hood River. (I have to say, I think the chiles I’ve ordered direct from Hatch New Mexico have fresher flavor.)

New Mexico chiles before soaking

You want and need a tub of this New Mexico chile dressing in your fridge. You’ll be drizzling the versatile sauce on this blog’s next recipe—a chickpea, wheat berry and roasted veggie salad, of course inspired by my fave PDX Farmer’s Market salad. Stay tuned.

Recipe details:

  • New Mexico chiles are considered a mild heat chile. The first time I made this dressing I discarded all the seeds; and ended up with no picante heat to speak of. Be sure to include most of the seeds for flavor and zest.
  • *But, on the other hand—don’t swap in picante hot chiles, like chipotles, if you can’t find New Mexico chiles. If you want a little heat, tame guajillo chiles by removing the seeds and veins. Or try this spicier red chile vinaigrette recipe.
  • This is a fairly thick dressing–drizzle over salads with a spoon, or pour it into a plastic bottle with a small tip and squirt the dressing out in a “Z” design.
  • My favorite tahini sauce mingles perfectly with this New Mexico chile dressing.
  • You might like my simple homemade red chile enchilada sauce, also made with chiles spicier than New Mexico chiles.

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New Mexico chile dressing
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New Mexico Chile Dressing
You'll be flavoring all kinds of food with this mildly spicy dressing. It's a marinade, sauce and condiment all rolled into one bright orange-red dazzle.
Ingredients
  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles
  • Boiling water
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic , optional
  • ½ teaspoon Real Salt , to taste
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic , minced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Toast the chiles on a comal or griddle, in a dry cast iron skillet, or on the grill. Be careful not to burn them--you want to soften and bump up the flavor.
  2. Cut off and discard the tops, keeping most of the seeds. (New Mexico chiles are mild; the seeds hardly add any picante heat. See note.)
  3. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Weigh them down with a small plate to keep them submerged. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking water.
  5. Place the chiles in the blender. Pour in the olive oil, 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, salt, vinegar, and garlic, if using. Blend until you have a smooth puree. Dip a spoon to check thickness—depending on how I plan to use the dressing, I might add another tablespoon of the soaking water. Taste; add more salt if needed.
  6. Strain through a wire sieve, pushing through as much of the smooth puree you can. You will have about 2 tablespoons of skin/seeds left in the strainer.
Recipe Notes
The first time I made this dressing I discarded all the seeds; and ended up with no picante heat to speak of. Be sure to include most of the seeds for flavor and zest.

8 comments

  • Dennis Halloran

    PDX is a favorite of mine also. Maybe because Our Mom grew up there, graduating from Grant HS. Grandpa was a banker before the crash of 29 and then ran theaters. Mom went Freshman year to Willamette, U before transferring to Santa Barbara State then she met Dad Reply · 7 August, 2015

  • Welcome back from the motherland! Let’s get together soon. That salad does look pretty damn good! Reply · 8 August, 2015

    • Letty

      Yes–does your week look as crazy as mine? I’m driving to SLC M,T + W for one thing or another! Reply · 8 August, 2015

  • I was in Portland two days ago, I’m sorry I missed this. GREG Reply · 9 August, 2015

    • Letty

      Next time! Or you can make the salad at home. Reply · 11 August, 2015

  • You bet I’m going to try it. Looks great. Reply · 9 August, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks Diane. Let me know how you like it, especially with the tahini dressing on the Roasted Veggie, Chickpea, and Wheat Berry Salad! Reply · 11 August, 2015

  • […] Toss everything, vegetables, chickpeas, and wheat berries, in a simple dressing of fruity olive oil and lemon juice. Or go for the gusto. By gusto, I mean whisking pesto into the oil and vinegar, and finishing the whole caboodle with drizzles of both tahini sauce and my orange-red New Mexico chile dressing. […] Reply · 13 August, 2015

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