SALAD OF PINEAPPLE AND WINTER GREENS WITH WARM ROASTED CHILE-COCONUT DRESSING

SALAD OF PINEAPPLE AND WINTER GREENS WITH WARM ROASTED CHILE-COCONUT DRESSING
Serves 4 with possibly leftover sauce.

Cook to Cook: In Thailand this would be made with fiery-hot small dried and crumbled Thai chilies. I favor the sweet, fruity, warmth and light tingle of Aleppo chile, but you could use anything you'd like. One caveat is that there must be some punch from the dried, ground chile in the finished sauce. Start with a small amount if you are doubtful and taste and add as the sauce cooks. In order of heat, from mild to hot, here are a few choices you'll find in specialty stores and online: Ancho, Mulato, Cacabel, Guajillo, Cayenne, Thai.

Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing/Sauce:
1/2 cup expeller-pressed canola oil
4 generous teaspoons coarse ground Aleppo chile (I use Penzey's), or other flavorful medium-hot to hot ground chile
4 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
1-1/3 cups coconut milk (canned is fine)
2 to 2-1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 to 1-1/2 large limes (optional)

Salad:
3 large handfuls mixed greens
8 leaves of Napa cabbage, cut crosswise into thin slivers
4 whole scallions, thin sliced
1-1/2 cups bite-sized pieces pineapple, fresh, or canned in pineapple juice and drained
1/2 cup salted broken cashews, or peanuts
1-1/2 to 2 cups diced firm tofu, cooked and diced tempeh, chicken, or seafood
1/2 light-packed cup fresh mint, coriander or basil leaves, torn
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Make the dressing by combining in a 12-inch straight sided sauté pan the oil, chile and garlic. Heat slowly over medium so flavors will open up but nothing will burn (about 2 minutes). Stir with a wood spatula until the garlic begins to sizzle (don't let it brown).

2. Quickly add the coconut milk and boil, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until it's a deep red-gold. Stir in the fish sauce (start with the smallest amount), sugar and salt and boil 30 seconds, or until thickened with glossy bubbles and the sauce is the color of caramel.

3. Immediately scrape all the sauce into a bowl to stop the cooking. (Sauce could be refrigerated for several days). Rinse and dry the pan and keep it handy for reheating the sauce.

4. Make the salad by blending the greens and cabbage together and dividing between 4 dinner plates. Divide the remaining ingredients between each serving, scattering them over the greens. Season the salads with salt and pepper.

5. Warm the dressing in the pan until it comes to a bubble and drizzle it over each serving. Then squeeze generous amounts of fresh lime over the salads and serve.

LYNNE'S TIPS
— If you don't have expeller-pressed canola oil you could use other organic or expeller-pressed flavorless oils like peanut or safflower.

— Fish sauce will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator once opened. One brand I use has three crabs on the label, but there are other good ones. Since fish sauce is loaded with umami, that protein which brings special savoriness to dishes, it lifts the flavors of whatever you blend it with. This is why I'll add a small amount to a French vinaigrette, a Mexican stew, or a pot of New England baked beans. Fish sauce is intense so a little goes a long way.

— If you have an Asian market in your area, look there for a wide range of condiments and flavoring ingredients. Take some time to browse, ask questions of the staff and try some condiments and seasonings that are new to you. These markets are fascinating and prices are often a bargain.