Gourmet gets easy with red pepper vinaigrette

Ever since my weekend in Duluth, I’ve been thinking about the Duluth Grill-prepared curried polenta lettuce wrap I ate while sipping beer at the Lake Superior Brewing Company.

Fresh leaves of Bibb lettuce formed a cup that held slices of fresh, creamy avocado, roasted red pepper and a sliver of polenta that was made with cici flour, also known as chickpea or garbanzo bean flour. A few fresh cilantro leaves and a drizzle of Red Pepper Vinaigrette contributed the finishing touch.

The lettuce wrap looked like a piece of edible art in a table-top exhibition.


On display at the other end were individual pies: banana cream (the same pie that sent Food Network’s Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives into a blissful swoon) , lemon and blueberry fillings in flaky, melt-in-the mouth pastry.

In between lettuce wraps and the desserts were rolls of homemade lefse surrounding sweet smoked salmon and bowls of not-your-everyday slaw and potato salad. All edible. All exquisite.

Duluth Grill owner, Tom Hanson, and his son Louie, delivered the gourmet lunch to our group of about 30 members of the Minneapolis-St.Paul chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and some of their spouses. Louie described each item we would be eating with detail. The lefse had been made using his grandma’s recipe. Just as all food listed on the Duluth Grill menu, our lunch that day was homemade with as many locally produced ingredients as possible.

Louie Hanson shared the Duluth Grill’s recipe for the Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette that added sweet and smoky flavor to the curried polenta wraps I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Their recipe makes a large quantity. I reduced it and adapted it by using fresh basil, so abundant in my garden right now, rather than dry basil, cutting back on the mayonnaise and increasing the amount of Parmesan cheese just a tish.

I built a salad of leaf lettuce, avocado and cilantro and served it on top of wedges of warm Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread, doused with Red Pepper Vinaigrette, of course. Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread is made with cici (garbanzo bean) flour, just as Duluth Grill’s curried polenta. The Flatbread recipe is in my column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette offers gourmet flair and flavor and is not difficult to prepare. A food processor makes quick work of pureeing roasted red peppers, basil and garlic with oil and vinegar, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese, creating a creamy, sweet, slightly smoky dressing.

This vinaigrette would make a lovely dressing for pasta salad. I also plan to top a fresh spinach salad with some of the Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette that I have stored in jars in my refrigerator.

This salad comes close to tasting like the lettuce wrap served at the Duluth Grill. But, if you want the authentic lettuce wrap served with curried polenta, you’ll just have to stop in at the Duluth Grill. Be sure to have banana cream pie for dessert. Then walk (or waddle) over to Lake Superior Brewing Company for a tour and some tasting.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

(fashioned after Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette from Duluth Grill)
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put roasted red peppers, basil and garlic in food processor. Pulse until mixture is blended. Add chipotle powder and red wine vinegar and process until mixture is smooth. Add mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese and pulse until blended. With food processor running, slowly add olive oil. Continue to process until mixture is emulsified. Store vinaigrette in tightly sealed jar in refrigerator.

Tips from the cook

  • I roasted 3 medium-sized red bell peppers, which yielded 1 cup of roasted pieces. You can also purchase roasted red peppers in a jar at the grocery store. To roast the peppers at home, place washed whole peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler. Use tongs to turn peppers until they are blistered and black. Transfer the peppers to a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam in the sealed bowl for at least 10 minutes. Remove from bowl and slide the skin right off of the peppers.
  • Ground chipotle pepper is available in the spice aisle in most grocery stores.

3 thoughts on “Gourmet gets easy with red pepper vinaigrette

  1. Sue, this flat-bread was delicious! The crust was crispy and the inside creamy, just like you said. We made it last night and warmed it up in a preheated iron skillet tonight, covered on top of the stove and it was equally delicious. Now, looking forward to trying your salad recipe with it.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the Pepper and Herbs Flatbread, Bobbie. I heated some leftover pieces in a 400 degree oven on a baking sheet and got good results. Salads went on top of those warmed-up wedges.

  2. Pingback: Best Ever Carrot Cake and Recipe Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

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