Homemade Dressing: How?

JALAPENO-DRESSING-CUISINART-3-340x226After reading (Homemade) Dressing:  Why do it? you’re convinced that making your own dressing is at least worth a shot. Here’s the how-to that will help you to take this theory and put it into practice.

Where to start? Unless you’re already well-acquainted with different oils and vinegars, it is helpful to start with a recipe.  Check out our Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette and the Domestic Diva’s Buttermilk Basil Dressing, and then check out the considerations for combining below.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, read Charmian Christie’s 5 Basic Elements of Salad Dressing. Christie has a great food blog called Christie’s Corner that’s worth a spin around.  Below I’ve adapted Christie’s 5 Elements for Everyday Chef.

  1. Oil:  Use a good quality olive oil or neutral-tasting alternative like canola, grapeseed or safflower. Combined with a bit of sesame oil or nut oil, you’ve got an dressing you won’t find in the store.  How much oil do you need? Traditionally, the oil to acid ratio is 3 to 1, but I prefer an equal 1 to 1 mix.
  2. Acid: The go-to vinegars are balsamic, red wine and rice vinegar. Want a change of pace? Try champagne or sherry vinegar.  You can also substitute some or all of the vinegar with freshly squeezed lemon juice. A splash of lime juice goes well with citrus-based salads.
  3. Sweet: To take the edge off the acid, add a touch of sweetness. Ordinary white sugar will do, but you’ll add more flavour with honey, maple syrup, apple juice, or even jam.
  4. Salt: A generous pinch or two is usually enough.  If you’re desired dressing is Asian-inspired, opt for Tamari (a slightly more refined soy sauce) instead of salt.  The Domestic Diva recommends kosher salt and sea salt.
  5. Aromatics: Minced fresh herbs, shallots, citrus rind, black pepper and/or garlic aren’t mandatory but add flavor. Common salad herbs include basil, thyme, tarragon, cilantro, mint, parsley and dill. Mix and match as you please.

How to combine it all?

You have several great options for combining your dressing accommodates any kitchen set-up or budget.  The following list details options from simple to complex:

  • Super simple (for small quantities):  put all ingredients in a mug, and agitate in a circular motion with a fork.
  • Still pretty simple: put all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid (like a canning jar), tighten the lid, and shake like the dickens–fun job for kiddos.
  • Simple:  put all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously.
  • Not-so-simple, but still fun (good for larger quantities):  Pull out your food processor or (the Diva’s favorite) Magic Bullet, add solid ingredients first (like garlic or ginger) and pulse until everything is minced.  Then all other non-oil ingredients (vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, etc), and then, while the processor is still on, add the oil slowly.  Voila.  You’ll have a tasty and emulsified dressing.

If you’re making a big batch, leftovers can be kept in a sealed jar in your refrigerator for up to five days.


(Homemade) Dressing: Why do it?

Homemade Salad DressingHomemade salad dressing is one of the the (surprise) easiest, most rewarding things an Everyday Chef can do.  Here are three compelling reasons to try out making your own salad dressing.

1.  It’s less expensive than buying dressing. Whereas a bottle of salad dressing may last a couple of weeks, the oil and vinegar you purchase for your homemade dressing will last for at least a couple of months.  While you may spend two or three times as much up front, the ingredients you purchase for your homemade dressing can last up to ten times as long!

2.  It tastes better than pre-made dressing. Your homemade dressing will be made of the ingredients you love, so it will taste fabulous.  Love sesame oil?  It’s a wonderful ingredient in asian-inspired dressings.  Love balsamic vinegar?  There are dozens of options for this versatile vinegar.  Honey is your favorite sweetener?  Honey-lemon vinaigrette is a beautifully balanced dressing.

3.  It’s better for you than pre-made dressing. Many store-bought dressing are watered down (literally) to keep costs low and then use excess sodium to replenish taste.  That’s why many of these dressings contain an oddly high percentage of your recommended daily sodium intake.  In order to replenish texture, these store-bought dressings usually employ carrageenan, and other thickeners that are not necessarily good for you.

Check back soon for the next post in the (Homemade) Dressing series, (Homemade) Dressing:  How?

Domestic Diva and her Fresh Eating Feast

Check out the Diva on PEG TV!

greens In June Everyday Chef and the Domestic Diva partnered with What’s Cooking Rutland to detail some tasty ways to utilize all those spring greens. Now that it’s late summer, some of those same crops are exploding again, so check out the Diva’s awesome information on and handy tips for cooking spring greens.

To view the episode, click on the following link: What’s Cooking Rutland–June 2011. Once you’re on the streaming video page, find and click on “Cooking Shows” on the right-hand side of the purple box. Enjoy!

Ode to the Tomato: Lycopene

TomatoesOne of the joys of eating tomatoes, simply and in as many was as possible, is that they’re really good for you.  Tomatoes have a minuscule amount of fat (less than a quarter of a gram per tomato) and have very few calories (only 22 calories in a medium tomato), but they do contain several extremely important nutrients.

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C.  One tomato will have between 19 and 23 mg of vitamin C, which is between 30 and 40 percent of the USDA daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA).  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxident (Health guru Andrew Weil recommends intake of vitamin C as the most potent way to fight cancer), and essential for may of the body’s functions.  Common wisdom and some medical studies suggest that vitamin C is also important in boosting the immune system, though there is conflicting evidence regarding the vitamin’s ability to actually increase cells comprising the immune system.

Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, with a medium-sized tomato containing approximately 355 mg, or 10 percent of your RDA.  Potassium has been found to be an important nutrient in chronic disease prevention.

AND Tomatoes are a great source of the very popular (deservedly so) phytonutrient lycopene. The brilliant red or pinkish color you find at the bottom of your tomato is the source of this powerful antioxidant.  Here’s what Livestrong.com has to say about lycopene:

The carotenoid lycopene functions as an antioxidant in the body, and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Lycopene in foods imparts a bright pink or red color, so foods containing it will typically have vibrant pigmentation. For the body to properly absorb lycopene, fat must be present, so consuming fat along with foods containing this carotenoid can increase its bioavailability. Cutting or crushing foods containing lycopene is another way to increase its bioavailability.

The body needs fat in order to absorb lycopene?  What a brilliant reason to drizzle olive oil on your Gazpacho or Tomato, Mozarella Salad with Barley.

Easy Everyday Chef recommendation:  Eat tomatoes.  Raw.  Cooked.  Enjoy flavor and health.

Ode to the Tomato: Gazpacho

gazpachoLearning to make gazpacho may well be one of the more notable stops on the road to becoming an Everyday Chef.  It’s slightly astonishing that something this flavorful could be so darn healthy and so easy to make.

Hailing from Andalusia, Spain, Gazpacho actually has several incarnations, but is most commonly made as a tomato-based soup served cold or at room temperature.  Far from its popular hot relative, tomato soup, gazpacho is a fresh soup–that is, it is uncooked–and though tomatoes often make up the dominant color of the dish, it is chock full of other delightfully tangy, spicy fresh vegetables like onions, peppers, cucumbers and fresh herbs.

There are hundreds of slightly different, but still very tasty recipes for gazpacho out there.  We love the recipe that the Domestic Diva makes, which we’ve included here, but before you jump in, here are a few Everyday Chef considerations:

  • It can be smooth, or chunky depending on your preferences and available kitchen tools.  If you have a food processor, it’s awfully easy to put all the rough cut ingredients in and press pulse, but if not, or if you prefer greater texture to your soup, you can combine small diced pieces for a chunkier version.
  • You can add canned tomatoes or tomato juice to your fresh tomatoes, or not. Many recipes call for some kind of cooked tomato product (like canned tomatoes or tomato juice) in addition to the fresh tomatoes.  These cooked products will add complex and rich tomato flavor to the soup.  However, if you don’t have any around, or if you don’t want to, it’s not necessary to add the additional tomato product to your soup–you can simply add more fresh tomatoes to the mix.
  • Gazpacho is fun! This is a great dish to play around with.  Make it multiple times with different ingredients–especially different herbs, and see how the flavor changes.



  • 3 to 5 large tomatoes, chopped—retain as much juice as possible
  • 3 to 5 medium or large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 sweet peppers, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ bunch fresh herbs—parsley, cilantro, tarragon or basil, your choice
  • 1 large jar canned tomatoes (can be omitted—instead add more diced fresh tomatoes—or substitute with one 16 oz San Marzano canned tomatoes)
  • ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon or lime, zested and juiced
  • Several dashes of hot sauce or to taste (if desired)
  • A good pinch of Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • A good drizzle of olive oil


Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until combined.  Immersion or stick blenders or blenders also work well, as do hand mixers, or just leave the soup chunky.  Chill and serve.



Domestic Diva with Governor Shumlin

Everyday Chef Meets Governor Shumlin, Congressman Welch, and Secretary Ross

Domestic Diva and her Fresh Eating FeastBig news in the world of Everyday Chef: Governor Shumlin, Congressman Welch, and Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross stopped by Rutland Regional Medical Center today to check out RAFFL’s Farm-to-Workplace Delivery program and learn about Everyday Chef.

As one of our on-site cooking programs, The Domestic Diva, Hilary Adams-Paul whipped up a Fresh Eating feast of incredibly flavorful proportions:  Last week’s hallmark recipe, Tomato, Mozzarella, and Barley Salad, accompanied a dynamic German Potato Salad, a surprisingly complex gazpacho, and a green salad for sampling the AMAZING buttermilk basil salad dressing.  Farm-to-Workplace Delivery members as well as other Medical Center staff were invited to stop by, sample any or all of these delightful dishes, chat with the Domestic Diva about them, and take recipes to try them out at home.

When they stopped by, Everyday Chef was thrilled to learn that Governor Shumlin and Secretary Ross know their garden weeds–having identified them in the mix of salad greens–and that Congressman Welch loves gazpacho, especially the Domestic Diva’s.  We also had a fabulous time hearing about some of the Workplace Delivery members’ favorite recipes–Becky Groh’s basil butter comes to mind–and learning which veggies they’d like to learn more about.

Warm thanks to the Governor, Congressman, and Secretary for stopping by to learn about this great program, and to the Medical Center employees and Workplace Delivery farmers and members who stopped by to visit us and sample the Fresh Eating feast.

Let’s do this again . . . in September!

Ode to the Tomato: Best Knife for the Job

TomatoesIf you have ever had a difficult time piercing the skin of a tomato with a dull knife–perhaps to the point where the tomato was squashed in the process–you are not alone.  Tomatoes have a thin but durable skin that will often send you searching for the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Yet slicing and dicing with even a sharp pairing knife can sometimes leave you with a pile of mush.  What is the solution?

Use a serrated knife to slice tomatoes, and saw them slowly with very little downward pressure.  The serrated knife will pierce the skin more easily, and the sawing technique will prevent you from squeezing all the juices out onto the cutting board.

If you’re really inspired, look for a tomato knife:  this serrated knife is smaller than a bread knife, and specially shaped for coring and slicing tomatoes.  As with all knives, there are less expensive and more expensive options.  Check out Tomato Casual’s (yes, a website devoted to all things tomato) review of different price options.

Guide to Fats and Oils

Fat or Oil Description Uses Type of Fat Smoke Point
Almond Oil Has a subtle toasted almond aroma and flavor. Used in sauté and stir fry of Oriental foods. Monounsaturated 420°F 216°C
Avocado Oil Vibrant green in color with a has a soft nutty taste and a mild avocado aroma. This is a very healthy oil with a profile similar to olive oil. This oil can be used for very high temperature applications. Stir frying, searing Monounsaturated 520°F 271°C
Butter Whole butter is a mix of fats, milk solids, and moisture derived by churning cream until the oil droplets stick together and can be separated out. Baking, cooking Saturated 350°F 177°C
Butter (Ghee), clarified Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter since clarification eliminates the milk solids (which burn at lower temps). Frying, sauteing Saturated 375-485°F (depending on purity) 190-250°C (depending on purity),
Canola Oil (Rapeseed oil) A light, golden-colored oil. Good all-purpose oil. Used in salads and cooking. Monounsaturated 400°F 204°C
Coconut Oil A heavy nearly colorless oil extracted from fresh coconuts. coatings, confectionary, shortening Saturated 350°F 177°C
Corn Oil A mild, medium-yellow color refined oil. Made from the germ of the corn kernel. Frying, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Cottonseed Oil Pale-yellow oil that is extracted from the seed of the cotton plant. Margarine, salad dressings, shortening. Also used for frying. Polyunsaturated 420°F 216°C
Grapeseed Oil Light, medium-yellow oil that is a by-product of wine making. Excellent choice of cooking oil for sautéing or frying. Also used in salad dressings. Polyunsaturated 392°F 200°C
Hazelnut Oil The nuts are ground and roasted and then pressed in a hydraulic press to extract the delicate oil. Salad dressings, marinades and baked goods. Monounsaturated 430°F 221°C
Lard The white solid or semi-solid rendered fat of a hog. This was once the most popular cooking and baking fat, but has been replaced by vegetable shortenings.
Baking and frying Saturated 370°F 182 °C
Macadamia Nut Oil This oil is cold pressed from the decadent macadamia nut, extracting a light oil similar in quality to the finest extra virgin olive oil. Saute, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil, baking. Monounsaturated 390°F 199 °C
Olive Oil Oils vary in weight and may be pale yellow to deep green depending on fruit used and processing. cooking, salad dressings, saute, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil, baking Monounsaturated Extra Virgin – 320°F
Virgin – 420°F
Pomace – 460°F
Extra Light – 468°F
Palm Oil A yellowish-orange fatty oil obtained especially from the crushed nuts of an African palm. Cooking, flavoring Saturated 446°F 230°C
Peanut Oil Pale yellow refined oil with a very subtle scent and flavor. Made from pressed steam-cooked peanuts. Used primarily in Asian cooking. Frying, cooking, salad dressings Monounsaturated 450°F 232°C
Rice Bran Oil Rice bran oil is produced from the rice bran, which is removed from the grain of rice as it is processed. Frying, sauté, salad dressings, baking, dipping oils Monounsaturated 490°F 254°C
Safflower Oil A golden color with a light texture. Made from the seeds of safflowers. Margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Sesame Oil Comes in two types – a light, very mild Middle Eastern type and a darker Asian type pressed from toasted sesame seeds. Cooking, salad dressings Polyunsaturated 410°F 232°C
Shortening, Vegetable Shortening Blended oil solidified using various processes, including whipping in air and hydrogenation. May have real or artificial butter flavor added. Baking, frying Saturated 360°F 182 °C
Soybean Oil A fairly heavy oil with a pronounced flavor and aroma. Margarine, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Sunflower Oil A light odorless and nearly flavorless oil pressed from sunflower seeds. Pale yellow. Cooking, margarine, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Vegetable Oil Made by blending several different refined oils. Designed to have a mild flavor and a high smoke point. Cooking, salad dressings Polyunsaturated
Walnut Oil Medium-yellow oil with a nutty flavor and aroma. More perishable than most other oils. Saute, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil Monounsaturated 400°F 204°C