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Archive for January, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Emulsify Salad Dressing & Champagne Vinaigrette Recipe

Chef Johnny Gnall shares a professional tip for making the best salad dressings: Emulsify them! The oil and vinegar won’t separate—at least, not for a while.

“A velvety, fully emulsified dressing can really make a big difference when it comes to presenting a salad,” says Chef Johnny.

“Its creamy texture and body cling better to the salad ingredients, making each bite that much more flavorful. Even the look is nicer: Emulsified dressings have a really lovely sheen that is nothing short of sexy.

“But most people don’t bother to create emulsified dressings at home. Perhaps there is simply a lack of familiarity with the process; or maybe people just don’t know what they’re missing.

“At any rate, there’s no need to whisk your arms to exhaustion when you make vinaigrettes. Simply grab the blender!”

Here’s the easy process from Chef Johnny, including four salad dressing recipes. Two of them—Champagne Vinaigrette and Truffle Vinaigrette—are just right for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.

The biggest factor in getting a dressing or vinaigrette to emulsify (and stay that way) is some patience early in the process.


This vinaigrette was not emulsified, and
has separated into two layers. Photo by
Elena Thewise | IST.

It’s all about incorporating the oil and vinegar together gradually. Here’s an example, using champagne vinegar and champagne (or other sparkling wine) to make a glamorous champagne vinaigrette:

  • Start by combining 1/4 cup of champagne vinegar and 1/8 cup of champagne into a blender on medium speed.
  • Slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar as it spins, creating as thin and consistent a stream as possible (use a measuring cup with a lip).
  • Start with a couple of tablespoons at a time. The more oil you incorporate into your vinaigrette, the more stable it will become, and the more quickly you can incorporate the rest of the oil.
  • When everything is mixed, season with salt and pepper (while still spinning in the blender).
    The result should be a smooth, unified dressing with a nice, velvety mouthfeel. Without any stabilizers (chemicals like xanthan gum, which professional chefs often use), it will not stay emulsified forever. So for best results, wait until close to serving time to emulsify the dressing.
  • Use this recipe as a template for any vinaigrette. Substitute balsamic vinegar for the Champagne vinegar, use cider or wine vinegar with a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard, or the variations below.

    For more salad flourish, try these gourmet vinaigrette recipes from Chef Johnny.

  • Cherry Vinaigrette: Bring 1 cup of dried cherries to a boil in 1 cup of pomegranate juice. Steep for ten minutes, then cool. Blend cherries until smooth (use only as much juice as you need to facilitate puréeing the cherries) with 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar, then drizzle in 1-1/2 cups of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Honey Lime Vinaigrette: Add 1/4 cup lime juice and 1/8 cup honey to a blender and mix. Slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, plus chile powder or cayenne, as desired.
  • Truffle Vinaigrette: Reduce half a bottle of champagne to high viscosity (about 1/2 to 1/4 of original volume). Blend with an equal amount of champagne or white wine vinegar (altogether you should have about 2 cups of liquid in the blender). Add 1/4 cup of canned truffle peelings, then drizzle in 3 cups of “truffled” oil (1 cup of truffle oil blended with 2 cups of olive or canola oil). Season with salt, pepper and lime juice, as desired.

    The traditional vinaigrette ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar; the recipes above are written as such. But the important thing to keep in mind is that you are the only one who knows exactly how acidic and how viscous you want your dressing to be.

    More oil will mute flavors but add body and mouthfeel; more acidity can be helpful if the salad ingredients have stronger flavor (think chicories or heartier greens).

    Just pay attention to the dressing as you work and add ingredients in small increments at first. Once you become comfortable with the process, you’ll get the feel of exactly how much of each component you want.
    Find more recipes and our favorite oils and vinegars.


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    COOKING VIDEO: Healthy Onion Dip Recipe


    Have you planned your Super Bowl menu yet? Are you looking for healthy options?

    In the chips-and-dips department, we save on fats with Popchips potato chips and go for the more nutritious whole wheat pretzels. Both products are just as delicious as their less-healthy counterparts.

    Making a yummy fat-free or low-fat dip is easy. In this video recipe, you’ll see how to make a delectable onion dip with caramelized onions, fresh chives and nonfat yogurt.

    We have three tips to add to those in the video:

  • Use nonfat Greek yogurt—it’s thicker, creamier and closest to sour cream.
  • Caramelize the onions in heart-healthy olive oil. Here’s the separate recipe to caramelize the onions. While you’re at it, caramelize lots of onions and keep them in the fridge to add to baked potatoes, burgers, eggs, main course proteins, sandwiches and more.
  • Never use pre-ground pepper. Always freshly grind it with a pepper mill.

    Find them in our Salsas & Dips Section. Another healthy recipe is this white bean dip, which is dairy-free and packed with bean protein, fiber and other nutrition.

    And don’t over look the Tequila Guacamole!



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Napa Cabbage In Your Recipes

    In the course of our New Year’s resolution to eat a low-calorie, fiber-packed salad twice a day, we’ve been scouring produce departments for variety.

    As an alternative to red cabbage, we’ve been buying napa cabbage, originally from China and a common ingredient in Chinese recipes.

    Even if you don’t like cabbage, try it: Napa cabbage has a mild, sweet flavor—a cross between cabbage, iceberg lettuce and celery (it’s sometimes called “celery cabbage”). The leaves are very crisp and are equally enjoyable raw or cooked.

    In the fridge, keep the cabbage in a different compartment from ethylene-producing fruits such as apples and bananas, which will speed up the deterioration. Otherwise, a head can last for a week or more.


    Whole and half heads of napa cabbage.



  • Salads, with chopped cabbage as an ingredient, as the base for an Asian chicken salad, or as the main ingredient in your favorite cole slaw recipe.
  • Kim chee, “Korean cole slaw,” a spicy pickled cabbage. Combine chopped napa cabbage, a tablespoon of chili paste (sambal olek), 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 4 sliced cloves of garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine. Let the flavors mix overnight in a sealed container. The longer it sits (several days to several weeks), the more flavorful it becomes.
  • Wraps: blanched as a wrap for meat and fish (in Korea, pork and oysters are popular), dipped in a sauce made with hot pepper paste (look for Annie Chung’s Americanized version, Go-Chu-Jang, Korean Sweet & Spicy Sauce), or use another dipping sauce.
  • Stir-frys: mixed with Asian or European vegetables.
  • Soup: We love cabbage soup, a flavorful, filling and low calorie food, using a chicken, beef or tomato base.

    Napa cabbage originated in the region of Beijing, China. Both napa cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis), which grows in a head, and bok choy (Brassica rapa, subspecies chinensis), which grows in leaf-topped stalks (think celery), are referred to as “Chinese cabbage.” For clarity, avoid using that term.

    Both are related to the Western cabbage, Brassica oleracea, and are part of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family, Brassicaceae, that also includes broccoli, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard, radish, rapeseed and others.

    Why is a Chinese vegetable called “napa,” which sounds like it comes from California’s Napa Valley?

    The word derives from nappa, a colloquial Japanese term that refers to the leaves of any vegetable. In Japan, what we call napa cabbage is called hakusai.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tips For Baking Cakes

    You need “technique” to bake a great cake. Photo courtesy


    Want to make a cake as good as this one? Today’s tips for successful baking come from Pat Sinclair, a food consultant and author of Baking Basics and Beyond: Learn These Simple Techniques and Bake Like a Pro, and co-author of Scandinavian Classic Baking.

    The tips apply to cookies, muffins, bread and anything else you’re baking.

  • Use The Best. Always use high quality ingredients, such as pure vanilla extract and fresh, unsalted butter. The better your ingredients, the better your results. While saving money is tempting, your time and effort deserve the most delicious outcome.
  • Read Up. Read the entire recipe before beginning. You’ll want to review it enough in advance to be sure that if you’re missing an ingredient or a utensil, you have time to get it.
  • Assemble. Assemble all of the ingredients on the counter before starting, so you are aware of anything that’s missing. This is your mise en place—you’ve heard TV cheftestants refer to it.

  • Follow. The first time you prepare it, carefully follow the directions and prepare the recipe exactly as written. You can try variations next time.
  • Measure. Measure ingredients accurately. Use dry measuring cups for solids and glass measuring cups for liquids. Baking is chemistry: Don’t “approximate” or you won’t get the proven result.
  • Don’t Switch. Always use the size pan specified in the recipe. If your pan isn’t the right size, the baking time won’t be accurate.
  • Thermometer. Use an oven thermometer and check your oven temperature for accuracy. If possible, adjust the thermostat on the oven properly.
  • Check. Take a quick peek one or two minutes before the timer goes off. Your oven may bake faster than others. And remember, carryover heat will continue to cook when removed from the oven. The larger and denser the item, the greater the amount of carryover cooking. (That’s why roasts and turkeys need to rest before carving, to allow heat to distribute from the warmer outside to the cooler middle, which allows the juices to distribute throughout the meat.)
    Follow Pat’s blog for more tips plus recipes.


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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Best Granola & Muesli

    Our intrepid reviewer tasted her way through 49 granola and nine muesli brands to find the best—including gluten-free, kosher, organic and raw varieties. Wow, that’s a lot of fiber!

    The good news: Seven granolas and four mueslis were selected as “favorites.”

    In this review, you’ll discover:

  • The difference between granola and muesli
  • If granola is really “healthy”
  • A brief history (both products were invented by
    doctors at sanatoriums)
    Head for the review.

    Make your own granola at home: a video
    demonstration and recipe.

    Find more of our favorite cereals.


    Fiber-rich granola is a popular way to start
    the day. Photo by Lynn Seeden | IST.



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