Blue Cheese Dressing

Have you ever made your own salad dressing before? Not a lot of people make their own dressings or condiments. I can understand not taking the time to make your own ketchup or mayo. If there is anything you can make yourself from scratch make it salad dressing. It is so simple to make and you can customize it so easily to your liking. A simple combination of vinegar and oil is enough to flavor your favorite greens. Today I want to show you how to make a more complex, yet still very easy to make salad dressing – blue cheese.

Smokey Blue Cheese Dressing

The Building Blocks to Good Blue Cheese Dressing

There are four main things need to build your blue cheese dressing – vinegar, mayo, dairy, and of course blue cheese.

Vinegar
I like to use really flavorful vinegars like red wine, balasmic, champagne, or apple cider when making my dressings. However in this case you want something mild. I opted for rice wine vinegar. It is very mild but still gives enough punch. The blue cheese is the star of this show, so let it stand alone as the strongest flavor.

Mayo
This is the base of the dressing. Use real mayonnaise, no Miracle Whip please!

Dairy
This is where you can control how much fat you want in your dressing. You can make it with heavy cream, which I have done before. However I don’t have heavy cream on hand at all times. I love recipes that call for ingredients that are all stables. What I always have on hand is whole milk. When I made the last batch of dressing I used it. I had a little bit more mayo to make it thick enough. You could use a lower fat milk but then again the thinner it is the thinner the dressing will be. I would go with either whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream.

Blue Cheese
Roth Moody Blue Cheese

The most important part is of course the cheese. Good news is that a lot goes a long way. The recipe you find below only calls for 2 ounces of cheese. Which is enough to make that amount of dressing you see at the photo at the start of this post. Pick something that is really good and flavorful. Look for sales. Shop at a store that will cut you a piece of exactly how much you need. Get a sample first. Find one that you like. The flavor may be too strong on it’s own – this is a good thing you want it to stand out in the dressing.

I recommend Roth Moody Blue Cheese. It is made in Wisconsin in small batches. The best part about it is that is smoked over fruit woods to give it a smoky undertone, which is a wonderful addition to the dressing. It is a salty blue cheese, no additional salt was needed in the dressing. I found it on sale at Whole Foods Market during one of their weekly 3 day cheese sales.

The Recipe
The recipe itself is a take off of Ina Garten’s Blue Cheese dressing. I have made that in the past but there were a few things I wanted to change. First was to cut the recipe in half because this isn’t a dressing that will keep all that well. I made too much the last time that didn’t get used up. I have also read reviews of her recipe of people complaining that the dressing gets runny after a couple days. It’s best enjoy as fresh as possible. The recipe also calls for tarragon vinegar. I don’t feel the necessity of buying another vinegar when I have dried tarragon (fresh when my herb garden is in season) and mild rice wine vinegar. If you have not used tarragon before it’s one of my favorite herbs, it adds a licorice like taste, different from fennel also has that kind of flavor. It really rounds out the dressing, do yourself a favor and don’t skip it. The other change was using whole milk and a little more mayo in place of the heavy cream.

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
 
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces quality blue cheese, chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
  • kosher salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients into a food processor. Process until the dressing is smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste. The amount you need depends on how salty your blue cheese is.
  2. If you find the dressing is too thin, add more mayo a little at a time and re-process until thick. If you find the dressing is too thick, then add a little milk at a time and re-process until thinner.
  3. Best enjoyed the day you made it or within a couple days.

 

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Blackeyed Pea Salad

One of the most exciting things around Eat Like No One Else this year has been my relationship with Frieda’s Produce. They have send me some amazing things from finger limes to Green Dragon apples. I was their Featured Blogger for the month of August! To say thank you to them and use up some of my last shipment I have come up with a salad that also is the perfect way to ring in the New Year. It features Black Eyed Peas which are a New Year’s stable as people believe they will bring good luck for them for the coming year. Plus it’s the time of year when people realize that the pants that fit perfectly at the end of summer now seem quite a bit more snug – so it’s time to eat more salads.

This salad contains the following Frieda’s products:
Black Eyed Peas
Moro Blood Oranges
Pine Nuts
Mini Sweet Peppers
Black Garlic

The Black Eyed Peas
I got the Black Eyed Peas in the dried form. They don’t take as long to cook as other legumes. I followed the instructions on the package, which said to add them to boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and cover for 1 hour. After that hour they were perfectly ready for the salad. The peas were cooked through but not too soft. I recommend adding some salt to them when done.

Moro Blood Oranges
I used the Moro Blood Oranges to make a vinaigrette for the salad. The early season blood oranges tend to be more tart than later on in the season. The flavor was good, but needed some honey to balance out the tartness. I recommend orange blossom honey, as it just seemed right.

Pine Nuts
This standard pesto ingredient goes well on a salad. Once I opened the package, I keep it in the fridge to keep them from going bad.

Mini Sweet Peppers
Starting to see these more and more stores. They pack a sweet flavor in a small package. Chopped them in half and add them to the salad. Much better than using out of season tomatoes that lack any personality.

Black Garlic
As the name suggest this garlic is black. It turns black during a 3 week fermentation period, where the garlic goes into a machine that maintain a certain temperature and humidity. It produces a garlic that has a sweet molasses flavor. The smell itself reminds me of Worcestershire sauce. The texture is almost jelly like. I used a 1 clove for my dressing by just smashing it up which is easy with it’s soft texture. Check out the official website to learn more.

Blackeyed Pea Salad

As for the greens for this salad, I used a combination of baby kale, baby chard, baby spinach, and green & red oak leaf lettuce. I picked this up at my local Trader Joe’s. This provided flavor and color to the salad. Kale is among the most nutrient dense foods, so adding it to a salad is a great way to enjoy it raw.

Thanks Frieda’s for your amazing produce that was the inspiration for this fun salad. Happy New Year!!!!

Happy New Year's Black Eyed Pea Salad
 
Ingredients
For the dressing
  • The juice of 4 Blood Oranges
  • The zest of 1 blood orange
  • 4 oz sunflower oil or another neutral tasting oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove black garlic
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (less or more to taste)
For the salad
  • 5 oz mixed baby greens (kale, chard, spinach)
  • 2 small heads green and red oak leaf lettuce
  • handful of pine nuts
  • handful of cooked black eyed peas (prepared according to instructions on package)
  • 1 bag mini sweet peppers
  • Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)
Instructions
To make the dressing
  1. Add the zest of 1 Blood Orange to a mixing bowl. Add the juice of 4 blood oranges. Add the vinegar, black garlic, and honey. Using a whisk mix well to combine. Then slowly whisk in the oil. Add salt to taste.
To make the salad
  1. Wash and then dry all the salad greens, mix to combine. Cut off the top of the sweet peppers and slice in half, removing the seeds. Add the pine nuts and cooked black eyed peas. Top with the dressing and Parmesan cheese.

 

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Soup or salad? A question I often received as a kid that I despised when dinning out. Only rarely did I want the soup being offered so I had to go with a salad. Salads I was never impressed with either. Reason being I hated salad dressing. I thought they were all yucky. I would pick some of the lettuce, a few croutons, and pass the rest of the salad to my dad. For years I have never wanted anything to do with salads. I prefer my green veggies cooked in the form of green beans, broccoli, and the like. That is until I realized my salad problem. I hate mayo. Just despise the stuff. Most of the salad dressings I tried were mayo based. As it turns out for years I should have been turning down the fatty, mayo based dressings for those oil/vinegar combos we like to call vinaigrette.

Today I have for you a simple recipe for a chicken breast salad with a vinaigrette, no mayo needed or wanted here. Now this isn’t your everyday let’s just shake up some oil and vinegar and call it a day. This is a roasted root vegetable vinaigrette that I recently saw on an episode of Giada at Home. It is meant to be made after roasting parsnips, carrots, and shallots along with a whole chicken. What I did was just roast up the veggies and saute some white meat chicken for the salad.

I started by cutting the chicken into as equal sized cubes. You can do this with sharp kitchen shears. I used some boneless skinless chicken breasts I got a the grocery store on sale for $1.69/pound. Then add a little sunflower oil to my favorite large saute pan. Season the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I started the chicken on medium heat to cook through and then crank the heat up a bit to brown. Set the chicken aside to cook.

While all of that was going on, I had 1 Parnsip, 1 carrot, and 1/2 a shallot roasting in a 400 degree oven on a sheet pan. I added a bit of oil and kosher salt before roasting. I cut them in bite size pieces so they would be done quickly about 20 minutes (flipping half way through). I let the veggie cool before starting the vinaigrette.

I then placed the root vegetables and all of the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients into my food processor. This includes (taken from Food Network’s website):
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup (Grade B if you can get it)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

The vinaigrette came out pretty thick. So I added a little more oil and a bit of water to get it to my desire consistency. It’s still going to be thick for a vinaigrette, so don’t go too crazy with the water. I just keep tasting as I was going.

Choosing the Lettuce
Giada served her vinaigrette over a combination of radicchio, romaine, and Belgian endive. A nice vary combo in color, texture, and flavor. I opted for romaine with baby spinach and Boston lettuce. Do whatever you like. See what looks good in the store (better if from your garden). I highly recommend picking a mixture of something to go with. A mix is always better textually and flavorly (that is now a word in my dictionary) than jut a single type of green. But I don’t recommend buying a bag mix. Those cost you more money per pound and aren’t as fresh.

Final Comments on the Vinaigrette
Overall I was pleased with the vinaigrette. It is very flavorful and rich. The texture and sweet you get from the root vegetables is nicely complimented with the acidic from the apple cider vinegar and the apple juice concentrate. The maple syrup while not overpowering is just there to add another touch of sweetness. It’s a good salad dressing indeed that was really nice on the chicken. And it’s not bad for you at all. Next time I am asked soup or salad, I won’t be so hesitant to go with the salad, especially if I bring my own vinaigrette with me!

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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