Ban Boring Vegetables!

March 31, 2012 drdarria 0 Comments

Ban boring vegetables! Yes I’m serious.  With our OnCall with Dr Darria TV episode (click link for to watch) last week on nutrition, I wanted to stay on that topic this week.  Everyone knows we need to eat our veggies–but let’s actually ENJOY them too.  “Lite” dressings in the store are usually so watery and bland, aren’t they?  Now, if you’re anything like me, no one will be confusing you with Julia Childs anytime soon (I will neither confirm nor deny whether I used my stove for shoe storage…).  Enter Dr Michelle Hauser, an internal medicine doctor in her residency, who also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu ten years ago (yes–THAT “Cordon Bleu”).

Read below for her delicious (and ahem–EASY!–meaning you may actually try it!) vinaigrette recipe, plus options for flavoring your vinaigrette (yum– lime, cumin, coriander), and a really easy vegetable and grain salad.

Also, did you check out the Lemon Dressing Vinaigrette from last week’s show?   How about the balsamic roasted asparagus?  If you try ANY of the recipes I’ve mentioned here, we’d love to know, so please send us your comments and questions!

Now go and happy cooking, aspiring chefs!   You can also find more great info from Michelle at

Basic Vinaigrette: (video) Homemade vinaigrettes take only moments to prepare and have MANY advantages over their store-bought counterparts. They are better tasting, less expensive, generally use better quality ingredients, and come in flavors limited only by your imagination.

Basic vinaigrette is made by whisking a slow stream of oil into the acidic ingredient, tasting and adjusting for acidity, and seasoning with a small amount of salt and pepper.


  • acidic ingredient (any vinegar; sour citrus juice like lemon, lime or grapefruit; or a mixture)
  • oil of choice (olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable, or grape seed, untoasted/plain, Sesame, or peanut; hazelnut*, walnut*, sweet almond, or other nut oil.
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper (only a few turns from a mill)

Directions (for ¾ – 1 cup Basic Vinaigrette):

  1. Measure ¼ cup vinegar into a medium mixing bowl; whisk ½ cup oil into the vinegar by drizzling the oil in a slow stream and whipping constantly with the whisk.
  2. Adjust acidity: take a small taste of the unseasoned vinaigrette; it should be quite tangy, but not so sour that it makes you pucker.  If it is too sour, whisk in a bit more oil and re-taste.  If it is not sour enough, add a bit more of the acidic ingredient(s).
  3. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Yield: ¾ – 1 cup (about 8 servings)

Store: in a jar with a lid or a clean re-used dressing bottle in the refrigerator.  If made from only vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, this keeps for months.  If fresh ingredients are used, such as fruit juice, garlic or herbs, the dressing should be used within 3-7 days. Note: the oil may solidify in the refrigerator because of the cool temperature – the dressing is still perfectly good.  Just remove the dressing from the refrigerator a few minutes before using or run some warm water over the outside of the bottle to melt the oil.

Flavored Vinaigrettes: (video) Use the Basic Vinaigrette recipe but vary it to your liking by choosing different oils and vinegars, but also by adding other ingredients such as those listed in the table below.  If using onions or garlic, add them directly to the acidic ingredient and let them macerate for at least 5 minutes before whisking in the oil; this allows the acid to pickle and mellow them a bit to create a more rounded flavor in the vinaigrette.

*Note: *starred oils in the ingredient list, above, are very strongly flavored and expensive (they are also called “Flavoring Oils” as opposed to “Main Oils” in the chart below). For these reasons they should be used only as a small proportion of the total oil used in the recipe.  Pairing them with a plain-tasting oil, such as canola, works well.

Main Oils

Vinegars/Acidic Ingredients


Olive, any style

Rice Vinegar

Garlic, ground dried or minced/grated fresh

Canola Oil

Apple Cider Vinegar

Ginger, ground dried or grated fresh

Vegetable Oil

Balsamic Vinegar, white or dark

Basil, chopped dried or fresh leaves

Safflower Oil

Red Wine Vinegar

Parsley, chopped dried or fresh leaves

Sunflower Oil

White Wine Vinegar

Cilantro, chopped dried or fresh

Sesame, untoasted

Lemon, Lime or other Citrus juice

Rosemary, chopped dried or fresh leaves, or dried ground

Flaxseed Oil

White Vinegar

Thyme, chopped dried or fresh leaves, or dried ground

Grapeseed Oil

Champagne Vinegar

Curry, ground powder, any style

Sherry Vinegar

Paprika/Other ground peppers

Cumin, dried ground or dried whole that is toasted then ground

Coriander, dried ground or dried whole that is toasted then ground

Clove, ground dried

Flavoring Oils

Cinnamon, ground dried or grated stick

Walnut Oil

Nutmeg, ground dried or grated from whole

Hazelnut Oil

Mint, chopped dried or fresh leaves, or dried ground

Other Nut Oil

Dijon Mustard, Other Mustard

Toasted Sesame Oil

5-Spice, Herbes de Provence or any other ground seasoning mixture of your choice

Southwestern Vegetable & Brown Rice Salad with Lime Garlic Vinaigrette: 


Lime-garlic Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (*zest one of the limes before juicing if you wish to add chopped zest for extra lime flavor)
  • 1-2 clove(s) garlic, finely minced or grated or ½ teaspoon minced garlic (the type sold in a jar pre-minced)
  • ½-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped pickled or 1 chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (discard seeds if you don’t want it spicy)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 cups julienne (1-1/2” length strips) jicama
  • 1 small cucumber, medium (1/2”) dice
  • 1 small red bell pepper, small (1/4”) dice
  • 2 small carrots, grated or shredded
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced or chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup toasted pepitas (i.e. pumpkin seeds or other seeds, like sunflower seeds or pine nuts), optional
  • 4 cups fully cooked, room temperature, brown rice
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed, optional


  1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix garlic (and lime zest, if using) into the lime juice and let it sit for at least five minutes, then whisk in the oil in a slow stream.
  2. Taste and adjust acidity: the final vinaigrette should have a tangy flavor, but not be so sour as to cause puckering when you taste it.  If it is too sour, add a bit more oil; if it is not sour, add another tablespoon of lime juice.
  3. Stir in jalapenos.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Whisk the cumin and coriander into the vinaigrette or still the spices directly into the salad, it doesn’t matter which you choose.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine herbs, vegetables, pepitas and rice (basil, cilantro, cucumber, red pepper, carrots, scallions, jicama and brown rice).
  6. Pour dressing over the top, adding just enough that when stirred well, the salad glistens with the vinaigrette but there is no vinaigrette pooling in the bottom of the bowl.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Wait to add the chopped avocado until just before serving to prevent it from turning brown and mushy.

Makes: about 8 cups (10 side servings or 5 main dish servings)

Storage: This salad taste good right away, but is best after sitting for a couple of hours.  It can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to five days.  This is a great make-ahead recipe to use for a meal one night of the week and for lunch later on.

Serving suggestions: This is great served over fresh salad greens.  This recipe has a complete protein profile without any additional ingredients, but it also tastes great with the addition of you leftover grilled, sautéed or roasted protein of choice (tofu, tempeh, poultry, et cetera).

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