Tuesday, September 09, 2008
God bless the Pioneer Woman. First oatmeal-jam bars, and now this.
I have never been a huge fan of salad dressing. For many years, I would eat my salads entirely “naked” (I still do, on occasion, if the dressing isn’t worthwhile), and now I only use a tiny splash of dressing—not so much for health reasons, but because I can’t stand the slimy texture of lettuce drenched in liquid. When I go out, I always order dressing (usually vinaigrette) on the side, so I can control the quantity, and when I’m home, I use only the simplest of dressings—lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper shaken up in a jar. But the first dressing I learned to tolerate, then crave, was ranch. It perked up, or at least masked, the sad lettuce-and-shredded-carrot-and-red-cabbage salad bar mix that sustained me at the college cafeteria, and as far as I’m concerned it makes a better dip for French fries than ketchup (ah, I mourn for those halcyon faster-metabolism days of my youth, devouring fries with ranch every Monday night at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul, washing them down with a pint of Leinenkugel's!). The advent of Cool Ranch Doritos is a fond food memory for me, right up there with the introduction of the Dairy Queen Blizzard (1985, I remember it well).
Now, ranch and I have grown apart. Happily, I’ve mostly lost my taste for Doritos and am no longer subjected to sad salads on a regular basis (though sadly, I’ve moved away from both the Tap and the land of Dairy Queens). I’ll still dip a few baby carrots into ranch dip at a party, but it would never have occurred to me to try making my own ranch if it hadn’t been for a recipe I recently spotted and instantly craved: BLT Salad With Ranch. Then I remembered seeing a recipe for homemade ranch on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and the rest was history. Delicious, delicious history.
If you have a bottle of Kraft ranch dressing in your refrigerator or those Hidden Valley ranch-mix packets in your cupboard, throw them out and make this instead. If you think prefab dressing tastes like chemicals, make this and rediscover the joy of ranch. This recipe is dead easy to make and actually tastes just like other ranch-flavored things you’ve eaten, but better. I’m as shocked as you are to learn that the mysterious “ranch flavor” is actually something than can be created using real ingredients, but there it is.
I made a few modifications to the original recipe: (1) I halved the quantities, because a household of two people does not need, and probably should not have access to, a big bowl of ranch dressing. (2) I substituted nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream. Certain boyfriends I could mention were skeptical of this decision, but I guarantee it, they were not able to taste a difference and neither will you. Not only is yogurt healthier, but it's also available in small single-serving containers, so you won’t be stuck with a big tub of sour cream. (3) I never have buttermilk around and hate buying a big carton for just a couple of tablespoons, so I always use the ol' milk-n-lemon juice trick. Verdicts vary on the quantities, but for this dressing I just put ¼ cup milk in a Pyrex 1-cup measuring cup, then added about a teaspoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it gradually to the bowl of ranch until the dressing was thinned to the right consistency).
Oh, and I added some black pepper, because I love it, and some fresh dill, which I happened to have a ton of, because I was also making…homemade pickles! Stay tuned to hear about that exciting adventure later this week!
In the meantime, if ranch dressing holds any dear place in your heart, for pete’s sake go out and make this recipe at once. You owe it to yourself. And if you’re really hardcore, you’ll make your own mayonnaise to go in it! (OK, I haven’t tried to leap that culinary hurdle yet, but it’s on my to-do list.)
1 small garlic clove
½ cup real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Fresh dill, if desired
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Buttermilk (or milk + lemon juice) to taste
1. Mince the garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over it and mash it into a paste with a fork or the flat side of the knife.
2. Add the garlic to a small bowl along with the mayonnaise, yogurt, and seasonings. Mix well and add buttermilk or milk as needed to thin to desired consistency (about ¼ cup seemed to work for me). Chill for a while, preferably a couple of hours, before serving. Keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for about a week.
Yields: About ¾ cup
Time: 10 minutes