Herbed Ranch Dressing

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Years ago, while eating lunch at a restaurant with my older daughter and her husband, my son-in-law nearly fainted when I ordered ranch dressing for my salad. Knowing my snobbiness towards what I would call “American” foods, like Velveeta, he “threatened” kiddingly that he was going to “tell people!”

Yes, I ordered ranch dressing for a basic side salad; I knew what I was getting because we’d been to this restaurant. The other options were bottled dressings much worse than ranch.

However, if ranch is home-made, just like other dressings and vinaigrettes, it can be pretty wonderful.

This herbed ranch recipe comes from Emily and Matt Hyland, who own a pizzeria, called Emily, in Brooklyn, New York, with a new location in West Village; both restaurants feature wood-burning ovens. These are the young owners:

Emily, the pizzeria, was one of the first to serve ranch dressing… with their pizzas. Their ranch, called Ranch Dressing With Fresh Herbs, is in their cookbook, Emily, published in 2018.

The original Emily ranch recipe was adapted by Julia Moskin, and published online at The New York Times. Julia states that “Ranch dressing and pizza are still a controversial combination, but chef Matt Hyland’s dressing is uncontroversially delicious.”

A good ranch dressing like this one is especially wonderful on a classic wedge salad so that’s what I made.

Herbed Ranch Dressing
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups

¼ cup chilled buttermilk, more as needed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup store-bought mayonnaise
Salt, to taste

In a blender, process the buttermilk, garlic, pepper, chives and parsley together until the herbs are minced and the mixture turns pale green. Add the mayonnaise and process just until smooth. If desired, thin with additional buttermilk to get the consistency you want.

I used a product I’ve fallen in love with – garlic in chili oil. I don’t have to peel garlic, and I like the zing the chili oil offers.

Taste and add salt if needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.

For the wedge salad, cut an iceberg lettuce into four quarters, after doing any necessary leaf trimming. Place the quarters upright on a plate. Add some dressing, and leave it on the platter for those who want more. Then add sliced tomatoes, chopped purple onion, and bacon bits.

I added Italian dried sofrito, for fun. You could always add coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes.

I personally don’t think wedge salads need cheese. At American restaurants, however, bleu cheese is common, as well as bleu cheese dressing instead of ranch. Each to her own.

To me, if the ingredients are high quality, even if it’s just a salad dressing., chances are that the recipe will turn out well. What I don’t like are ingredients like powdered garlic and onion, and fake dried herbs. Use real ingredients, people!

Pesto Ranch Dip

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I’ve written before about what a purist I am in the way that I make most everything from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it’s barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, you name it. I just can’t do it any other way.

Sure, a lot of those products are real time savers. But they’re also horrible. Or, should I say, that home-made is always better. Plus you don’t have to include the uncessary salt, sugar, fake colors and preservatives.

During the summer months especially, I eat a salad every day. I typically use a good vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil on them – that’s it. Or, I use a vinaigrette that I’ve made ahead of time.

A few years ago, we were at a local restaurant with our daughter and son-in-law. I ordered a Cobb salad for my meal, and with it Ranch dressing. If you haven’t heard of Ranch dressing, then you’ve probably never lived in the U.S.

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My son-in-law kidded me about ordering such an “American” dressing. So I threatened him. Nicely. Something like, “If you tell anyone I ordered Ranch dressing I’ll have you killed.”

But to this day, at most restaurants, and for basic salads, I ask for Ranch dressing. I’ll tell you why. (And I still threaten folks if they tease me about it.)

1. Italian dressing, which is supposed to be oil and vinegar, is disgusting at restaurants. It’s not typically made in the restaurant kitchen. It’s a Kraft product, somewhat gloppy, overly sweet, with little unidentifiable bits in it.

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2. If you ask for oil and vinegar for your salad you will simply get stared at by nincompoop waiters.

3. If a “specialty” salad, say an Asian salad, is offered with a dressing, it is usually so disgustingly sweet that I can hardly eat the salad. I’ve learned that if the menu states “sweet chili lime dressing,” it basically means simple syrup. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

So, that’s why I order Ranch dressing. At least I know what I’m getting. It’s not healthy, but it has its merits in the taste department.

Last week while grocery shopping, I happened to spot Ranch dressing. I quickly checked to see if I knew anyone near me, then I stuck the bottle of dressing under bags of produce. I actually purchased Ranch dressing for the first time in my life.

Flash forward to a recent impromptu evening with friends. I got out my usual hors d’oeuvres – cheeses, crackers and fruit.

Then I spotted a slab of bread cheese that I hadn’t needed for salad I’d made the week before and decided to grill the bread cheese at the last minute for a fun change.

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For a quick dip, I used freshly-made pesto, along with, yes, some Ranch dressing. The dip turned out so good I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s what I did.

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Pesto Ranch Dip

2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup Ranch dressing
Olive oil
Approximately 10 ounces Halloumi or bread cheese, cut into 16 or so pieces
Fresh pepper

Place the pesto and lime juice in a small blender and process until smooth. Then add the Ranch dressing; set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the pieces of cheese and cook until browned on both sides. Place them on a serving platter and sprinkle them with pepper. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Pour the pesto ranch dip into a small bowl and serve with the warm cheese.

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Dip away!

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I realize that this isn’t much of a recipe, nor is it that creative, but this dip is so good with the bread cheese. See what you think!

And if you’re even more stubborn than I am, substitute sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche for the Ranch dressing!

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