Ranch Dressing – It takes all herbs

It takes all herbs indeed.


America….Land of the Free and according to President Obama Land of “Accepting People for who they truly are”. Amen. We could all do with a little bit more of that. 

Ranch Dressing…it conjures up images of macho Paul Newman cowboy hatted dressing jars and the great outback and what you need for frontier salads. In short, something quintessentially all American.  In fact this delicate blend of buttermilk, fresh herbs and mayo could not be further from this. I want to rename it “Fresh herb and buttermilk salad” or here in Romania parhaps “Dressing de stana” because its what the shepherds might do with freshly made smantana (sour cream) and lapte batut (buttermilk). In my head its a kind of lactic “salsa verde” with the herb tastes popping through the creaming backdrop.

This is one of those recipes that just requires adherence to a principle (a bit like like vinaigrette) and then the rest is up to you. If you like lots of basil then use more basil…if you have tarragon available….go heavy on the tarragon and find a piece of poached salmon pronto to smother this over…..if you like mint then add more mint and put some peas in your salad mix. Im going to tell you what I made today and how I like it.

Just one thing to know: The basic ratio which assures a good mouth feel and makes sure the salad leaves don’t wilt from too much acidity in the dressing is 1/3 mayonnaise and 2/3 buttermilk. The dressing will taste as good as the ingredients.  Don’t whatever you do use low fat mayo or yoghurt filled with gum and other toxic substances – better to eat a little of the the good stuff.

The exact quantities will depend on how many people you want to serve and what you are using the dressing for and of course how greedy you are. I like lots and lots of dressing.  You can use this dressing in a salad and indeed I do use it in my favourite salad (poached egg, bacon, chicken liver and essentially croutons), in sandwiches or to coat pieces of poached salmon or chicken say.  Garnish with fresh pansies (the more the merrier) and you are all set.  It is a fresh dressing designed to be made in the moment with herbs you have picked and snipped. In this case and in keeping with the theme lets work around an American “cup” or 250ml total dressing.

Gadgets & Gizmos

A knife and chopping board or scissors to “chop” your herbs roughly.  I like rough chopped herbs. That’s me. A small bowl or a large tea cup and a spoon.


2/3 cup good buttermilk (lapte de batut) or sour cream (smantana). I actually like the richer creamier smantana version. I would wouldn’t I.
1/3 cup of home made mayonnaise or good bought mayonnaise.  Of course my dressing veers off into 50:50 territory. sorry I have to admit it.
Salt and pepper
Some recipes suggest some lemon juice or vinegar – personally I don’t as there is enough acidity from the dairy products
Fresh Herbs: Parsley, chives or the green parts of spring onions for those who live in chiveless lands – just a teaspoon, fresh oregano, basil, coriander, fresh thyme (I like this addition but be careful to not chop any woody stems in), fresh mint (I particularly like the minty hits but again beware of woody stems), tarragon (glorious for pale shy salad leaves).  I would not use rosemary – its just a bit too pungent for this.  How many?  Now I like quite a lot of herb taste yet not so much it is a salsa verde and not so much that I cant appreciate how the herbs and mayo and dairy all work together, yet I dont like insipid food.  My version sees (and we are doing volumes here) half a cup of roughly (not finely as it makes a difference) chopped herbs go in.

How To

Mix together and use immediately.  Store perhaps for one day in the fridge.

Ideas & Improvs

Add garlic and a little lemon zest.  Add chopped cucumber to enter tzatziki land.

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