Warm summer months beg for cool salad options that keep you from heating up your kitchen. So what kind of salad dressing choices are tossing around in your mind this summer?
Allow me to offer some unsolicited advice on salad dressing before you embarrass yourself: abandon the store-bought bottle and make your own salad dressing. Corollary to this advice: stop using bottled Ranch dressing. Your salads and other foods deserve better.
I am often criticized for what appears to be an irrational fear and loathing of Ranch dressing, so I am here to clear the air and explain my position for the record.
America’s love affair with Ranch dressing appears to be expanding as people pour it on salads, baby carrots, French fries, mozzarella sticks, or pizza. Worse than that, dry Ranch spice mixtures invade the flavor profiles of processed foods such as tortilla chips, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fried chicken, biscuits, popcorn, Chex Mix — even soda — like a contagious disease. The lack of respect for boundaries is Ranch dressing’s greatest offense. At this rate, Ranch flavored toothpaste may supplant mint by the end of the decade.
Ranch is a trigger word that evokes deep and embedded food-related trauma. I save my deepest revulsion for the bottled white stuff with unpronounceable preservatives on grocery store shelves and the pump action condiment dispensers found at too many chain restaurants. My stomach turns when I see a sad bottle of shelf-stable Ranch at picnics or staff appreciation and retirement luncheons staged by coworkers. Room temperature milk-rot pressed or pumped from a plastic container oozes like puss from a raised blister and ruins my appetite.
Bottled Ranch dressing raises larger questions about all shelf stable bottles of salad dressings. Store bought salad dressing is a sign of defeat in the same way that Karl Lagerfeld described sweatpants. Bottled dressing sends a message that you didn’t care enough about yourself or the people you cook for to make your own homemade salad dressing from scratch.
So I am here to shake you into your senses. Put on some lipstick, pour yourself a drink, pull yourself together, because YOU. Can. Do. Better. Homemade salad dressing isn’t hard. All it takes is a little oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and something to emulsify your dressing to make something special and more meaningful than a bottled dressing full of preservatives and past trauma.
Experiment with different oils and vinegars to find your favorite combinations. Substitute acidic citric juices like lemon and lime instead of vinegar. Add minced garlic clove or shallot and dried or fresh herbs for additional depths of flavor. I love to marinate other thinly chopped vegetables like celery or fennel in a vinaigrette for additional boost.
|Oils||Acids||Emulsifiers||Herbs & Aromatics|
|Extra Virgin Olive||Red Wine Vinegar||Mustard||Garlic|
|Sunflower||White Wine Vinegar||Mayonnaise||Shallots|
|Sesame||Rice Vinegar||Egg Yolk||Scallions|
The combination of ingredients for salad dressings are nearly endless. And if you like the flavors of Ranch dressing, so be it. But take the time to make a fresh, creamy dressing of garlic, herbs, and buttermilk or mayonnaise. Just don’t call that shit Ranch. Have some self respect and tell people its herb and garlic buttermilk dressing or an herb and garlic aioli dressing.
Don’t show up defeated at your next shared meal with a bottle of store-bought dressing. Be a star! Be a winner with a homemade dressing that shows people you care enough to give a damn! People will want to know about the effort you made to make them feel special. They’ll be so impressed, ask you all about it, and beg for the recipe.