Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creamy Italian Dressing

Several months ago, when we were in the grocery store, Sous Chef Brian mentioned he wanted to get some salad dressing.  I fought him on it.  I make the salad dressing around here, damnit. Why would we want storebought?

Honestly, most of my "salads" are piles of lettuce with maybe one other vegetable, if it's handy and cut up, topped with straight balsamic vinegar.  Or I'll put in cheese and fruit and skip the dressing.  But for dinner, typically I'll put some sort of a half-hearted vinaigrette together.   Sous Chef Brian, however, prefers a little salad with his dressing.  So when we were in the store those months ago, I challenged his request for storebought dressing, and he had a reasonable answer:

"You don't make ranch dressing."

That's for sure.  I don't.  I didn't know what was in it.  It's white.  That's all I knew.  

So maybe back in January I started thinking about creamy dressings.  The answer, it seemed, was buttermilk.  I didn't know what that was.   I mean, I'd heard of it, and when I needed it for baking I'd just sour up some regular milk.  

Then I needed it for one of those secret recipes I mentioned, and ended up with a carton, thinking I'd freeze the extras for later use.  But I left it in the fridge.   I made buttermilk pancakes once, and basically just kept an eye on the several-weeks-away expiration date.

Oh yeah, creamy dressing.  I didn't have any fresh herbs that said, "ranch," like parsley or dill, but I did have fresh oregano*.  Creamy Italian.  

And of course, dried spices.   While I'm a pretty firm believer that you can't substitute dried herbs for fresh, I think that onion powder and garlic powder have an important role in a lot of dishes.  They just aren't the same as fresh.  And plenty of times the powder makes more sense in a recipe that the fresh ingredient does. Onion powder pulls a dish together in a way that nothing else does (ok, salt, maybe).  Garlic powder distributes that slightly sweet-hot garlic flavor all throughout your dish, an entirely different flavor than fresh garlic does.  I've gone pretty far off course.  I mean to say that fresh herbs are important, but different from dried spices. Which are also important. 

I started with red pepper flake, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, as well as buttermilk, veganaise (again, use mayo if it's what you have, this is just what I have) and fresh oregano.*

And, as is typical, I left an ingredient out of the picture.  Apple cider vinegar. 

I mixed the creamy stuff (a quarter cup each of buttermilk and vegenaise).  I added about a half teaspoon of each of the dried spices and a pinch of salt. 

And about a teaspoon of the fresh(ish) oregano.  If I had fresh basil instead, I might have used that.  I think adding something fresh(ish) is important.  

A teaspoon or two of vinegar (one teaspoon, taste, add another?) and gave it a fork-whisking. 

Tangy and herby.  

Really helps my boring salad.  There actually is pepper and onion in there, underneath the spring mix, somewhere. 

*ok, my oregano isn't "fresh", it's frozen, but it totally serves as fresh.  That's why it's so dark though, because it's frozen. 

print recipe

Creamy Italian Dressing
Quick dressing using buttermilk and vegenaise or mayo.
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegenaise (or mayo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Mix together everything but the vinegar. Add vinegar slowly, to taste. Serve cold, on salad or as dip.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1/2 cup

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