I would really love to work out a whole series of “bathe me in…” posts. There are many items – condiments or otherwise – that I love so much, I struggle to express my feelings reasonably.
But truly: if I were in a lagoon of buttermilk herb dressing, I think that’d be unpleasant for all involved. I want it on my salad, not in my ears.
All I’m trying to say is, in this season of produce with personality, it just makes sense to me to hook those things up with a dressing that has serious presence.
We recently had some pals over for dinner, which of course I used as an excuse to make as much of the meal from the farmers’ market as possible. This included some irresistibly gorgeous fuchsia radishes, delicate cucumbers, and beautiful soft lettuces, so I figured it was as good a time as any to find a solid recipe for a creamy buttermilk dressing that wasn’t too bulky.
Between last summer and this summer, it’s been a bit of an extended Goldilocks moment in the kitchen – I can’t remember the last time I did so much research to perfect a recipe.
Last summer, I tried out a version that was more of a… buttermilk vinaigrette. It was tangy, lovely, but a bit thin. Not a bad dressing, but I felt it didn’t quite deliver on all my ranchy wishes and crunchy vegetable dreams. When someone tells you there is buttermilk dressing, you think of soft white splashes across vibrant green produce. This version kind of sank to the bottom of the bowl; not the heft I was looking for.
This summer, I searched for a new version – something a little more classic, creamy, packed with herbs.
The first one I made was fine, but a little bland, and even after doubling the amount of fresh herbs the recipe suggested, I still felt I could have taken it further. However, the instructions told me to grate a clove of garlic into the jar, and also add a few splashes of hot sauce. (Although – you guessed it – the recommended amount of hot sauce was paltry.) This recipe claimed it was “the only ranch dressing recipe [I] would ever need.” Whatever. Back off.
The next one was a mayo bomb. No other way to explain it. Ina Garten told me to use 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, and a full cup of mayonnaise. So, uh, nope. But she was on to something when instructing me to use a boatload of basil in the dressing. (I happen to have a lot of it, and I also happen to think that creamy basil dressings are a dream come true.)
The third – and best – was sort of a combination of the two I’ve toyed with in the summer of 2014. It’s decidedly creamy, but not heavy, and owes some of its virtue to nonfat Greek yogurt. (The fact that we are gonna use equal parts buttermilk, yogurt, and mayo also makes this recipe easy to remember and pretty much no-measure.) A generous swirl of vinegary hot sauce, plus Dijon mustard, and grated garlic give it serious character, and an implication of heat without actually being “hot.” A full 1/4 cup (or more) of fresh chopped herbs – including lots of basil – make it an appropriate partner to all things green and crunchy, and a real homage to summer.
- One large jar
- 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I like Fage)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 1 garlic clove (can also use half a shallot here if raw garlic gives you headaches and/or dragon breath. It does both for me, but this dressing is so damn good I don’t care.)
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp (or more) hot sauce – a good vinegary one. I like Coop’s Rum Barrel, if you are near Chicago and can find it. But Tabasco, Crystal, etc would all be just fine
- 1/4 cup (or more) fresh chopped herbs – a good portion of this should be basil. Like, most of it. The rest you can fill in with chives, dill, parsley (all 3 are quite nice; the parsley counteracts some of the garlic), tarragon, even lemon balm would be nice
- Salt and pepper
Measure (or don’t) the yogurt into the jar. Add the same amount – just use your eyes – of mayo, then add the buttermilk – again, the same amount – on top. So you’ll have 3 equally-sized bands of various dairies.
Grate the garlic or shallot right into the jar. I like a Microplane for this. (I am not sure what havoc you would wreak with a box grater; I would not go there.)
Add the mustard, hot sauce, and herbs. Screw the cover onto the jar, and shake the jar. A LOT. (Incidentally: the colder your dairy items, the more you should shake.)
Open the jar back up and taste. Add a dash more of whatever you like to get it to the balance you desire. I tend to add a little more buttermilk for tang, maybe a shake or two of hot sauce. Then add salt & pepper to taste, cover the jar again, shake it, and you’re done.
This should keep for a week or so in the fridge, but you will find excuses to eat this with anything. Your first stop should, of course, be a huge platter of fresh gem and butter lettuces, maybe some radishes, carrots, cucumbers – anything cold and crisp – and maybe the odd boiled potato or two, if they’re lying around.