Very Green Salad with Tangy Ranch Dressing
we have 99 problems and not even one of them is ranch dressing
things you’ll need for salad: lettuce, herbs (dill, mint, and/or parsley), additional green things (sugar snap peas, green beans, asparagus, peas, avocado, cucumbers, celery, green onion), one or two veggie things for color (radishes, bell pepper, tomato, corn, carrots, red onion, purple asparagus?).
things you’ll need for dressing: buttermilk (and/or sour cream or yogurt or not if you are vegan), mayo (Vegenaise works), olive oil, vinegar (red wine, but whatever you have), lemon (obviously), mustard (whole grain, but any brownish mustard will do), shallot/garlic, coconut aminos (or Worcestershire), more herbs, salt and pepper.
incidentally gluten-free and vegetarian, easily vegan
In 2016, The Washington Post actually published an article entitled “Ranch dressing is what’s wrong with America”. Having just reached the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, you know that Ranch Dressing doesn’t even make the top 100 things wrong with America.
Also, it was 90 degrees in the Midwest this week and it’s not even summer. Racism in America is probably more likely to kill people today than global warming, but both feel like signs of the end times (not to mention the ongoing pandemic, class inequality, the cis-hetero-patriarchy, colonialist violence here and abroad, and *gestures at the internet* everything else).
It’s so early in the year for this kind of heat that you don’t even know where your air conditioner is or where you put all those fans. Maybe you have central air (fancy), but your AC didn’t remember how to work or just refused to because 90 degrees is too hot to function. Maybe you were so unprepared for the heat that you thought something was just wrong with you and wandered around with ice in your bra thinking “why am I so hot?!”
Either way, you skipped cooking and even threw a dirty look at the computer/television for the small amount of heat it dared to produce. While you had your head in the refrigerator, attempting to bring your temperature down from a boil, you noticed that you have a lot of very green vegetables at the moment (though some may technically be fruits). As you turned your head to the side, looking for that ubiquitous bottle of Ranch dressing, you began to panic a little realizing that the comforting thick creamy deliciousness was nowhere to be seen. (GASP!)
What is Ranch dressing, anyway? Did you know that it was invented in Alaska by a guy named Steve, who was from Nebraska? Steve later moved to California and bought an actual ranch which he named Hidden Valley and sold the packaged mix by mail order. His Ranch dressing brand sold for $8 million in 1972 (that’s like $51 million dollars today). What followed was a series of corporate lawsuits over the use of the word “Ranch” or “Ranch Style” in describing any number of foods. As it turns out, no one owns “Ranch Dressing” (which is great, because I don’t have a lawyer).
True “Ranch” dressing is buttermilk-based, but you take a certain pleasure in shirking the traditional in favor of whatever the fuck you want to do. The other distinguishing factors are mustard, dill, and allium. The best way to make Ranch dressing is to just keep tasting it until you like it.
Wash, cut, tear, and shred many vegetables and toss them around on a bed of lettuce. One of the best things you’ve learned to do (aside from protesting, letter writing, examining all that internalized white supremacy, and decentering whiteness) is to keep fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill in your fridge, standing in jars or quart containers with a little bit of water. They keep for weeks, if you change the water, and are always there for you. You have also learned that fresh herbs can and should always be tossed into any salad, whenever possible.
Now that your giant bed of vegetables is comfortably spread and waiting for its Ranch blanket, it’s time to throw together a dressing.
Start with a base of buttermilk and/or mayo or sour cream or yogurt. This is the creamy heart of Ranch dressing. Vegenaise works just fine too (you don’t have to love dairy to love Ranch). Based on what you have, mix together about ½ cup of mayo with ¼ cup of sour cream because you do not have buttermilk.
Add the juice of one whole lemon because lemon was bound to find its way into whatever you were gonna make.
Realize that, although tart, you still want a little more acid and add about a Tablespoon of red wine vinegar (or your preferred vinegar).
Since it is still not tangy or Ranch enough, add about a Tablespoon of whole grain mustard (or your preferred brown-ish mustard).
Having reached optimal tang, it’s time to add all the other notes. Start by grating fresh shallot, if you have a microplane. Otherwise, just dice some. No shallot? Use onion. No onion? Grab the onion powder. If you like garlic, add that too.
Chop up some dill and parsley or just parsley or just dill or maybe also chives… you get the point. Make it as herby as you like it.
With the addition of salt and pepper, you are now firmly in Ranch dressing territory. Since you like to fuck around, go ahead and whisk in some good olive oil to temper the overall dairy-ness. Then, just because you feel like adding a base note, whisk in a few dashes of coconut aminos (vegan) or Worcestershire sauce. This kind of gives a creamy Caesar-ish vibe, without the parm or anchovies.
Slather your salad in the dressing and let the cool crunchiness slowly lower your body temperature. Don’t talk while you eat because the conversation will only make the air hotter around your face. Instead, maybe contemplate other ways you can play an active role in bringing about the changes that remain necessary.
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