Have You Tried This? Herb-Focused Salad Dressings

The plentiful rain and relatively mild temperatures have herb gardens burgeoning!  There is no better way to make use of your herbs than experimenting with them as the key ingredients for salad dressings (equally good as fresh vegetable dressings and dips).  Here are three classic recipes: Fresh Herb & Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Old-Fashioned Green Goddess Dressing, and Fresh Herb Vinaigrette.  Enjoy!


Fresh Herb & Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

  • 1 C mayonnaise
  • ½ C buttermilk
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 medium size garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 T minced fresh parsley
  • ½ to 1 tsp minced fresh dill (to taste)
  • 3 to 4 stems of chives, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp orange zest
  • dash of cayenne pepper or fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Using a whisk, mix the mayonnaise and buttermilk. If you prefer less mayo flavor, you can substitute sour cream for part of it (to taste). Likewise, if you want a thicker result for dip instead of salad dressing, experiment with a little less mayo / sour cream or a little more buttermilk. After achieving the desired consistency, whisk in the remaining ingredients. If you use cayenne pepper, be conservative the first time: use less than you expect to want and let the dressing chill for a few hours before deciding whether the dressing is spicy enough!


Old-Fashioned Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1 C mayonnaise
  • ½ C sour cream
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped, or 1 T anchovy paste
  • 3 to 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium to large garlic clove, pressed
  • ½ C fresh parsley
  • ¼ C fresh tarragon
  • ¼ C fresh chervil leaves (if desired)
  • 2 T minced fresh chives
  • 1½ T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp finely ground sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Preparation couldn’t be simpler! Each of the fresh herbs should be measured as loosely packed (not packed solid). Blend all of the ingredients until the texture is quite smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Supplement with more salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving.
While avocado wasn’t part of the original recipe (in which the pale green color came from the fresh herbs), many cooks now add some to green goddess dressing. Just toss in about half an avocado in roughly chunked pieces and blend with the remaining ingredients if desired.


Fresh Herb Oil & Vinegar Dressing

One of the most customizable dressings is vinaigrette, or oil and vinegar. Typically, you’ll want to keep the proportions close to one part vinegar to three parts oil. (If you know the vinegar you are using is somewhat more acidic than the norm, you can reduce the oil a bit, but 1:3 is a safe ratio for achieving the emulsion of the two main ingredients.)

What kinds of vinegar and oil? There are many combinations, and you might make your choices based on what fresh herbs you have on hand or what your meal’s theme or entrée will be (if your salad will be a starter or side). Besides the commonly suggested extra virgin olive oil, consider trying avocado oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, or combinations. Besides basic white vinegar (which is very bland) or apple cider vinegar, try white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, or even freshly squeezed juice of lemons, limes, or grapefruit.
The herbs and other seasoning elements are just as variable to your taste. Many suggestions are available online for different proportions of parsley, tarragon, basil, thyme, oregano, dill, chives, and even mint.

And your dressing may be perfected by a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a dollop of Dijon mustard, a dusting of celery salt or paprika, crushed capers, pressed garlic, grated ginger, or even honey (which also stabilizes the emulsion beautifully) – but not all in the same batch, of course!

Likewise, as you browse ideas online, you’ll see that many recipes offer creamy variations, adding portions of yogurt, buttermilk, mayonnaise, tahini, coconut milk, whipping cream, or even soft cheese.

The sky really is the limit with creating vinaigrette dressings. Try searching online for “vinaigrette recipe” and one specific ingredient to get started. Be sure the oil and the vinegar, and any other liquid you will use are at room temperature before you begin for the best and longest lasting emulsion of the dressing. Plan ahead to make the dressing early enough that it can sit for between one and three hours (at room temperature) before use to achieve the best blend of flavors.  One last tip, from chef Michael Stebner:  many recipes direct the cook to shake, whisk, or perhaps blend or food process the ingredients for vinaigrette. But Stebner prefers to work with an immersion blender for easy and satisfying experiences making vinaigrette.

And now, in keeping with our herb-forward theme, enjoy this fairly basic variation that will make the most of your summertime garden!

Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

  • ¼ C water
  • ⅓ C white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 small to medium clove garlic, pressed
  • ½ tsp kosher salt or finely ground sea salt
  • ⅔ C extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 C loosely packed parsley leaves (preferably flat-leaf)
  • ⅓ C loosely packed oregano leaves
  • ¼ to ⅓ C loosely packed basil leaves
  • ¼ C loosely packed tarragon leaves
  • 1 T thyme leaves
  • ground black pepper

Blend the first five ingredients until smooth. Slowly add half of the oil while continuing to blend. Stop blender and add herbs, then begin blending again and slowly add the remaining oil. Dip a leaf of lettuce or vegetable into the dressing to taste, then add salt and fresh ground black paper to taste.

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