Remember the Ranch days? The days when everything was dipped in and topped with Ranch dressing? Ranch fries, Ranch burgers, veggies swathed in a sea of slightly speckled white. There’s no denying Ranch’s creamy, herby appeal…but you can create a much tastier, much more nutritious version of it using plain Greek yogurt and fresh or dried herbs. Considering that the first ingredient in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is [probably heavily refined] soy oil and that other ingredients include mass-produced-food-world darlings like MSG, modified food starch, artificial flavors, and unpronounceable additives like disodium guanylate, it’s a sure bet that your homemade version of Ranch is going to bring home the proverbial prize.
Another beauty of taking a minute (literally) to whip up a DIY version is that you can spice/herb it the way you want to — if you’d like an Italianized version, shake in some Italian seasoning; if you’d like your dinner to have a Mexican flair, add a dash of chili powder. For this batch of dressing, I opted to use some of my fresh garden herbs. Feel free to toss your dressing with the salad pictured here, or use it as a dip or topping the way most of us grew up using Ranch.
Two-Minute Salad with Herbed Yogurt Dressing (a.k.a. Ranch-Made-Better Dressing)
For the dressing:
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (the whole-milk version will give you the thickness and creaminess you’re looking for; Fage whole-milk yogurt is a great choice)
Red wine vinegar
Herbs/spices of your choice (if you use fresh herbs, mince them)
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Garlic, minced (optional)
For the salad:
Torn lettuce leaves (I used arugula and baby spinach, but any tender green will do)
Red grapes, sliced in half
Raw green beans, chopped (or simmer them for 5 minutes, then promptly submerge in cold water, drain, and chop)
Mild pepper such as bell or banana, minced
To make the dressing, stir yogurt and vinegar together, using about 1 T. for every 1/2 cup of yogurt. You want a creamy, smooth consistency that will be easy enough to toss with the salad — i.e., not too thick — but also one that is creamy and has some body — i.e., not too thin. I usually drizzle in some vinegar, stop to stir, and then add another splash of vinegar before I do another consistency check. Stir in herbs/spices, a dash of salt, and a grind or two of pepper. Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs, so start with 1 tsp. dried herbs per each 1/2 cup. Use 1 T. of fresh herbs…or eyeball it, tasting as you go. (Frankly, that’s easier.) If you do add garlic, start with half a small clove — a little raw garlic goes a very long way. Do a taste test to see if you want to include more.
Toss salad ingredients together, then re-toss with dressing. I would use equal amounts of nuts and grapes; you might want to use a little less raw beans and peppers in comparison since they have a stronger taste. Feel free to add cooked chicken or shrimp to this salad — either would pair well with the creamy dressing. (Note: cheap farmed shrimp from Central American and Southeast Asia continues to be a big environmental problem, so when buying shrimp, I go with seafoodwatch.org’s recommendation and choose wild-caught U.S. shrimp.)
Serve promptly. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for at least 4 days. If your yogurt is fresh, the dressing will probably keep for a week.
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