Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Wedge" Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing


Who doesn’t love the “Wedge” salad?  This popular salad manipulates our first memories of eating a “green” dish and, in doing so, turns a small profit for restaurants.  Because, essentially, isn’t the “Wedge” salad really just a hunk of iceberg lettuce—one of the cheapest and least nutrition-laden lettuce variety—slathered with some River Valley Ranch Dressing, dressed up (sometimes) with bits of cooked bacon and other garnishes?

Knowing we can prepare this at home at a fraction of the costs at a restaurant, we still sometimes fall for this salad since it’s a crowd favorite, and you cannot really go too wrong with ordering it.  Sometimes, the poached egg in the Salade Lyonnaise is a little runnier than you’d like (and some variations include sautéed liver!).  And that Caesar salad vacillates between being nothing more than Romaine lettuce with ranch dressing or being a bit too anchovy-heavy.  The Wedge?  Not much variation.  Maybe bacon is added, but no one complains about this.

But since I’ve long ago given up on purchasing iceberg lettuce, I’d deconstructed the Wedge a bit.  In the photo below, you can see that I used hearty inner leaves of a particularly crisp variety of Boston Bibb lettuce.  (Other times, I might use red and green varieties of crunchy Petite Gem lettuce.)  I lay whole baby leaves down in the bottom of a shallow salad bowl.  Then, for color and texture, I slice in half one red and one yellow small Campari tomatoes.  Spoon some homemade ranch dressing, grind lots of black pepper directly over the creamy dressing, and you’re all set!


Oh, you don’t make your own homemade ranch dressing?  That’s about to change.  I rarely purchase salad dressing since I make my own, but ranch dressing was the last to be given up—yes, even as I was pureeing anchovies and garlic for my own Caesar dressing!  But there are so many simple ranch dressing recipes out there, and I eventually started making my own.

Here’s a tasty variation from one of the simplest recipes online.  Click here for the original recipe, or take my variation if you happen to have Persaillotte available.

To make about 1 cup of dressing:

·      In a clean jam jar (of over 10 oz capacity), spoon in 2/3 cup Mayonnaise and 1/3 cup sour cream. 

·      You want a little bit of liquid astringency (not much!), so you may then add 2 tablespoon buttermilk (if you have it), or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

·      The recipe I started from uses dried chives, parsley, and dill, and then also garlic and onion powder.  I skip the powders (which I rarely use) and the separate dried herbs.  Instead, I use 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of my handy “Persaillotte” mix which I brought back from Paris.  The Persaillotte is a heavenly mix of dried parsley, garlic, shallot, and salt, and it is a fabulous complement to most dressings—and indispensable for ranch dressings. 

·      Mix to combine, and then close the jar and shake if you’d like.  The mixture should be quite thick at first, so you might not be able to shake from the start.  Then, at this point, you can add more fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  I actually like how thick the dressing is, but you may wish to thin it a bit with more liquid—buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, or even cream or milk, depending on which flavor profile you are aiming for.


Your home is now also a ranch, capable of producing all that homemade ranch dressing goodness!

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