By Kerri Conan
The only bottled dressing I have ever liked was Wish-Bone’s Green Goddess, which I ate in the 1960s. I grew up in California with a nightly salad—iceberg (torn, never cut), cukes, tomatoes, and sometimes raw mushrooms—tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. For company, Mom would make a classic Caesar in front of the guests, and I clamored for the soggy leftovers at the bottom of the salad bowl after she cleared the table. Bottled dressing was sheer heresy in our house.
Back then my Dad took clients out to lunch a lot and developed a serious lust for trendy Green Goddess, a creamy, peppery emulsion with the color—if not the flavor—of fresh herbs. Suddenly a curvaceous bottle appeared in the door of the fridge and proved irresistible. One or two nights a week we’d opt out of oil and vinegar or pour a shot on our grilled steaks or baked potatoes. The goddess is long gone, but each summer I duplicate the naughtiness of that dressing with a little number I call Green Ranch.
Green Ranch is the antithesis of dressing-in-the-palm-of-your-hand, but like my Dad—and the great swath of Americans who eat Ranch dressing on everything from French fries to chicken wings—I consider Green Ranch an all-purpose sauce. And honestly, homemade versions are nothing at all like what comes from the bottle. For the first dinner after I made it we drizzled it over chef’s salad topped with leftover grilled chicken, tons of radishes, croutons from excellent bread, and a crumble of blue cheese. On night two we used it to toss with whole wheat pasta, lightly cooked snow peas, and Parmesan cheese for a room temperature salady concoction.
Here are the rough Green Ranch proportions: 4 parts herbs; 2 parts buttermilk; and 1 part each of powdered buttermilk (the secret ingredient to emphasize the tang of true buttermilk), mayo, and plain yogurt or sour cream; season with salt and lots of black pepper. Load everything up in a blender and let the machine rip until the color is uniform with only small specks of herbs.
I used a little bit of everything from the garden for the green, including leek and scallion sprouts, chives, thyme, oregano, spearmint, dill, lemon grass leaves, thai basil, parsley, tarragon, and lavender (in that order of prominence). But a mixture of two or three different herbs is fine. If you want the dressing a little thicker, add more powdered buttermilk, mayo, yogurt, or sour cream taking into consideration which flavors each brings to the party. Then pour it in a bottle and understand the lure of real ranch.