There’s absolutely nothing more gratifying than opening up a well-stocked seasoning cabinetry and inhaling its complex scent. I enjoy the scent, the cute arrangement of little glass containers, the vivid shades. When I first started cooking from scratch, natural herbs as well as seasonings bewildered me. The myriad of feasible combinations was frightening, and also I often fell prey to the predictable safety of garlic powder and dried rosemary. There were many bland soups and impossibly spicy sautes before I gained solid footing in the spice world and become confident in my ability to play around. I now tend to rely heavily on smell, sometimes holding a few jars up to my nose at once and attempting to judge their compatibility by scent.
Herbs and spices are the heart of a working whole foods kitchen. They provide flavor, color, variety and even health benefits. Without the copious amounts of salt, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors that make processed food taste so gosh darn good, we need to rely on natural enhancers. One can only eat so many plain carrots before they begin to long for salty potato chips.
Salad dressings are a wonderful way to have fun with herbs and spices, and it’s practically impossible to mess them up. If they turn out a bit bland, you can simply add more flavors. If they’re too intense, add more liquid (sour cream, oil, vinegar, etc) to mellow it out. Dressings can be used on salads, as a vegetable dip, a marinade for meat, or thinned out and used as a sauce. I added half a cup of this ranch dressing to a simple Béchamel Sauce (white sauce) with fabulous results.
This ranch dressing is a combination of a few different recipes. The spices are not obscure, but I’m pretty sure dill weed is not something most people keep around, so it’s a good way to integrate a new flavor into your cabinet without breaking the bank. I make the spice combo in bulk, so all I have to do is raid the fridge and shake things up. However, I strongly suggest letting the dressing sit for a day after you make it to let the flavors meld. The dill and garlic will scream at first, but should soften to a whisper with time.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Makes about 2 cups
Combine all ingredients, whisk thoroughly. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks (depends on how fresh your dairy was to begin with).
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (add 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar to scant 1/2 cup milk, let sit for 10 minutes)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper