Some “did ya know” for your Thursday – with a bonus recipe!

February 2, 2012

Oh salad dressing…

Most weeks, if I know I won’t have a lot of leftovers to get rid of in the fridge, I try to pack a salad for lunch.  Usually, they’re pretty healthy, beans, veggies, olives – all the good stuff.  And lately, I had been reaching for a squirt or two of good ol’ fashioned Ranch dressing.  Until one day, halfway through my lunch, I realized I had bought this DAIRY BASED dressing, at room temperature.  Didn’t blink an eye, just bought it.  Have had it for a few months, and it didn’t dawn on me until that day a few weeks back, that it probably shouldn’t work that way.   The preservative list in that stuff must be a mile long.  It got me curious about Ranch dressing though.   And so, I decided a healthy dose of “did ya know” (and a new salad dressing) was in order.

First and foremost:  RANCH DRESSING – everything’s got a history eh?   (Check out the following sources for a little more info: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/number_1/2005/08/ranch_dressing.html

http://www.hiddenvalley.com/ourstory/

The simple facts:  its been America’s number 1 dressing since 1992, stealing the crown from Italian dressing.

Originally – it was a mixture of buttermilk, mayo and herbs.  (How does THAT end up in a bottle sold at room temp??)  Know how it got started? I do!   In 1954, Steve and Gayle Henson started a Dude Ranch out in California, called – you guessed it – Hidden Valley Ranch.  <insert shocked face here>.  Guests of the Ranch, were treated to the couple’s special dressing and often took some home as a parting gift.  Once the word got out, the Henson’s started to produce packets of the herb seasoning for retail, which allowed households to mix up their own bottle of ranch dressing with buttermilk and mayo, from the fridge.  And here’s where it starts to get into mass marketing and production.  The brand was bought out by the Clorox Company in 1972 and changes were made to the recipe where butter flavoring (??) was added, which nixed the issue of “who keeps a bottle of buttermilk around?” and in 1983, Ranch became shelf stable, aka a bottle of Ranch dressing, aka a witches brew of preservatives.

Its no question why Ranch is one of our favorites dressings.  It’s a little richer and fattier than Italian, its great for dipping, for condiments on sandwiches and the like.  The texture of Mayo gets to a lot of people, so the thinner but still rich and creamy Ranch was a great sub for that.  Fast food restaurants and other companies (Kraft, Unilver (which is Wishbone)) caught on and now we have Ranch galore.

The history of Ranch is really interesting, but I have to wonder how the Henson’s would feel (do feel?) about the switch from a homemade dressing to a “shelf stable” product.  Sometimes I really wish for the “good ol’ days”.  But! I digress… All of the above may lead you to believe I have since sworn off Ranch dressing, which would be FALSE.  I still love the flavor of Ranch, but think I’ll stick to the packets and making my own from now on. Or, you know.

This.

A disclaimer:  This is another salad dressing recipe.  I’m really good at saying “to taste” for these things.  Because really, people have different preferences for the salad dressing tastes.  Also.  I made this 2 weeks ago and half forget what all I put in this puppy.  But no matter –its pretty and its GOOD.

Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing. Mmmmm

For the record, this dressing is really easy to make (if you have a food processor/blender).  The ingredient list is pretty short and sweet:

Ingredients

Ginger – a nice sized piece of root.  I peeled mine, but I’m not sure that’s necessary.

Carrots – from what I can remember, I used about 4 medium sized carrots

Red Onion – not a lot, maybe ¼ to a half – this gets minced up in the dressing and adds a nice bite

Garlic – one to two cloves, same as above, it adds to the bite.

Maple syrup – just a little bit of a sweet, to cut the bite a bit.

Rice wine vinegar – gives it a nice tangy taste – and some liquid.

A SMALL bit of olive oil

Water – to preferred consistency (or the vinegar if you prefer something tangier).

To make it, just whir it up in a food processor and Voila! Dressing  :-O

This is a thicker dressing and I probably would prefer it to be a little more liquidy – maybe making less at a time would be better?  But.  Lemme tell ya – it tastes AWESOME on big spinach salads.  I was surprised at how well this salad dressing paired with everything I piled onto my salad (broccoli, chickpeas, beans, gorgonzola cheese, kalamata olives, tomatoes, etc etc etc).  I’ve seen a few recipes where it calls for some avocado, which I imagine adds to the creaminess of the dressing.  I’m intrigued and willing to try, although I think this particular combo is hard to beat.

In the end, our fridge is still stockpiled with bottles and bottles of salad dressings.  But with my goals of eating healthier, cleaner and more consciously, I think its time to start phasing out the bottles and phasing in the homemade. Whattya say? Back to the good ol’ days?

xo

 

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