kitchen firsts: homemade ranch dressing + cobb-esque salad
We eat a lot of salads around here, but every time we make one for dinner I have to fight the part of me that thinks its kind of a cop-out of a meal. I mean, I totally love salads, but I kind of feel like it doesn’t count as cooking unless there is some kind of twist or extra component that beefs it up to entree level, like shiitakes and bacon, chicken and asparagus, or a really great homemade dressing. Plus, if we don’t toss is some tasty bonus ingredients, we always end up needing an after dinner snack an hour after dinner.
We’ve had a whole lot of lettuce and greens laying around for the past week, but with the hubbub of the last couple of weeks of school I really haven’t felt like cooking at all. Like, not even a bare-bones, lettuce and bottled dressing salad to go with our take-out pizza. But finally, with greens amundo getting wasted in the fridge, I decided I really had to make a salad, so we went all out and make an add-ins heavy classic, the cobb salad, with a couple of delicious twists.
I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever order a cobb salad at a restaurant. There is no particular reason why I guess, since it is full of delicious stuff, but I guess I always think if you’ve had one you’ve had ’em all and there’s no reason to get another, unless it’s one with special stuff beyond the standard bacon, bleu cheese, tomato, avocado, hard-boiled egg, chicken chunks, and iceberg/romaine/watercress with chives and a special vinaigrette that is supposedly traditional. Personally, I like to keep the delicious bones of that recipe and then go my own way with a few parts, so we switched up the greens a bit, using a combination of romaine, green leaf lettuce, and pea shoots, took the idea of avocado and tomato chunks and turned it into a heap of guacamole, added some cucumbers, and dressed the salad with a delicious homemade ranch dressing.
We’ve made quite a few dressings over the last year, and I don’t know why it never occurred to me to make ranch from scratch– it’s always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine! I love making all different kinds of dressings myself, but when it comes to the gold standard of salads, for me it’s ranch. This is the first recipe I’ve worked with, but we thought it turned out deliciously– buttermilk is where it’s at when it comes to ranch!
Cobb-esque Salad with Guacamole and Cucumber
Serves 2 generously
1 head romaine lettuce (or combination of lettuces, but i’d recommend something with some crunch)
a cup or two of pea shoots, roughly torn or chopped to bite-size
homemade ranch dressing (recipe follows)
1 large ripe avocado, pitted and cubed
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1 T finely minced or grated onion
1 cooked chicken breast, meat cubed or sliced
1/3 cup bleu cheese crumbles
3 or 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 small cucumber, cut into small chunks
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
First, get your prep together– boil and then slice eggs, cook and crumble bacon, crumble bleu cheese, chop cucumber, cut up chicken, and wash and tear lettuce.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped tomatoes and minced/grated onion, then gently mix in your avocado cubes– you don’t want the guacamole to get all smooth since it is more of a relish for the salad than a dip. Season the guacamole lightly with salt or garlic salt and just a whisper of cumin and cayenne (I seriously tone down my usual guacamole seasonings since the focus here is, again, on noticeable chunks of avocado and tomato). Set aside until ready to assemble the salad.
Place washed and torn lettuce and shoots in a large bowl, or on a large serving platter if you want a traditional presentation. On top of the lettuce, neatly arrange small piles or stripes (whatever layout is visually appealling to you) of the chicken, cucumber, bleu cheese and egg slices. Generously dollop the guacamole in the center, and then sprinkle the salad with the bacon chunks and drizzle with your homemade ranch dressing. Enjoy!
1 cup low fat buttermilk + 1/2 cup regular milk (or all buttermilk if you prefer)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or sour cream if you prefer– again, we used low fat)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice, to taste (about 1 tsp)
1 clove garlic, pressed
dash of cayenne
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 T chopped fresh chives
1 T chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill, or dried dill to taste
Begin by combining the buttermilk and mayonnaise, and whisk well until smooth. Add lemon juice, garlic, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, and sugar, adjusting slightly to taste as you go. Chop your fresh herbs and stir in. Taste, and adjust to your liking, thinning with more buttermilk or regular milk if you like things thinner.