There's a reason why a packet of ranch seasoning is the secret to so many crazy-delicious recipes, from chicken marinade and yogurt dip to potato salad and popcorn seasoning (yeah, you should try it). It just has that special something (along with a heavy dose of nostalgia) that homemade recipes can't quite seem to capture.
Well, I'm happy to report that Julia Turshen has simply nailed homemade ranch dressing in her new cookbook, Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas For Reinventing Leftovers. Her secret? Garlic two ways, resulting in a ranch that would fool any Hidden Valley devotee.
The Secret to Great Ranch Is Adding Garlic Two Ways
Julia says she's tried this dressing with just fresh garlic and just garlic powder, and while good, it's the combination that gives it that signature ranch taste. The rest is straightforward: a quarter cup of buttermilk, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a splash of vinegar, a handful of chives, and a pinch of salt.
The smartest salads begin with whisking the dressing directly in the salad bowl (saving you a dish), which is exactly what happens here. Add the romaine and celery; toss, toss, toss (just get right in there with your hands); season with freshly ground black pepper, and you've got yourself a new house salad. If you want to make it in advance, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel after you add the greens, stick it in the refrigerator, and toss together just before serving.
The recipe calls for three hearts of romaine, but I found two was plenty — after all, you want that tangy ranch dressing coating each and every leaf. You could be civilized and eat this with a fork and knife, but who are we kidding? My roommates and I grabbed the romaine leaves and celery sticks straight from the serving bowl and ate them like french fries until there was nothing left.
The Absolute Best Use for Leftover Romaine
When I saw that Julia suggested a spicy, garlicky, stir-fried lettuce dish as her solution to leftover romaine, I knew I'd picked a good recipe to share. All of us at Kitchn understand the (unappreciated) deliciousness that is wilted romaine — to say we're a little obsessed with this lettuce salad with hot beef dressing is an understatement.
The stir-fry is easy, too, as leftovers should be: Heat a minced garlic clove, a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger, and a dash of red pepper flakes in a splash of oil, add the sliced celery and cook until softened, then toss in the romaine and cook until wilted. Serve over rice, seasoned with soy sauce, and topped with a fried egg. Make at least once a week.
Romaine and Celery Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
red wine vinegar
small garlic clove, minced
Small handful minced fresh chives
romaine lettuce hearts, leaves separated
large celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
coarsely ground black pepper
In a large bowl (as big as you can find), whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, minced garlic, garlic powder, salt, and chives. Place the romaine and celery on top. At this point you can cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
Right before serving, gently toss everything together. Sprinkle with the pepper and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers by Julia Turshen, copyright (c) 2018, Chronicle Books.