In the late winter months leading up to the birth of our firstborn son, I spent weeks freezing scores of ready-to-bake meals that would allow me to focus on the tiny infant in my arms, not the spatula in my hand.
Now, three months later, our freezer is looking bare and my body is begging for anything other than another cheesy noodle casserole. Craving something fresh, cold and crunchy, I turned to a quick family favorite that is perfect for the hot days of summer – a classic wedge salad with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. Even the busiest of moms can throw this together in minutes with little more than a sharp knife and a whisk.
A few helpful tips: Resist the temptation to skip the homemade dressing and opt for a bottle from the grocery shelf. Trust me- making your own buttermilk ranch dressing is worth the small effort it takes to whip together, and it will make a big difference in taste. Store-bought salad dressing can’t compete with the flavor from this herb-packed dressing.
Feel free to experiment and adjust the ingredients to your taste. If you find yourself without buttermilk, regular milk can also be substituted. Buttermilk adds tang and thickness, whereas regular milk will thin your dressing considerably. If using regular milk, start with ¼ cup and add more until you reach the desired consistency.
If you can’t find fresh herbs, you can substitute dried, but only use a third of the amount, since dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh. Instead of using a bowl and whisk, you can go hands-free and blend the salad dressing in a Kitchen-Aid mixer for a few minutes to make a lighter, fluffier dressing.
Likewise, don’t skimp on those glorious, thick-cut strips of bacon and rely on store-bought bacon bits. Go to your grocery store’s meat counter, buy the thickest, most delicious bacon you can find (we love Amana bacon) and fry or bake it until crisp. We prefer to bake bacon to avoid the grease splatter and mess. To bake, simply line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place bacon side-by-side on the foil or on a wire rack for crispier bacon, and bake at 400 degrees for 12-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bacon. Then let the grease cool, toss the foil, rinse the pan and clean-up is done.
To assemble, place wedge on plate, drizzle generously with buttermilk dressing and top with desired garnishes.
Classic Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
1 head iceberg lettuce
5 strips thick bacon, cooked and chopped into bits
1-2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Thinly sliced red onion, optional
Handful of blue cheese, optional
Chop entire head into 3-4 wedges, depending on size. Sprinkle garnishes on each wedge. Serve topped with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
1 cup real mayo
½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons minced basil
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon minced chives
1 teaspoon dill
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Dash of cayenne pepper or tabasco
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl or in a Kitchen-Aid mixer. For best results, cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Pour over salad and serve.