Dressing Up Spring
with Suzanne Klein
April 2, 2014
Spring has sprung and, in Savory Spice Shop’s test kitchen, we’re happily transitioning from warm, hearty slow cooked dishes and roasts to refreshingly cool, crisp salads. And as soon as we start talking salad, we usually skip right to the dressing.
A great dressing can take a mound of greens from drab to delicious in no time. Beyond salads, using dressing as a spread or dip brings fresh flavor to simple meat and veggie snacks. (Wings? Fries? Carrot sticks? Why not?)
The word salad is derived from the Latin word “salata”, which roughly translates to “salted herb”. The creation of salad is attributed to ancient Romans and Greeks, who frequently enjoyed raw herbs, greens, and vegetables, which they salted then tossed with vinegar and olive oil. A creamier version of simply dressed greens originated in France in the 1750s when a nobleman created a concoction of egg yolks, oil, and seasonings. This, now ubiquitous, combination came to be known as mayonnaise. The “cold sauce” was, and still is, used to dress nearly anything—from veggies to chicken to potatoes. Over 150 years later, in their bustling New York delicatessen, German immigrants Nina and Richard Hellman created a spread for their sandwiches. The Hellman’s spread became so popular that just two years later they were distributing their mayonnaise across the U.S.
A far cry from the simple combination of eggs and oil, there are endless flavors for today’s homemade dressings, from oil and vinegar or a traditional mayo base to herbed or chile infused. How do you like your dressing? Thick and creamy? Thin and pourable? Sharp and pungent? Sweet or cheesy? Garlicky or herby? One of the best things about dressings is the ample variety. Whether you prefer a classic like ranch or want to get adventurous with new flavors, there really is something for everyone. In a pinch, or for a great party trick, turn your favorite dip into a dressing. Dressings are a great base for your favorite seasoning, so feel free to add a bit of Capitol Hill to your vinaigrette or Dill Dip to your favorite creamy dressing.
Can’t decide what direction to go? Here are a few of our favorites to dress up your next spring salad adventure.
Black & Bleu Cheese Dressing
Black & Bleu Cheese Dressing: This is definitely not your grandma’s blue cheese dressing. It does use a traditional mayo and buttermilk base and has the distinctive accent of blue cheese flavor. But this dressing also has a smoky undertone and cool blue-black color, which comes from the hickory and activated charcoal in our Cook County Charcoal Seasoning. It tastes kind of like a BBQ pit boss let some of his smoker goodness escape into your salad. Make this dressing thin with more buttermilk to pour over an iceberg wedge salad, or thicken it up with more mayo to make the perfect dip for Santa Maria Steak and Potato Skewers or Marmalade Marinated Woody Creek Wings.
Garden Ranch Dip & Dressing
Garden Ranch Dip & Dressing:This tastes just like the real deal! And by “the real deal”, we mean the dried packet of ranch dressing mix you probably grew up with. This version uses a handful of classic, dried garden herbs in a mayo and sour cream base, rather than those unpronounceable and dehydrated powdered bits. Another creamy dressing, this recipe yields a thick dip-like consistency that’s great for everything from veggie platters to potato chip snacking. Thin it out with a bit of milk for an easily pourable and refreshing “cold sauce” for greens, BBQ ribs, or potato salad.
Napa "Pickled" Beet Dip
Napa “Pickled” Beet Dip: A great trick to remember is that you can adjust the consistency of any dip with just a bit of additional liquid to make it into a dressing in the blink of an eye. This tangy dip tastes like it was whipped up using sweet pickled beets. The secret ingredient is not, however, pickled beets. It’s our Napa Valley Pickling Spice Rub, which imparts the flavor of pickled goodness to whatever you use it with. This recipe yields a thick dip that’s great as a topping for roast chicken or as a spread on a veggie wrap. To turn this spread into a pourable dressing, thin it out a bit with additional vinegar, the beet cooking liquid, or plain yogurt. The flavors of this dip, now dressing, are perfect for a spinach salad tossed with toasted pita pieces, crumbled feta, and black olives.
Moroccan Lemon Yogurt Dip
Moroccan Lemon Yogurt Dip: This is another thick dip recipe that yields a bold and tart flavor, with preserved lemons, Greek yogurt, and fresh parsley. The star here is our Marrakech Moroccan Spice, with mouthwatering spice and floral notes from cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, rose petals, ginger, lavender, and cayenne. It’s a curry-style blend with a strong but aromatic flavor that works well with sweeter veggies, like carrots and bell peppers. The dip works great as is for the chunky grilled veggies in our Moroccan Grilled Vegetable Platter. Swap out the sour cream for buttermilk and you’ll have a pourable dressing to toss with hearty greens or pour over a hearty, cold pasta salad with leftover roasted or grilled chicken, shrimp, or veggies.