By Jill L. Reed
The Orange County Register
With summer just around the corner, I can’t get my mind off of dinner salads.
No, not the dinner salad you see on some menus; the salad made up of lettuce, a wedge or two of tomato and maybe some carrot threads.
I want a big, bold salad loaded with lots of fresh veggies — and maybe some grilled chicken or seafood — that will be the dinner, not just an appetizer.
Though June gloom is still ahead of us, there were a recent couple of days that were hot and sunny enough to get my salad cravings going. Days that were too hot to turn on the stove, much less the oven.
Thus, I embraced summer and Cooking Light magazine for my inspiration.
The salad I came up with expanded on the veggie selection with a plate full of colorful heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers from a friend’s garden, roasted golden beets, avocado, grilled corn and red onions with some simple grilled shrimp on the side.
But the star of the plate was something very simple: a light ranch salad dressing full of fresh herb flavor made with low-fat mayonnaise and fat-free plain yogurt.
My son, 3, only recently had his first taste of ranch dressing from a bottle. He liked it, but was not overly impressed. When he tried this fresher, homemade version, he happily dragged each of the fresh salad ingredients through the little puddle of dressing I spooned onto his plate.
I am not a fan of an overdressed salad, especially with creamy dressings. And this dressing was so flavorful that a little went a long way with the taste buds: slightly tart and creamy at the same time with a little bite from fresh shallots and garlic and black pepper.
It is a dressing that can be used to jazz up a basic wedge salad, but has enough flavor to stand out next to a variety of flavorful ingredients.
I make this dressing in a mason-type jar, adding in all the ingredients and giving it a good shake to combine.
Bring on the summer salads!
HERBY RANCH DRESSING
Start to finish: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 - 6
1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk (low-fat can be substituted)
2 tablespoons fat-free plain yogurt
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a medium glass jar with a lid, combine first seven ingredients and shake vigorously to combine (or whisk well in a small mixing bowl). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Serve with your favorite fresh vegetables as crudités or make a summer salad with heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, roasted beets, grilled red onion, grilled corn or whatever else suits your taste.
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, www.cookinglight.com )