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Trade ranch dressing for something lighter on fresh garden salad

Fresh garden lettuce needs to be dressed with something to complement it, and not completely overshadow it. Standard ranch dressing is a Midwest staple, as we all know, but it just doesn’t fit the bill.

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Cristen Clark's Garlic Vinaigrette for Garden Greens doesn't overpower the goodness of fresh garden lettuce like some other popular dressings do. (Cristen Clark, Special to Agweek)
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The growing season this year for my first-ever “big garden” has been average at best. Iowa has blessed us with a downright cold spring and we’ve fallen right into a sweltering summer. My garden lettuce is at its peak and needs to be harvested quickly before it all withers away from the sizzling heat.

Fresh garden lettuce needs to be dressed with something to complement it, and not completely overshadow it. Standard ranch dressing is a Midwest staple, as we all know, but it just doesn’t fit the bill. I love to have a lighter dressing with a bit of tang for summertime. This dressing is a family secret that my kids love. My mother-in-law Sandi and my sister-in-law Kendra make this all the time, and their salads always taste so delicious! They have shared the recipe with me to pass along!

This is a very simple dressing to make, and if you make it for guests or your family for dinner you may never buy salad dressing again. Grab a mason jar, dump everything in and shake! The ‘secret’ ingredient in the recipe is Dijon mustard, which keeps the dressing in suspension and ’emulsifies’ it. This means the oil and vinegar will not separate. This helps so you don’t have to shake the container so much every time you want to dress a salad. The thickness of the dressing is amplified as well, and it keeps the garlic evenly distributed throughout the container too!

Try adding fresh herbs to your garden salad. Fresh herbs like basil, dill, parsley and chives can add interesting flavors to your salad and salad dressings. Beef up store-bought ranch dressing with an addition of freshly chopped dill and chives for bolder flavor! Be sure to regularly harvest fresh herbs to keep the plants strong. When you harvest herbs, consider fertilizing regularly to keep the plant producing. When they start flowering, the focus of the plant will shift to supporting the flowers and seeds, not the herbs themselves.

To make this dressing “sugar free,” I have had success using the granulated sweetener “Swerve.” It works just fine!

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Garlic Vinaigrette for Garden Greens

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Cristen Clark's Garlic Vinaigrette for Garden Greens doesn't overpower the goodness of fresh garden lettuce like some other popular dressings do. (Cristen Clark, Special to Agweek)

Servings: 1 cups

Ingredients

2 large cloves garlic, minced finely or 4 small cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons Salt

3/4 teaspoons black pepper freshly ground

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

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6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a mason jar and shake excessively until homogenous. This takes about 30 seconds. Refrigerate.

*If you refrigerate, be sure to pull out about 20 minutes or more before serving so the olive oil can come up to temperature. If the olive gets too cold, it can solidify a bit, leaving you droplets of congealed oil.

*Mustard acts as an emulsifier, keeping the vinegar and oil from separating. The mustard is a vital part of this recipe and Dijon mustard is best.

*Fresh herbs to add: chopped parsley, chopped dill, chopped basil, chopped chives or a tiny amount of chopped oregano.

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Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.

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Cristen Clark

Related Topics: FOODRURAL LIFE
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