Supper Salad with Buttermilk Parmesan Dressing

August 14, 2011

Most salad dressings that you buy at the grocery store suckity-suck.  There.  I said it.

They use shitty olive oil and grimy, flavorless herbs and gobs of salt, and if you’re buying a creamy dressing like ranch or bleu cheese…Well. Let’s just think about that one, people. Creamy dressing=Dairy.  Dairy products are per-ish-a-ble. So why, pray tell, can Hidden Valley Ranch and Kraft “Blue” Cheese dressing sit on the store shelves until, I don’t know, the Apocalypse? It gives me the willies just thinking about what’s in there.

Now, don’t think I’m a complete snob. There are some salad dressings at the grocery store that I’ll pick up, namely Brianna’s Red Blush Wine Vinaigrette and Newman’s Own Italian. Those are welcome guests in my refrigerator. But creamy dressings at the grocery store. Ummm, no.

Actually, come to think of it, I don’t really eat creamy dressing. It’s not that I don’t like it–I do–but I just kind of feel like if I’m going to have bleu cheese in my salad, I’m gonna crumble a shitload of Maytag over the sucker and call it a day.

But look, readers! I made some! Homemade creamy goodness! And it is good.

I decided to make this dressing because it had two of my favorite things in it: Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese and cracked pepper. Who doesn’t love those things, even though the good Parm-Reg is over 20 bucks a pound at the local grocery store?  The good cheese is always worth it, don’t you think?

Fear not, those on a budget, because you only need a bit over 2 ounces of  Parm to make this dressing, and you’ll have some dressing left over. Maybe to dip some nice baby carrots into at midnight or gussy up one of those good August tomatoes.  Or drizzle over hot popcorn, but I don’t recommend that…it’s crack.  Your butt may not appreciate that.  Mine certainly didn’t. Luckily, there’s still time in the season for more salad suppers.

No matter what you decide to use it for, I think you’ll be happy. If you are using it on a plain salad (unlike the herb-infused salad I used it on), I’d recommend adding about 1/4 cup chopped basil, or chive, or parsley to the dressing, just for flair.  If you  love fresh dill* (I don’t), you can add a couple of tablespoons of that, if you want a more Ranch-style flavor.

This salad, chock-full of fragrant herbs and buttery lettuce and crunchy nuts and salty ham is a delight. It’s a salad both your mouth and backside will love.  I can even justify the mayonnaise in this recipe because parsley and garden herbs are wonderful digestifs, and avocados are Nature’s Laxative, so I call it good medicine.

Let’s squeeze a few more salads out of summer, shall we?

Fresh Herb Summer Salad with Buttermilk Parmesan Dressing

dressing recipe adapted from Everyday Food

serves 4 for lunch or a light supper

For Dressing:

1 cup lowfat buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2/3 cup ( 2 0unces) freshly grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon freshly ground coarse black pepper (I used a peppercorn mix of black, white, red and pink)

salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisking well to mix.  Chill.

For Salad:

1 large or two small heads butter lettuce, washed, spun dry and torn (about 8 ounces)

1 cup fresh herbs, washed and roughly chopped (I used chive, basil and parsley, but you can use any mix you’ve got on hand–a little tarragon or chervil would be nice, too)

1/3 cup sliced English cucumber

12-16 slices Virginia ham, thinly sliced (I like Boar’s Head)

1-2  avocados, diced or sliced or halved or however you like them

1/4 cup toasted walnuts**, chopped (or any nut of choice)


Toss the butter lettuce, herbs and cucumber together. Arrange on individual plates or a large platter. Place sliced ham alongside, top with avocado (if using), and drizzle with the salad dressing. Top with toasted nuts and additional Parmesan shavings.

*Yet another personal oddity. Why don’t I like fresh dill? I adore dill pickles, so that makes no sense.  Fresh dill makes my nose tingle–not in a good way.

**I know toasting nuts sounds like and extra step and a little fussy, but if you toast them, you can use fewer nuts with better flavor. It’s a good deal.

Reader Question: Are there any pre-made salad dressings that you love? I’m curious. I won’t judge, I promise. I’m just nosy. Also, are there any salad dressings you’d like homemade versions of to appear in this space? I’m looking for inspiration while the veggies are still good!

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen August 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I love, love , love Girard’s Light Raspberry Vinaigrette. It’s so good over a spinach/butter salad with berries, and candied walnuts with some grilled chicken and salty feta.
I also love it with fresh spinach and sliced pears with walnuts and blue cheese.

If you’re not opposed to a sweet dressing, give this a try- it’s delicious!


faemom August 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

You make your own salad dressing?! Let me pick up my jaw off the floor. I stand in awe. I’m tempted. I really am. I bow to you.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri August 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I love Girard’s Italian dressing. We are a fan of mixed greens, dried cranberries, pecans, pears and a little feta cheese with the Girarad’s dressing.

My hubby really loves Ranch dressing, but we haven’t found a store bought one that he likes. Any suggestions?


Salad in a Jar August 14, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I did not know that about avocados. Who knew? And why does the plural of avocado not have an e in it? At any rate, I’m glad to know your favorite dressings at the store so I can try them for myself–after I try this recipe, of course.


TKW August 15, 2011 at 5:29 am

That’s too funny–it’s always irritated the heck out of me that the plural doesn’t have an e in it! I’m glad to know that it bothers someone else, too!


Klz August 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Parmesan plus corn = amazing


bland but glittery unicorn August 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

The per-ish-a-ble crap on shelves makes ME perishable! You seriously don’t want to know the list of chemicals that are used to preserve dairy so it can sit on shelves for maudknows how long. Carrageenan is the most common, it’s a seaweed extract from hell. These days, it’s in everything from ice cream to sour cream to cake icings to frozen pumpkin pie, you name it. The shit gives me massive migraines in very small amounts. Hence, why I eat raw organic veggies. I used to buy salad dressing packets by Simply Organic, but it turns out I get migraines from maltodextrin, which is ALSO in everything these days as a pre-serv-a-tive for my exploding throbbing brain, grrrrrrrr. The Simply Organic stuff just needs vinegar, water, and olive oil added.

So, for me it’s raw veggies… no chaser, shooter, or topper. Just raw. A rabbit with taste buds wouldn’t touch my dinners either.


TKW August 15, 2011 at 5:31 am


Have you tried Botox for your migraines? I’ve heard it works wonders, although if yours are food-related, maybe it wouldn’t be the case. Just thought I’d throw it out there.


Kristen August 15, 2011 at 9:59 am

So question for you. . . my mom suffers from severe migraines, and has even tried the Botox injections, to no avail. How did you figure out that such an odd ingredient is what was causing yours? Just by keeping a food journal and process of elimination? Thanks for any tips you can give! kristen(dot)santilli(at)gmail(dot)com


unicorn August 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I’m not going to try Botox. I don’t feel like trying *another* treatment. For me, the migraines are totally food related. Chemicals/pesticides/preservatives and food allergies combined. I have tried EVERYTHING for migraines for years, and the only thing that keeps them at bay is a restricted diet. No junk. All organic, all homemade, lots of water, regular exercise.
Kristen, check your email. I wrote you a book. :)


bellini August 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I’d have to say that creamy dressings are my “go to” dresssings in my kitchen. Cream sauces, cream soups and creamy dressings are staples in my kitchen.


Allison @ Alli n Son August 14, 2011 at 8:45 pm

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it uses Greek yogurt. I love Greek yogurt!

I’d love an Olive Garden dressing recipe, one that doesn’t use eggs. Om nom nom.


sophia August 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I totally agree. Most grocery store salad dressing suckity suck ass. I always make my own.

I love that there are four different “creamy” components to this: buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, mayo. Amazing.


Stephane August 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm

When I was a kid, I loved Lawry’s Old Fashioned French dressing mix (it came in a foil packet but it went to commercial salad dressing heaven–hell?–long ago) and Annie’s Naturals are okay–but mostly, I make my own. I’ve got a great Ranch dressing recipe but I’m looking for a good cucumber Ranch. Got one of those up your sleeve?


Stephane August 15, 2011 at 12:12 am

or what about something tasty with tahini (instead of yummy but overpowering sesame oil)?


bryan August 15, 2011 at 1:55 am

Once during an inspection my friendly neighborhood health inspector said something along the lines of, “I don’t really care about the temperature of your salad dressings, they don’t go bad.” I could only think “eww”

Mostly I make my own dressings then I get exactly what I want. Yours looks incredible I have never made anything like that!


Abby August 15, 2011 at 4:56 am

I know I’m a weirdo, but I actually don’t ever use salad dressing. I like the taste of what’s in the salad much more than the dressing itself. However, if I must redeem my culinary tastes (ahem), I will say that I often use plain Greek yogurt as my “dressing.” It’s creamy, delicious and nutritious, especially if you add in a little hot sauce/salsa to the mix.

Otherwise I smash up an avocado for the creamy factor. Voila!


TKW August 15, 2011 at 5:32 am


I am a weirdo too, because sometimes I just top my salad with a dollop of cottage cheese.


kristin @ going country August 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

I never buy salad dressing, and in fact am so lazy that I usually just shake random amounts of olive oil and vinegar over my salad and call it dressed. But I found an easy recipe for ranch dressing that I’ve been making with far too much regularity this summer. I discovered that tortilla chips dipped in it make for a better version of Cool Ranch Doritos. Talk about not good for your ass.

P.S. Despite seeing you on Phoo-D’s site with great regularity, I had somehow never wandered over to your site before. But I did on Friday, and then I spent some of my precious, precious free time reading your archives this weekend. You sucked me in with your humor and carefully proofread, excellent writing. Carry on. I’ll be here.


TKW August 15, 2011 at 9:30 am


So happy you clicked over! I’m off to check out what you’re up to…anyone who loves Phoo-D is has great taste, in my book


Mary Lee August 15, 2011 at 6:41 am

Hmmm. That may be the same Brianna’s I like. I have to see it to be sure. The one I like is good on fruit salads, too. Would this be the one?

I rarely buy salad dressings. Read an article once that salad dressings were one of the most overpriced items in supermarkets. However, I was compelled to buy one last week after a sweet-faced woman handing out samples in the store said that the dressing she was selling was her mother’s own recipe. I’m not a Thousand Island fan, but it was delicious! Her clever mama had used olives instead of pickles. What a difference!


TKW August 15, 2011 at 9:31 am

Mary Lee,

Olives? I love olives! What kind was it?


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts August 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

I’m with you on bottled dressing. I can handle bottled ranch or bleu cheese on a batch of spicy wings, but not on a salad. At home I’m an dijon mustard/olive oil/champagne vinegar kind of girl. (Ina’s Green Salad Vinaigrette is my all time fave, but includes a raw egg yolk as an emulsifier, so it’s off the menu until Baby #2 shows up this fall…) Anyway, this recipe looks great and is pregnancy friendly, which means I’ll be trying it out soon.

The one factory dressing that I’ve never figured out how to recreate at home? Thousand Island (or Russian, depending on where you’re from). Although if I ever did figure out how to make it at home that could spell trouble because I’d probably start eating Reuben sandwiches three meals a day…

PS – My dad is the same way about dill pickles vs. fresh dill.


TKW August 15, 2011 at 9:33 am


God, I love Reubens. Now I want one! I’ll work on the Thousand Island, just to stir the pot.


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts August 18, 2011 at 7:44 am

Kitch – I’ve been meaning to stop back by here since Tuesday but pregnancy brain seems to keep me from remembering… Anway, I made this Monday night and it was wonderful. I hit it with the immersion blender (rather than just stirring) to get all of the parmesan evenly blended into creamy goodness. Delish!

Let me know if you come up with anything on the Thousand Island front. If you do, I will kiss you, but my thighs will not! :)


Rocky Mountain Woman August 15, 2011 at 9:28 am

I always make my own, it takes like three seconds and is so much better than the store bought kind, that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use anything else!

Lovely recipe, I’m going to add a little dill to mine since I love it this time of year!!!




Jenna August 15, 2011 at 10:07 am

Did you mean to talk about laxatives and then immediately following use the phrase “squeeze it out”? =) Heh heh, whether it was intentional or not, now it’s stuck in my brain. Yikes. Where is my mind this morning . . .


TKW August 16, 2011 at 9:17 am


Unintentional potty humor! Yet another extra benefit you get in this blog! Too funny!


Elizabeth August 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

I love Sweet Vidalia Onion from Ken’s Steakhouse. Homemade version would be awesome for when the CSA sweet onions are rolling in!


Contemporary Troubadour August 15, 2011 at 10:41 am

I used to buy Drew’s Thai Sesame Lime dressing — as many bottles as I could find at the store because they didn’t restock often — but for anyone who can’t eat soy, it’s a no-no. I found it a little tart for me, but I’d add a little sweetener and it was perfect. Toss with greens, sprinkle toasted soy nuts and one chopped egg over the mess and enjoy.


TKW August 16, 2011 at 9:18 am


I’ve never heard of that one but it sounds really yummy and different!


Kristen @ Motherese August 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

Anything with parmigiano reggiano = win. And did I tell you that I actually have a garden this summer? Full of veggies that would love to be consumed after being slathered in this dressing. I can see my dinner materializing before me…

As for bottled dressings, I like Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette and Brainna’s Poppyseed. But you’re right about the dairy/shelf thing. Shudder.



TKW August 16, 2011 at 9:19 am


Is the poppyseed dressing sweet? I had a bad experience once in a restaurant and have been afraid to try it since.


Katybeth August 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

You are clearly the Goddess of salad dressing. The real Goddess. I like Ranch…from the packet, you mix it in a jar and shake. You said you would not judge! It was hard to admit this after I told you I liked apple/pecan in my tuna and got such a strong reaction but I am big on second chances. Don’t blow it.

Salad looks fabulous!


TKW August 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm


I can tolerate the pecans, but apple? No way, Jose. But I love you anyway. Gramma Rhetta put apple in her tuna salad and I gagged it down, hoping for fried chicken later. It usually worked out just fine.

Damn, did I just blow it?

I’m on the search for the perfect Ranch dressing recipe, to make amends. xo


Heather August 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm

We buy a couple of creamy dressings that are made with yogurt. Not as much crap in them and they taste really good. The only homemade dressings we make are vinegrettes. I keep Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil on hand at all times. The best is my vinegrette drizzled over tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mozarella and crusty french bread. Mmmmmm – now I’m hungry!


Maria August 15, 2011 at 8:29 pm

That recipe is making my mouth water…I love cheese of any kind but parmigiano-reggiano? H.E.A.V.E.N.

If I am going to confess, I have bought, and used, on occasion, bottled creamy dressing. (Hanging my head in shame.) Please don’t judge. I will claim ignorance, laziness, etc. But my favorite homemade dressing is olive oil, with lemon juice and a pinch of dried herbs, when I was not crafty enough to grow my own…Am I redeemed?


TKW August 16, 2011 at 9:20 am

Redemption granted, sweet Maria.


Melissa August 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Wowza, fresh creamy dressing!

We make a tasty roasted garlic dressing around here, but usually (and oddly) only at Thanksgiving. The rest of the time we make do with plain old olive oil & vinegar, maybe a squeeze of lemon. Will be watching for further creative dressing ideas… :)


TKW August 16, 2011 at 9:20 am


Roasted garlic dressing? Ooooh, that sounds good. Now the wheels are turning…


BigLittleWolf August 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

This looks and sounds fantastic… (despite the buttermilk!)

I just bought my very first “dragon fruit” – it was so exotic and a splurge at my local farmer’s market. Any suggestions? Supper Dragon Fruit Salad? Dessert?


TKW August 17, 2011 at 6:11 am

I have no idea, Wolfie. I am a dragon fruit virgin.


Nancy C August 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm

After I read this, I went to the fridge and read the ingredients to Hidden Valley Ranch. Holy shit, woman! I can’t unread that.


TKW August 17, 2011 at 6:11 am

*Evil cackle* Sorry I ruined that for you, Nancy!


Privilege of Parenting August 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Sounds delicious… and I’m with you all the way on good cheese being worth the money—one of life’s most excellent pleasures (and less excellent cheese seems better all around than a lot of mediocre). All Good Wishes for some true salad days


grace August 20, 2011 at 1:04 am

i LOVE dill bread and dilly beans and all that stuff, but fresh dill makes me nauseous! also, the only store-bought salad dressing i can stomach is creamy poppy seed, and while i don’t particularly like mayo, this dressing you’ve made sounds pretty dern tasty!


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