MAKES: 2 cups

TIME: 10 minutes

The big secret to ranch dressing is buttermilk powder, which is probably in the baking section of your supermarket. Nothing else delivers that characteristic buttermilk twang, and it works as a thickener to boot.

1 cup mayonnaise (to make your own, see Homemade Mayonnaise)

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup buttermilk powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or parsley (optional)

Put the mayonnaise, buttermilk, and buttermilk powder in a medium jar with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle with a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Add the chives or parsley if you like, put on the lid, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or so.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, then use immediately or store in the refrigerator for a few days. (It will keep longer if you don’t add the fresh herbs.)

Variations

Chile Ranch Dressing. Add 2 teaspoons chili powder (to make your own, see Chili Powder) to the mixture.

Curry Ranch Dressing. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder (to make your own, see Fragrant Curry Powder) to the mixture.

Parmesan Ranch Dressing. Add 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture and cut back on the salt.

Bleu Ranch Dressing. Add 1/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese to the jar.