So, I was listening to the podcast version of The Splendid Table, which is the long-running National Public Radio (NPR) food show. There was an episode called Second life for faded food: reducing food waste with chef Abra Berens that, honestly, I found disappointing, as I think most Permies would have. Pay attention to your produce, eat it or store it before it goes off, a few easy things you can cook with things that are right on the edge of losing their freshness. I mean, really? Maybe this is all new to the Lexus-driving Whole Foods shopper, but going to the root cellar and bringing back the worst carrots first, then washing and cutting off the black bits was literally my chores before I got out of the first grade. So I didn't find it very earth shattering.
There was, however, a half-paragraph that plucked at my ears:
This is another thing I love; we call it trashy ranch in our house. It’s equal parts pickle juice from the jar as after you've eaten all the pickles and mayonnaise. Shake it up into a really nice dressing. It's like Super Tangy. You can do it with sauerkraut juice. You could do a Kimchi juice. Anything that's like really acidic in that way.
I love proper ranch dressing, but my chosen way of eating excludes most processed foods and added oils. Ranch dressing is both; and it's most often made with low quality oils that taste rancid to me right out of the bottle after a few years of not buying/eating them. So I don't buy it and I haven't troubled myself to make a high-quality homemade substitute; if I did that, I'd have it on hand by the quart, and I'd eat it by the quart, and I don't need to be eating quarts of greasy condiments.
For various reasons, however, I do keep on hand and consume small amounts of mayonnaise. It's a departure from my overall food scheme, but a very minor one.
So I tried the "Trashy Ranch" -- and I like it! Mostly because I can put a couple of teaspoons of mayo and a teaspoon of pickle juice in a little pyrex / glass prep bowl and whisk them together when I just need a tablespoon of condiment to dip, like, one fresh garden carrot and a sliced up cucumber in. It's portion controlled -- keeps me from eating six ounces of greasy goodness at a sitting, which is important for an old binge-eater from way back like me -- and salty and acidic and satisfying and indulgent in that necessary way we discussed in the thread about sometimes not wanting to eat the food that you grow.
It's also a lot more strongly-flavored (more acidic, saltier) than true ranch dressing, which means that a smaller amount goes a lot further toward satisfying various cravings. At least for me.
I'm not saying one damn thing about it being actually healthy, of course. These are mostly salt/vinegar brines I'm using -- the juice from commercial pickles, green olives, and capers. Sodium, oh my! And depending on the pickled products, maybe even a few ugly preservatives to boot. (Hopefully not much!) If you're making your own fermented stuff, you might have delicious sour brines full of probiotic excellence to work with.
I did work out one "improvement" on the Trashy Ranch "recipe" from Splendid Table. What happened was, I kept messing up! And splashing a tiny bit too much pickle juice into my prep bowl. So when I whisked up my trashy ranch, it was too runny, and dripped off my dipping veggies.
Well, that wouldn't do. I tried a couple of things, but what worked best was whisking in a teaspoonful of the dreaded nutritional yeast -- I used powder, but flake would probably work just as well. I am in the camp of plant-based eating people who thinks "nooch" (I hate that diminutive, but it's all over the cooking web) does in fact give foods a sort of cheesy flavor, though I admit this is probably just because I don't get very much "real" cheesy flavors (and I miss them).
So when my Trashy Ranch is too runny, I mix in just a smidge of nutritional yeast, and that not only thickens it up to a nice ranch dressing consistency, it turns it into what I call "Cheezy Trashy Ranch" -- hence the subject line of this post.
I use leftover pickle juice to "washout" salad dressing or mayo jars. You know, to get out that last little bit. I save these jars in the fridge until I want to make potato salad. This mayo/pickle juice concoction is my secret ingredient for making great tasting potato salad.
Invasive plants are Earth's way of insisting we notice her medicines.
Everyone learns what works by learning what doesn't work.