Buttermilk Ranch in a Jar

Every week on Food52, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Tara O'Brady from Seven Spoons makes homemade ranch dressing in just three simple steps: mix, shake, and stir.

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I have personal rules when it comes to summer. I heartily believe all ice cream must be served in a cone, preferably sugar or waffle. Lemonade requires some pucker; if it's too sweet, it'll give you a headache on a hot day. Meals should be eaten outside as often as possible. And ranch dressing tastes best when shaken or stirred together in a mason jar.

>>RELATED: Another summer picnic essential: Genius Fried Chicken.

Ranch is a buttermilk- and mayonnaise-based dressing named after the ranch in Hidden Valley, California where it was first served almost 60 years ago. We don't eat it year-round in our household, but it's in regular rotation every May through August. Ranch matches beautifully with summer produce: it's all I want drizzled on a plate of thickly sliced tomatoes, or as a cool dip for chubby field cucumbers. Grilled corn painted with ranch and dredged in grated Parmesan is addicting. Thicker versions also make a fine spread for sandwiches and hamburgers.

Salad

>>RELATED: Want more salad options? Try this Avocado Caesar.

My homemade dressing doesn't try to emulate store-bought versions, because if that's what you're craving, then only the original will do. Instead, I've come up with a tangy rendition, packed with herbs and with enough body to coat greens and vegetables without overpowering them. Yogurt lightens up the mix, basil brings extra fragrance and sweetness, and paprika lends a smoky note. It has quickly become a household favorite for us -- give it a try, and you'll soon be putting it on everything.

Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
Honey, as needed

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the shallot, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice, mayonnaise, and yogurt or sour cream. Screw on the lid and shake the jar to combine.

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Stir in most of the buttermilk. Check for consistency, and add more if needed. Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and paprika. If the dressing is too sharp, drizzle in some honey to mellow the acidity.

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Taste again, and adjust if needed. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before using so that the flavors can develop. Store any leftover dressing in the fridge and use within a couple of days.

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Photos by Tara O'Brady