I could have called this recipe Creamy Ranch and Pecorino with Salad. The dressing and the cheese are the only reason we eat salads anyway, right?
Not in the summertime.
While the zesty ranch and nutty pecorino certainly don’t hurt, the key to this recipe is using good, in-season vegetables. This is not an easy feat in the Northeast, or pretty much anywhere except California (they just have it too easy), but for three delicious months in the middle of the year, seasonal vegetables are everywhere.
Summertime invites produce and herbs of all funky shapes and colors to party in the heat. Zucchinis grow to the size of baseball bats, wild mint sweetens the humid air, and soft lettuce curls up from the warm earth. Then it all disappears for the rest of the year, and well into the next. So let us eat salad!
This recipe asks you to look beyond its ingredient list and pick up whatever looks delicious at your farmer’s market, or the nearest grocery store if that’s all you have access to. I chose a medley of green beans, soft and sturdy lettuces, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and scallions.
Look for a variety of texture and color, then consider how you might prepare the vegetables. For a dinner salad, I like a mix of cooked and raw vegetables, so I grill the green beans here and leave everything else raw. You can slow-roast the cherry tomatoes, char the scallions, or blanch the green beans if you’d like. This time of year is about harvesting vegetables and playing with them according to your cravings (and perhaps the preferences of picky family members).
If any ingredient happens to underwhelm, the herb-flecked ranch will come to its dazzling rescue. This creamy, garlicky dressing coats the soft, succulent leaves of the salad and punches up the flavor of sweet tomatoes. This version is dairy-free because Mom is lactose-intolerant, but you could easily use buttermilk or whole milk in place of the almond milk for a more classic take on ranch. If you use buttermilk, cut down the amount of apple cider vinegar to about 1 teaspoon, then taste and adjust as needed.
I served grilled chicken on the side of this salad, which works the main event rather than a starter. A mountain of colorful produce spiked with dill and scallions under a flurry of grated pecorino is the best way to celebrate the season, if only for a moment.
- 1 pound green beans trimmed (3 cups)
- 2 small heads lettuce preferably a variety of Boston and Romaine lettuce, cored and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup sliced radishes
- 1 cup minced scallions from about 1 bunch, remove 2 tablespoons for the dressing
- Pecorino romano
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- Reserved 2 tablespoons scallions
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
How would you like to cook your green beans? Blanched? Sautéed? Grilled? Choose your preferred method/ whatever is most convenient and go for it. I grilled mine (seasoned only with olive oil and salt) because I was already using the grill for the chicken I served alongside the salad.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the ranch dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as desired.
Add the lettuces, green beans, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and the remaining scallions to a large bowl. Pour half the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Using a vegetable peeler, peel wide shards of pecorino (as much as you'd like) to top the salad. Don’t be shy, this is a salad after all.
Serve the salad with the remaining sauce alongside and a black pepper grinder so each person can top their portion as they like.
This version is dairy-free because Mom is lactose-intolerant, but you could easily use buttermilk or whole milk in place of the almond milk for a more classic take on ranch. If you use buttermilk, cut down the amount of apple cider vinegar to about 1 teaspoon, then taste and adjust as needed.
I served grilled chicken on the side of this salad, which works the main event rather than a starter.
For wine, you'd want a nice, clean white to go with the creamy dressing. Oregon Chardonnays and Pinot Gris would both be excellent options, or unoaked California Chardonnay (if you can find it).