May 16, 2007

the zesty 'not ranch' dip.

My kids have tried ranch dressing as a partner to their lunch-time veggies, but I must be honest, it isn't their favorite. Over the years we have tried this bottle and that, but to no avail. After a pleasant visit on the shelves of our refrigerator, each round of ranch found its way less into our mouths, and more into the garbage.

And I find it funny that I bought bottled ranch, since 90% of the time I make my own salad dressings. They taste so much better, and really are easy to make. Typically, I throw together olive oil and vinegar concoctions, but I do venture out and sometimes mix a mean blue cheese dressing. So why had I not tried to replace the infamous ranch? Especially in my consistent pursuit of making my children's lunches varied, interesting and new. Especially in my attempt to tempt their palate, nurture their curiosity and push them to have informed opinions about food. It is probably my fault that they didn't really like ranch, or really most store-bought dressings, now that I think about it.

They are far better connoisseurs than I was at their age, but then that probably reflects a shift in our culture---and I think they are better for it. All of that to say: we have replaced bottled ranch dip inside the lunch box. I borrowed and slightly modified a recipe for "Basil Green Goddess Dressing" from the Barefoot Contessa (in her new book Barefoot Contessa at Home, p.70). And my children loved it. Their token description was "it is zesty!"

So I whip up a batch for a week's worth of lunchtime vegetables. I send 'zesty dip' in a little Tupperware container, along with a bag of carrots or broccoli. I could probably send cauliflower and parsnips, zucchini or cucumber rounds. I couldn't send---but perhaps your child might like---cherry tomatoes, bell pepper chunks/strips, radishes and/or celery. This 'not ranch' zesty dip is a keeper:

Zesty 'not ranch' Dip
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
1 cup chopped basil leaves
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp course pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup scallions, white and light green parts

Place all in blender, puree. (I am a big fan of short instructions).

Note: to de-zest it a bit, substitute dill, oregano, Italian flat-leaf parsley or fennel fronds for the scallions.

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