salad dressing nostalgia

Classic Salad Dressing Recipes from Ranch Gorgonzola.

We recently went to dinner in the garden of friends on a beautiful evening.  The burgers were perfect, the grilled zucchini was elegant – and the ‘Manero’s’ Gorgonzola Salad brought memories rushing back of team dinners and Sunday barbecues.  There is something about the tart vinegar, the strong Gorgonzola and the crisp, cold Iceberg lettuce – which just feels right.  Comfort food in a salad bowl.  When we are in town, Greenwich Prime Meats, successor to Manero’s, a longtime favorite butcher shop and steakhouse in my town,  sells Gorgonzola salad for take-out.  Since we are not always here, I went on the hunt for the original recipe and I found a vintage 1961 Manero’s Barbecue Cookbook.  Here is the recipe.

Manero’s Salad with Gorgonzola from Nick Manero’s Cook-out Barbecue Book


1 head crisp lettuce, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped

Small amount of diced celery

1 small onion, chopped

½ teaspoon ground black pepper, salt and garlic

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 piece of hard Gorgonzola cheese


      1. Rub wooden bowl with lots of garlic.
      2. Add all chopped ingredients and sprinkle with the more than average amount of black pepper.
      3. Mix oil and vinegar well and sprinkle on top of salad.
      4. Grate a substantial amount of Gorgonzola to completely cover the top of the salad.
      5. Toss gently with two forks.

For those of you who get nostalgic for family celebrations at Manero’s steakhouses in Connecticut, Florida and New Jersey – did you know that Nick Manero was a chef in WWII?  He began his career as a law secretary to Fiorello La Guardia when he was mayor of NYC, then he started his restaurants – and always welcomed children.

Image: Barefeet in the Kitchen

It is said that Ranch is the most popular salad dressing in the U.S., but who first had the idea that buttermilk on lettuce was a good idea and how can I make it from scratch?

In 1949, Steve Henson was a contract plumber in Alaska. He cooked for his co-workers and perfected his buttermilk dressing recipe.  In 1954 he moved to California and he and his wife bought Hidden Valley (dude) Ranch, near Santa Barbara.  His buttermilk dressing was so popular in their restaurant that they began to sell bottled dressing in bottles and eventually packets of powder to which buyers added buttermilk and mayonnaise.  Demand drove them to open a factory and in 1972 they sold the business.  The original recipe has been changed over the years to make it more shelf stable. In 1983, the non-refrigerated version of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was released.  The original Ranch Dressing was made of buttermilk, mayonnaise, spices and herbs. The bottled versions now include additives like MSG, disodium inosinate, and others to keep it fresh at room temperature.  I think that I have found the original recipe to make at home.

The Original Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Recipe (I think).


½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup buttermilk

¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon MSG (such as Accent Flavor Enhancer)*

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Pinch of dried thyme

*For those of us who avoid MSG, alternatives to get that savory, umami flavor would be sea salt, soy sauce, or a pinch of parmesan cheese.  See the ASE article on Umami at the end of this article.


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.  Cover and chill for several hours before using.  Makes one cup.

My daughter, Annie, uses this updated, buttermilk ranch dressing recipe and it is every bit as tangy and creamy as the original, but it includes Greek yogurt.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing from Bon Appetit


¾ cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt

2/3 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons Mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, finely grated

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

Kosher salt


Whisk yogurt, buttermilk, mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, pepper, mustard powder, and onion powder in a medium bowl; season with salt. Chill at least 20 minutes to let flavors meld before serving.

Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

If you get suspicious when you see yogurt as a substitute for some full dairy temptation  – some sort of plot to remove flavor and richness – here is a Ranch Dressing Recipe for you.

Ranch Dressing from Barefeet in the Kitchen.


½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

½ cup buttermilk

¾ to 1 teaspoon dried dill weed

½ teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried chives

¼ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon finely cracked pepper

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, approximately 1-3 teaspoons


Whisk together the mayo, sour cream and milk until smooth.  Add the spices and whisk until combined. Add the lemon and whisk again.  Pour into a jar and chill in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note: The Barefoot Cook frequently swaps plain white vinegar for the fresh lemon juice in this recipe. Both acids work beautifully to provide the perfect amount of tang in the dressing.


ASE Article, Flavor Boosters – Umami