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The Most Important Jar in Your Office Fridge

July 7, 2014

As a defiant response to Sad Desk Lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. Each week, we’ll be sharing our happiest desk lunches — and we want to see yours, too.

Today: You deserve better than bottled dressing. Make your own at home, and let it save your lunches all week.

Tahini Dressing on Food52
Tahini Dressing on Food52

The most important jar in your office fridge isn’t the Nutella you reach for after an arduous day of spreadsheets, or the industrial-sized salsa that shows up at every last-minute staff birthday party you throw together. No, the most important jar to have on hand a work is an unassuming bit of dressing, something that took you five minutes and less than five dollars to shake together in preparation of the week ahead. 

More: Another make-ahead lunch staple? A big pot of white beans

Dressing is the duct tape that holds together even the most meager-sounding lunches: a little lettuce and a cup or so of quinoa, or some sticks of carrots that are primed for dipping. It will weave together leftovers — roast chicken and rice, say — into a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. And a simple green salad feels like a relief next to heftier leftovers that need eating (pizza, I’m looking at you).

Remember: You’re better than bottled dressing. Here are our favorite homemade versions to keep on hand at all times: 

Tahini Dressing on Food52
Tahini Dressing on Food52

Tahini-based dressings are just the thing when you want something more substantial, without veering into mayonnaise’s creamy territory. Pair them with sturdier vegetables and grains.

Ranch Dressing on Food52
Ranch Dressing on Food52

When you do want something creamy, shake up a jar of buttermilk ranch or blue cheese dressing. Few lunches are easier than a hacked-off head of iceberg lettuce, drizzled with blue cheese dressing, crumbled with this morning’s leftover bacon. 

How to Make a Vinaigrette
How to Make a Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette is your most traditional option, but don’t take that to imply boring. The tangy slap in the face from a bright, acidic dressing will wake you up like a good cup of coffee, without the risk of heart palpitations. Here’s how to make it your own, without a recipe.

How to Make Aioli on Food52
How to Make Aioli on Food52

Yes, aioli counts as salad dressing. Especially when you use it for dipping fresh spring vegetables — raw, or lightly blanched — like asparagus, radishes, and the world’s tiniest artichokes. Add in whatever flavors you like; it will also make run-of-the mill sandwiches feel special, and it will sex up potato salad.

Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

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

  1. 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 the lid and shake the jar to combine. 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. Taste again, and adjust if needed.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before using, to allow the flavours to blend and develop.

Save and print the recipe on Food52

Tell us: What dressing do you keep on hand at the office?

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: The Most Important Jar in Your Office Fridge