- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Lighter, healthier, lower in fat and calories are the virtues that fuel your appetite for summer salads. But if you’re

smothering a salad with a typical dressing, you’re not getting the health benefits you seek.

For every tablespoon of oil you use in a salad dressing, you’re contributing about 120 calories and 13 grams of fat to your diet.

Use a quarter cup of oil in a dressing to serve two, and what you put on the salad will probably have more fat than what’s in it.

Commercially prepared dressings — unless they’re a diet formulation — may not be much of an improvement. Many bottled dressings contribute about 100 calories per tablespoon.

Fortunately, you can make a delicious and satisfying salad dressing with a fraction of the calories of a traditional vinaigrette recipe or bottled dressing if you start with buttermilk.

Despite the name, buttermilk isn’t a liquid form of butter. Manufacturers make buttermilk by adding harmless bacteria to low-fat milk. The resulting milk product is almost as thick as yogurt with the same tangy taste.

The thick-bodied buttermilk gives dressing a creamy texture. However, since an entire cup of reduced-fat buttermilk has as many calories as a single tablespoon of oil, you’re trimming calories.

You’re also getting a delicious salad topper that partners well with fish, seafood, chicken breast, meat and vegetables.

Although you can make buttermilk dressing with no oil, I prefer adding a little. Oil gives salad dressing a smoother consistency and helps the dressing cling to the salad ingredients.

The following recipe for shrimp and green bean salad uses a chive-buttermilk dressing. You can adapt the recipe to use fresh dill weed or mint if you prefer.

Shrimp and green bean salad

½ pound raw unpeeled large shrimp



1 cup cooked green beans cut into 1-inch lengths

½ cup halved grape tomatoes

1 cup baby spinach leaves

Chive-buttermilk salad dressing (recipe follows)

Place shrimp in pot with lightly salted water to cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well. Peel shrimp when cool enough to handle.

Toss shrimp, green beans and tomatoes together in a bowl.

Line 2 salad plates with ½ cup spinach each. Top with shrimp and vegetables.

Prepare chive-buttermilk salad dressing and pass on the side. Makes 2 servings.

Note: If desired, combine spinach with the shrimp and vegetables. Pour on salad dressing, toss gently but well.

Serve immediately.


1/4 cup buttermilk

1½ teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Combine buttermilk, oil and vinegar in a cup. Stir in salt, pepper and chives, and mix well. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.).


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