7 Creative Ways to Use Store-Bought Dressing This Summer

7 Creative Ways to Use Store-Bought Dressing This Summer

We’ve teamed up with Ken’s to highlight the dinnertime workhorse that is salad dressing. With an inspired line of dressings—from Creamy Caesar to crowd-pleasing Northern Italian—there’s truly something for everyone when Ken’s Dressings are involved.

When it comes to summer cooking, there are two hallmark rules I try to abide by: It should be easy and it should be full of flavor. I like to spend as little time in my kitchen as possible during the warmer months, so I turn to pantry staples to add big flavor in no time, whether that’s a spice blend, a boxed mix for quickbreads or cakes, or, my favorite, a punchy dressing like the ones from Ken’s.

From using their Creamy Caesar (with tangy Parmesan cheese and anchovies) as a glaze for meat, bright and tart Balsamic Vinaigrette used to add depth of flavor to caramelized onions, or zingy, aromatic Italian Dressing mixed into pasta salad, here are my top seven ways to use Ken’s Dressings this summer.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.

1. As a marinade

What is marinade but simply a dressing? They have all the same elements—oil, herbs, spices—so Ken’s Northern Italian is a natural fit to marinate chicken thighs, steaks, vegetables, or just about anything else that you’d want to have soak up some additional flavor pre-cook.

2. As a finishing glaze for savory baked goods

There’s nothing better than warm and fresh bread, even in the summer. Some recipes, like this one for Parker House Rolls, call for brushing melted butter or oil onto the surface before and after baking. Why not make a quick swap using Ken’s Northern Italian Dressing? The first brush of dressing should hit the rolls when they’re warm to activate those herby aromatics. Or, try adding a bit of Creamy Caesar to a cream-washed biscuit to add even more flavor to the tops of those golden brown biscuits (bonus points if you add some dressing to the biscuit itself).

3. As dressing for pasta salad or panzanella

Pasta salad is actually the highest, truest form of salad, in my opinion. The second highest is panzanella, aka bread salad. (You see the trend here, right?) Cold pastas and crunchy croutons are absolutely primed to absorb liquids, so you’d better make each addition count. Add a touch of Northern Italian to the ramp pesto in this panzanella to amplify the herbs, or stir Chunky Blue Cheese into this Antipasto Orzo Pasta Salad for a flavor oomph (not to mention texture).

4. As a pre-grilling flavor boost

My best practice when grilling is to always brush everything with a bit of oil before it hits the hot grates to prevent sticking. Of course, this is an excellent opportunity to add a final element to grilled, bready things, too. I recommend sweeping a little Balsamic Vinaigrette onto potato buns or smearing Creamy Caesar onto garlic bread before throwing them on the grill.

5. As a burger topping

Lettuce, tomato, charred red onion, and Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing: all things that belong on your burgers this summer. Veggie, chicken, or beef patty—blue cheese imparts a bit of funk that plays well with any burger variation.

6. As a caramelized onion helper

Caramelizing onions is a true labor of love that requires lots of time and space, so a little extra help never hurts. By adding Balsamic Vinegar to the mix, the sugars in the dressing caramelize alongside the onions, creating another delightfully sticky layer of caramelized goodness (perfect for that blue cheese-topped burger you just made).

7. As a quick dip solution

Dressing, meet sour cream for what is possibly the ultimate easy dip hack. Your next appetizer is mere seconds away if you add a dollop of sour cream (or another creamy element, like cream cheese, mayonnaise, ricotta, whipped tofu, etc.) to your favorite dressing. Creamy Caesar is perfect for chips, Balsamic Vinaigrette is a winner with crunchy crudités, and Northern Italian makes a great partner for crostini.

What are your favorite unconventional ways to cook with salad dressing? Tell us in the comments below!

Our friends at Ken’s make dressings that go way beyond salad—add ‘em to sandwiches, pastas, marinades, and more. With more than 60 flavors to choose from, including Northern Italian, Creamy Caesar, and Chunky Blue Cheese, the recipe possibilities are nearly endless. Find your favorite at a grocery store near you by visiting their site.

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