I want to rename buttermilk. It should be called magic milk because of all it does.
Pancakes and muffins are so light they virtually float when made with buttermilk. It also transforms mashed potatoes, turning them fluffy while adding a fresh taste. For more culinary magic, whirl a pound of fresh strawberries with chilled buttermilk and a handful each of fresh mint and ice cubes. Serve this as a cold soup in a bowl or sip it as a refreshing smoothie.
When making fried chicken – oven-baked, of course – or before grilling pork chops, soaking them in buttermilk and a touch of salt keeps them super-moist. Onion dip, too, gets better if you blend some buttermilk with the sour cream, gaining from its tang while subtracting calories.
Ranch dressing is the most famous buttermilk-based salad dressing. The chunky potato and roasted salmon salad here has a creamy buttermilk dressing, blended with Dijon mustard and shallots instead of the usual garlic and herbs.
Buttermilk’s ultimate magic is delivering its flavor and creaminess with minimal calories. Originally the by-product from churning cream into butter, now buttermilk is made by culturing low-fat or skim milk with bacteria, the same method used to make yogurt. This means an 8-ounce glass delivers a mere two grams of fat, only one of them saturated. At the same time, the live bacteria used bring probiotic benefits.
About the only trick buttermilk has not yet performed is getting people to enjoy drinking an ice-cold glass of it, although the one I bought from a small dairy, made from grass-fed cow’s milk to produce their butter the old-fashioned way, was good enough to pull that off.
Warm Salmon and Potato Salad with Green Beans
3/4 lb. farmed salmon filet, skinned
½ tsp. salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. yellow potatoes, the smaller the better
1/4 lb. fresh green beans
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
3/4 cup buttermilk, light or regular
4 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place salmon in center of 18-inch piece of foil. Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds pepper. Loosely seal foil and place salmon in oven. Roast until it is opaque pink in center at thickest point, 20-22 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Start checking it at 18 minutes. Open foil and set salmon aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, place potatoes in large saucepan and cover them by 2 inches with cold water. Cover, bring to boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat and boil gently until small knife easily pierces larges potatoes, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and place in large mixing bowl. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into 1½-inch chunks.
At the same time, in covered medium saucepan, boil 2 inches cold water over medium-high heat. Add beans, cover and cook until tender but not soft, about 4 minutes. Immediately transfer beans to medium bowl and place under cold running water until cool, 1 minute, or place them in bowl of ice water. Drain and dry beans, then cut them into 1½-inch pieces.
Add beans to potatoes. Add chopped shallots. Holding large chunks of warm salmon over bowl with potatoes, break them into bite-size pieces and large flakes.
In small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mustard, remaining salt and a generous amount of pepper.
Pour dressing over salad and, using 2 forks, mix to combine. Garnish with chives and serve immediately, while potatoes and salmon are still warm, or at room temperature within 1 hour.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 286 calories, 10 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 26 g carbohydrate, 22 g protein, 3.5 g dietary fiber, 507 mg sodium.