Your family—and refrigerator—will thank you.

Some refrigerator leftovers are just plain baffling. The dregs of a pint of sour cream. The last spoonful of the crème fraîche. A little splash of heavy cream or half and half languishing in the bottom of the creamer post-party. The final schmear of mayo in the jar that isn't enough for a sandwich. How often do these little bits of creamy goodness end up down the drain or in the bin, just because we do not really know what to do with them?

Waste not, dear friends, because those last little extras that seem useful for exactly nothing are actually the key to taking your spring and summer salads right into the realm of magical.

A salad dressing made from leftovers!

This season is full of wonderful abundant early produce, most of which is prized for light bright flavors and textures. From delicate lettuces like butter, baby greens, and spring mix, to the subtle flavors of early radishes, baby cucumbers, herbs, and early squashes, these flavors need a dressing to enhance them without overwhelming.

And that is where your little leftovers come into play.

Any of these can be used to make a great creamy vinaigrette with the mellowing influence of dairy and added richness. Here, those dairy leftovers help emulsify the dressings and gentle the vinegar or citrus bite that can sometimes be a bit intense for these early season delicacies.

Think of this dressing as bridging the gap between a pure vinaigrette style and a full-on creamy dressing like a ranch, blue cheese, or Thousand Island. They stay loose and pourable, so they don't weigh down the less hearty vegetables that are the stars of this season, but still have great coating power so you get that perfect mouthful every time. And making it could not be easier.

Spring Salad
Credit: Getty / Mizina

How to make Leftovers Vinaigrette

Here's all you need:

  • One part leftover dairy (sour cream, crème fraiche, heavy cream, half and half, or mayo)
  • One part acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
  • Two parts oil

Blend the above ingredients to create your base, and then add in anything you love—a minced shallot or clove of garlic, a dollop of Dijon, or a handful of chopped herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.