Flavor = Sesame, Roasted Almond, Avocado & Spinach Salad

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We make our own salad dressings rather than go with bottled dressings. We know the ingredients. They’re fresh. And, all modesty aside, we know the main ingredients – including the olive oil – are good quality. As blogger Erin Alderson says: “It’s time to put the pre-made bottled dressing down and walk away slowly.” (Click here to see featured recipe.)

Erin, aka Naturally Ella, is one of the talented bloggers we’ve teamed with this month as part of our Fresh, Bright & Light campaign highlighting fresh salads. (We also want to hear from you! Submit your own original salad recipe by entering our Salad Bowl Recipe Contest. You can win olive oil, almonds, avocados, kitchen tools, a $500 Visa Gift Card – and more.)

Erin’s contribution to our salad campaign: the sesame, roasted almond, avocado and spinach salad featured here. Erin’s dressing, by the way, combines fresh ginger, olive oil, fresh lime juice, soy sauce, honey, tamarind paste, and crushed red pepper. Our peppery Miller’s Blend oil would pair well with this robust dressing.

She notes the salad comes together quickly “and packs a big flavor.” But Erin cautions: “Just try not to eat all the roasted almonds before they get on the salad. (Click here to see featured recipe.)

Given Erin’s penchant for homemade dressings, we asked her to offer tips for making salads and dressings in the Q&A below.

When making a salad dressing, do you have a preferred ratio of extra virgin olive oil to vinegar?

I tend to be more of a tangy kind of person and will keep my oil to vinegar ratio at around 1-to-1, but occasionally I’ll use less vinegar to let the oil flavor shine as well.

What types of vinegar do you like to use in your dressings?

I’ll mix it up depending on the ingredients and the season. For fall I stick with a good, rich balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar. For spring and summer I lean more towards white balsamic vinegars, champagne vinegar, or instead of vinegar I’ll use freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice.

What are easy ways – i.e., herbs, spices, etc. – to boost the flavor of a salad dressing?

I tend to be pretty low-key when it comes to jazzing up the dressing, but my favorites are fresh garlic or shallots, fresh herbs (especially rosemary or sage), and occasionally, chilies or red pepper flakes for a bit of heat!

What are some of your favorite things to add to a basic green salad – i.e., vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.?

I have a rough formula I go by: A mix of greens, vegetables (raw, grilled, or roasted), cooked whole grains, nuts or seeds, a basic vinaigrette, and protein (either legumes or eggs). The salad is usually is mash-up of whatever I happen to have on hand at the time.

Briefly describe your favorite grain salad so that our fans could try to replicate it in their own kitchens?

Having grown up in the Midwest, I have a deep love of fresh sweet corn. One of my favorite grain salads is greens with cooked spelt, charred sweet corn, fresh tomatoes, black beans, crumbled Cotija cheese, and a honey-jalapeno vinaigrette.

What’s your favorite go-to salad that people might be able to make on their own?

Any salad, really. Use your kitchen as a source of inspiration for building a salad!

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch