Make Your Own Salads & Dressings – Starting With Spicy Grain Salad

Cooking with Books - Spiced Grain Salad with Avocado Raspberry-Chipotle Dressing

Ever read the ingredients on a salad dressing bottle from the grocery store? Look at the label and you might find xantham gum, calcium disodium EDTA, artificial flavors – or even partially hydrogenated oils known as trans fats. In other words, different chemicals and gums.

It’s why we make our own dressings – and why we’re showcasing fresh, homemade salads and dressings this month starting with the grain salad featured here. (Click here to see the recipe.)

You’ll also find tips below for making your own salads and dressings.

This spiced grain salad with avocado raspberry-chipotle dressing comes courtesy of blogger Marnely Rodriguez-Murray of Cooking with Books.

“Although whole grain-based, the additions make it a light salad that is easily put together with a dressing you’ll be making yourself at home!” she notes. The grains come in the form of quinoa and sorghum. Almonds provide added flavor and crunch – along with dried blueberries and raspberries, radishes and mixed greens.

The dressing, meanwhile, combines diced avocados, our medium-robust Arbosana oil, vinegar, and a raspberry-chipotle spice blend. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Our spotlight on salads is part of our Fresh, Bright & Light campaign. We’re teaming with talented bloggers as well as our friends at the California Avocado CommissionCalifornia Almonds, and OXO. (We also want to hear from you! Enter 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.)

As part of our month-long campaign, we’ll feature recipes as well as tips for making your own salads and dressings – starting with today’s Q&A with Marnely Rodriguez-Murray.

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

As a professional chef, that 3-to-1 ratio of oil to vinegar has been etched into my brain since culinary school and thus the one I always follow. 

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

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with adding nuts to my dressings – not only do they add great flavor once you toast them, but if you grind them to a powder, nuts add great creaminess to dressings without the inclusion of dairy products.

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

I’m all about textures when it comes to salads, so some of my favorite things to add are: crumbled nut brittles, dried cranberries or golden raisins, toasted sunflower seeds, croutons made from cornbread, and I even love folding in whole grains like farro or quinoa into a green salad.

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

My favorite grain salad is my Chile Red Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad, packed with whole grains, roasted sweet potatoes, and caramelized onions – hearty enough to have as a meal itself! (Click here to see recipe.)

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

I grew up with three avocado trees in my backyard while living in the Dominican Republic, so one of my favorite salads to make is a pasta salad that substitutes the classic mayonnaise for blended ripe avocados, olive oil, and vinegar. A creamy dressing tossed with your favorite pasta makes for the perfect spring picnic dish.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch