Recipe Contest Winner: California Farro Salad With Roasted Serrano Dressing

Farro Salad Fresh with Roasted Serrano Dressing
Photo by Grace Rusch, California Olive Ranch

Veronica Callaghan says she’s “been on a bit of a ‘farro bender’ of late,” adding: “It’s a whole grain that’s chock full of fiber and minerals. It has a great nutty flavor and it really holds up well in a salad.” Thus a winning salad recipe was born: California Farro Salad with Roasted Serrano Dressing. (Click here to see recipe.)

Callaghan, of Glastonbury, Conn., was the grand prize winner of our salad recipe contest last month. We received 230 entries – and were amazed, and gratified, by their high quality. The contest required participants to create a salad, including the dressing, using our extra virgin olive oil, California almonds, California avocados, and other ingredients of their choice.

“It really did not take long to create this recipe because I was starting with some really fabulous required base ingredients like the California Olive Ranch olive oil, California avocados, and the California almonds,” Callaghan told us in an email. “I wanted the additional ingredients to keep with the California theme.”

The additional ingredients – on top of the farro – included baby arugula, tomatoes, cilantro, and Cotija, a strong-flavored cheese originally from Mexico.

The salad all comes together with a roasted serrano dressing, in which two serrano peppers are broiled until the skin blackens. The skin and seeds are removed and the peppers are combined in a food processor or blender, along with the olive oil, chopped shallot, white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar), agave nectar (or honey), and salt.

“I have actually been making that dressing with assorted variations for a long time,” Callaghan said. “I wanted a salad dressing with a little kick to it and serrano peppers seemed to fit the bill. I have used jalapeno peppers and even regular peppers (when I wasn’t looking for heat) as substitutes.”

Our chef-judge was impressed with the entire package, writing: “Farro is a hearty versatile grain and shows really well in the salad.  The added dimension of the roasted serrano pepper dressing creates a unique layer of complexity; all built off the flavors and fruitiness of the olive oil.” (Click here to see recipe.)

Callagan told us she and her family of five – two sons and a daughter – eat a lot of salads, particularly green salads with grilled chicken and vinaigrette during the summer. “But we also often enjoy pasta and assorted grain salads as well. Salads are an easy and flavorful way to get your daily vegetables,” she added.

Callaghan also is a big fan of extra virgin olive oil: “I like the flavor olive oil imparts and I like the heart healthy benefits it provides. I frequently use olive oil instead of butter when preparing rice and pasta.”

She also uses it to roast vegetables. “One of my favorites is to roast fresh asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper just until tender-crisp, and then top it with sliced almonds and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Delicious and no butter or heavy sauces needed.”

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch