Endive & Radicchio Salad w/Creamy Parmesan Dressing from Rancho La Puerta Cookbook

I’m guilty and fessing up to the fact that I often drown my salads in dressing. Simple, crisp and fresh salads are my favorite ways to eat greens, sans all the complicated toppings. The extra toppings often get in the way of my favorite greens. But to contradict myself in a bowl of lettuce, I’ll often plunge the delicate leaves in a bath of oil and vinegar, suffocating my salad in excess dressing. Bad me, bad.

Key ingredients to healthy & flavorful dressing: non-fat yogurt, parmesan & oregano

fresh endive from the garden & toasted pine nuts

But after 4 days of glorious green and healthy meals at Rancho La Puerta Spa, I’m a changed gal. I never realized how less is more when it comes to constructing a salad.

This delicious creamy parmesan dressing from the cookbook Rancho La Puerta: Cooking with the Seasons, has proven to me that dressings can be flavorful, healthy and light, without all the oil and volume. Instead of using a lot of oil, non-fat yogurt is the base to this ridiculously amazing and simple dressing. All the stellar salads that I ate at the ranch were always delicately dressed and I never missed the pool of dressing that usually adorns my salads. A little bit of a great dressing goes a long way. And better yet, this creamy parmesan dressing is low in calories. Boo-yaa!

I was invited to a social media retreat at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate Mexico and it was a week long retreat of healthy eating and inspiring technology talks with some of social media’s most influential women. Bonding sessions full of informative discussions with these amazing women made me feel small in comparison. Yes, I Twitter and occasionally Facebook, but nearly not successful enough compared to these mavens. Luckily I have Jaden as a friend to let me tag along or else I’ll still be at home trying to figure out how to update my Facebook page.

The menu at Rancho La Puerta is superbly fresh, seasonal, healthy and completely satisfying. Brilliant culinary thought goes into each dish to ensure that their high quality produce is savored and celebrated. The ranch was founded almost 70 years ago by Debra Szekely, an amazing and passionate radical of her time who was the driving force behind the modern health and fitness movement. Debra is 88 years old and continues to be a power-house of ideas, opinions and concerns for the state of social welfare. She is a mentor, a philanthropist and a public servant who never ceases to build strength and inspiration to those around her.

Much of the produce for the daily menu at Rancho La Puerta comes from Tres Estrellas, the ranch’s organic garden that was started by Debra’s daughter, Sarah Livia Brightwood. Every single dish at the ranch sings with fresh produce from Tres Extrellas organic, seasonal and sustainable garden. Nestled at the base of Mt. Cahuilla, the sprawling ranch feeds the ranch guests and the local community. It’s a beacon light, thriving health and quality produce in such small rural town.

Our group was fortunate to be invited to a cooking class at the garden’s cooking school and luckier yet, it was headed by Chef Michael Stroot, a kind, accomplished Golden Door Chef and a generous soul full of culinary passion. Leading the garden harvest for the evenings agenda was head gardener, Salvador Tinajero, a energetic and devoted lover of the earth who can talk hours on end about the growing seasons of lettuce greens. The wonderful evening was buzzing with cooking activity, where everyone in the group participated in preparing the menu.

All the produce was collected straight from the organic garden and the whole group was giggly happy like little girls while we tromped through the vegetable isles, pulling onions and lettuce along the way. It was an awakening and spirit enriching week with these fabulously lovely ladies. Thank you to everyone at Rancho La Puerta Spa and Tres Estrellas organic garden for your generous sponsorship of this valuable trip. I’m forever inspired by your commitment to bettering the health of everyone around you.

And finally, my salads thank you too. They won’t drown in oil anymore.



Scenes from the Organic Garden and Cooking Class:

Head gardener, Salvador Tinajero, loving all the wonderful leeks

gorgeous vegetables for the ranch menu

above: Babette having too much picking fun. below: Chef Stroot in his element

Chef prepping the group for the cooking session

Andrea heading the Indian Dal station & Jaden manning the stove cooking wild rice

woot woot! we rocked in the garden & kitchen!


Recipe for Endive & Rachicchio Salad w/ Creamy Parmesan Dressing

creamy, crunchy salad full of flavor and texture!

Creamy Parmesan Dressing Recipe for Salads

Yield: Serves 4

Total Time: 5 Minutes


  • 1 medium shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup nonfat yogurt
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh liime juice
  • 1 tablespoons chopped from oregano leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried oregano)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sea/kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 1 medium head escarole, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 small head radicchio or other red lettuce
  • chopped tomatoes, avocado, green onions (optional)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine-nuts or any toasted nuts (optional), but preferred because they add so much to the salad!


  1. Combine the shallot, garlic, yogurt and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, olive oil, lime juice, oregano, pepper and salt in blender. Pulse until well combined.
  2. Wash the lettuce and combine in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
  3. Toss dressing with lettuce, add additional toppings and serve immediately.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission and do not re-publish this recipe. Simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.
Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

During this trip, the group also visited the Rain Women’s Committee Organic Garden in Tecate, Mexico. It was an inspiring journey and reminder that what we have and take for granted are a luxury to others.

Read my write up here about this Organic garden and it’s people.


{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Austin

    Hello, I saw this recipe and would love to do it for a dinner I am helping cook with. My question is based on your recipe, how many people would it serve? I looked at the ingredients and guessed 4, but I wanted to be sure. Thank you !!!

    1. Todd & Diane

      Your guess is inline with what we would portion out the salad. We would use these quantities to serve 4 people. Thanks!

  2. Danielle Angel

    I work for a recipe/food news publishing company and I see over 100 new recipes a day. I don’t often try new things because they tend not to work. I was looking for something similar to a caesar dressing because I am allergic to garlic. I thought parmesan might be the ticked, and I found your site. I just made the salad dressing (garlic free) and it’s probably the best salad dressing I’ve ever tried. I just sat here eating a huge bowl of plain lettuce with the dressing. It has the perfect thickness and the yogurt is tangy and delicious. I’m definitely bookmarking this website.

  3. Tom Birmingham

    You post has some great photos from Rancho La Puerta, I thought you’d like to know about a photo contest the Ranch puts on with monthly prizes from the Mercardo, and a possibility of having your photo in a Ranco La Puerta calendar. I hope you’ll have a look, http://www.rlpphotos.com



  4. PreeOccupied

    That cooking class looks a fun thing to do.

    An absolute stunner that salad of yours. 🙂

  5. Katherine

    I enjoy your food blog so much. Your photos are so beautiful, your energy contageous and your recipes inspiring. Thanks for letting me be a peeping tom!


  6. Tokyo Terrace

    What a gorgeous salad! It looks very refreshing yet hearty. I like my salads to be somewhat substantial and I always forget how great they make me feel. This post makes me want to run to the kitchen right now to make this for lunch!

  7. Stella

    That salad is so beautiful. I bet it was so good being organic and farm fresh. Nice photos too-looks like a lot of fun.

  8. Nicole Spasiano

    Oh gosh I love toasted pinenuts on salad. This looks great.
    I’ve never made a dressing with yogurt…. something new and fun to try

  9. Suzanne

    I’ve been eating alot of salads lately — its the perfect evening meal for me as it doesn’t leave me feeling heavy and stuffed. Your salad looks wonderful! I love the roasted pine nuts too!

  10. Hélène

    I would love to go to this spa. It’s not too far from your place. Lucky you.

    I’ll try this recipe. I love using yogourt for my dips. 🙂

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Helene- this spa takes 3.5 hours to get to for me and I feel so lucky, cause it’s definitely an amazing place.

  11. Dandy

    I have to admit I am a dressing junkie myself and I’ve never heard of using yogurt. It sounds fantastic!

  12. Sara

    It has been a dream of mine to go here! I read about it all the time and it seems like such an amazing little get away! I am very jealous of your trip, sounds great. Can’t wait to try the dressing ~

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Sara- hopefully you’ll have your dream come true one day. This place is so perfect for you!

  13. Kristina

    That dressing looks fantastic. I confess, I always opt for a vinaigrette over a “creamy” dressing because I think it’s healthier, but this one with yogurt looks yummy and I like pine nuts in anything. I’m going to give this a try as soon as I’m back to eating dairy.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Kristina- you can try making this with a soy based yogurt!

  14. beth aka confusedhomemaker

    Definitely looks like a great time 🙂 I also wish I looked 1/2 as good as the founder there does at 88!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Beth – Debra is amazing and still very active in her community. She’s a wonder woman.

  15. Ed Schenk

    What a great food adventure! The photos look great and the Dressing/salad sound wonderful.

  16. Bethany

    Timely — I was just complaining to a couple friends that I am salad-dressing challenged. Usually when we entertain I try to avoid the whole dressing issue and just throw some oil and vinegar out on the table and hope people can fend for themselves…. but that’s not very nice 🙂 I love creamy dressings and avoid them because of the fat, but using nonfat yogurt is a fantastic idea!

    Beautiful pictures, too — sounds like an awesome experience!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Bethany- this is the answer to all your dressing issues- non fat yogurt! The creamy-ness and flavor is so good, you don’t miss any of the fat at all.

  17. All About Food

    Thank you for sharing your lovely photos. This sounds like a place I’d love to visit. A friend just gave me a big chunk of Parmesan from her trip to Italy. I’ll be using some of it in this dressing. Sounds wonderful.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      All about food- oh lucky you to get the real deal from Italy!

  18. joey

    Looks like such a wonderful time! And a great place to visit 🙂 And an awesome dressing! Love that it’s yogurt based 🙂

  19. Girl Japan

    The photos are fantastic, like Mia said, it gives you sense of the place. I’d most likely have to take out a second mortgage to get natural parmesan. (totally exaggerating but it is EXPENSIVE here in Japan).

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Girl Japan- really? wow. Well, hopefully someone will send you some parmesan for Christmas!

  20. Mia

    Hello Diane,
    The dressing sounds yummy! Beautiful pictures too… I love the sense of “place” in your photos.
    Just wanted to double check the quantity of oregano in the dressing… it says 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried oregano”. I thought that if you were to substitute dried herbs for fresh, you would use half as much dried herbs as you would if you were using fresh herbs. Or is the substitution in this dressing really 1:1?
    Thank you!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Mia- Thanks! Add as much as you want, there are no rules! Continue adding dried oregano until the flavor suits you. It also depends on how fragrant our dried herbs are.

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