Spinach and Orzo Salad
“Needs more cheese.” “Needs more vinegar.” “Needs fewer olives.” “You could add more spinach.”
My parents love it when I cook for them, especially when it’s a new recipe and they get to be the taste testers. They happily put up with the delays to the meal due to my tweaking the dish as they “dish out” their suggestions. And with the delays that come from my attempts to take the perfect photo (“Don’t touch that, I still haven’t shot it!”). I love their input, as they know much more about food than I do, and their suggestions almost always result in something better.
This spinach, orzo, and feta salad recipe comes from our happy family collaboration. Feel free to experiment with the proportions. Many recipes I’ve found online call for twice as much orzo to the other ingredients than I’ve listed here. I think there is a lot of room for maneuvering when you are working with great ingredients like these.
- 8 ounces orzo pasta
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 6 ounces feta cheese, roughly crumbled
- 2 ounces Kalamata Greek olives pitted, roughly chopped, about 1/2 cup (about 20 olives)
- 4 ounces baby spinach
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about half a red onion)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (can substitute white vinegar or lemon juice)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch dried basil
- Pinch dried tarragon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Cook the orzo pasta. Bring to a boil a pot with 2 quarts of water in it. Once the water is boiling, salt it with a couple teaspoons of salt. Once the water returns to a boil add the orzo to the pot. Leave uncovered, cook on high heat with a vigorous boil. Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package says is appropriate for al dente (cooked but still a little firm). Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly.
2 Toast the pine nuts by heating a small skillet on medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir occasionally until the pine nuts are lightly browned. Pay attention or you'll burn the pine nuts.
3 Take half of the spinach and purée it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. In a large serving bowl mix the spinach purée olive oil mixture in with cooked orzo until the pasta is well coated with the purée. Then gently mix in the remaining spinach, the red onion, feta cheese, pine nuts, and the Kalamata olives.
3 In a small jar, combine the remaining olive oil (2 Tbsp), balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, dried basil, and dried tarragon. Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine. (You can also just whisk together these ingredients in a small bowl, but the jar method works great to get a good emulsion.) Pour over orzo spinach mixture and gently mix in until well incorporated.
4 Chill for at least an hour before serving.