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 pot of salted water to a rolling boil (1 Tbsp of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Add the orzo to the pot. Leave uncovered, cook on high heat with a vigorous boil for 8-10 minutes until al dente (cooked, but still a little firm).
Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly.
2 Toast the pine nuts: 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 Purée half the spinach with 1 Tbsp olive oil, mix with orzo: Take half of the spinach and purée it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. 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.
4 Mix onion, feta, pine nuts, olives, remaining spinach with the orzo: Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. Then gently mix the spinach, the red onion, feta cheese, pine nuts, and the Kalamata olives in with the orzo.
5 Make dressing: 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.)
6 Pour dressing over orzo: Pour over orzo spinach mixture and gently mix in until well incorporated.
Chill for at least an hour before serving.