Salmon with Orzo, Baby Spinach & Vinaigrette Recipe
I’ve been putting together a lot of recipes lately, which has left me with a fair amount of leftover ingredients. So, when I discovered a salmon recipe by Curtis Stone in his cookbook, What’s For Dinner, I got an idea. If I used his general idea and swapped out some ingredients for what I had laying around, I might end up with a magical creation. One trip to the grocery store later – a dinner was born.
Today’s recipe is all good. It incorporates the flavors of salmon that’s been cooked on the stove top with the textures of orzo and baby spinach. On top of that, the taste of queso fresco and a chopped shallot vinaigrette finishes things off. It’s the perfect combination for either a weeknight or for something special. There’s nothing too complicated and there’s nothing to warn you about (such as garlic). And the best part is, you’ll likely have leftover orzo salad for the day after you enjoy the dinner. I’m all about leftovers.
1 1/2 Cups Dry Orzo
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Medium Shallot, Chopped
1/3 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
3 Cups Baby Spinach, Coarsely Chopped
1 1/2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
1/2 Cup Pecans, Coarsely Chopped and Toasted
1/4 Cup Curly Parsley, Chopped
1 Cup Queso Fresco, Crumbled
1/4 Cup Scallions, Chopped
4 6-Ounce Salmon Fillets
Regular Olive Oil
As you can see, you can easily substitute many of the above ingredients. Use basil for the parsley, use pine nuts for the pecans, use balsamic for the red wine vinegar. The list goes on. What’s important here is that you put together the flavor and texture profiles that are most pleasing to you. Much of the ingredient list is comprised of what I had in the refrigerator, but as I begin to harvest what I grow in the gardens this summer, things will change. I’ll certainly add chives and perhaps kale and chard. We’ll see how things go.
Cook the Orzo
Heat 6 cups of water in a large saucepan over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the 1 1/2 cups of dry orzo. Stir often until the pasta is tender. When finished, strain in a colander and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, add the 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, the 1 medium sized chopped shallot and the 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Combine these ingredients well and when finished, season with salt and pepper if you wish. The final flavor is really up to you.
Make Orzo Salad
In a large bowl, add the 3 cups of coarsely chopped baby spinach, the 1 1/2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes, the 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped and toasted pecans and the 1/4 cup of chopped curly parsley
Combine the above ingredients well. After that, add in the vinaigrette and the orzo. Again, combine well.
Cook the Salmon
On your stove top, add some regular olive oil (1 tablespoon) to a large skillet and heat to medium. Let warm up to temperature for a few minutes. You know you’re ready when the oil begins to wisp some smoke. I used my cast iron, but you can use whatever you have. I suggest something that the salmon won’t stick to.
(I only cooked two because there are only two of us.)
Starting skin side down, cook the salmon for a few minutes. When you see that the salmon has cooked about half-way up the sides, go ahead and flip them over. Then, cook for just a minute or two, being very careful not to overcook. Once the top has a nice golden color, remove the salmon from the heat. If you’re interested in Gordon Ramsey’s method for cooking skin-on salmon, you can take a look at this post I wrote a while ago:
Plate & Serve
As the salmon is cooking, go ahead and add some orzo salad to the plates. Then, sprinkle the crumbled queso fresco and chopped scallions over the salad. Finally, when the salmon is finished, place one piece per plate on top of the salad.
The Final Product
I love this dish. I think I enjoy the fact that it’s guilt free the most. I can eat this every night for the rest of my life. It’s light and airy and the salmon is perfect.
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