Well this salad wasn’t very challenging to photograph. I mean, just look at it. All those colors show up perfectly in the photos and I’ll tell you, it’s a great salad. Super simple to make and it’s so easy to double or triple up on the ingredients for an outing or for when you have guests over the house.
The original recipe called for using pearl (Israeli) couscous as the primary pasta ingredient. Just as luck would have it, I couldn’t find this type of couscous at our local grocery store anywhere. I did manage to pick up the whole grain version of it for a previous recipe, but ran out for this one. Luckily, I bought two pounds of orzo the last time I went shopping. Since orzo is so similar to pearl couscous, I decided to substitute it with that.
The orzo worked out perfectly and I really should stock up on both ingredients. To start off, I toasted the pasta and then cooked it through. I prepared the vinaigrette, toasted the pecans and combined all the ingredients. What I was left with was a perfectly simple and tasty salad to enjoy almost any time of the day. Lunch, dinner, as a side salad – whatever. It’s very versatile.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups Orzo
Ground Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Pub Style Mustard
12 Ounces Grape Tomatoes, Halved
3 Cups Baby Spinach, Coarsely Chopped
2 Cups Fresh Basil, Coarsely Chopped
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, Sliced
1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted
1/2 Cup Parsley, Chopped
I’d like to thank America’s Test Kitchen and for their resource titled The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook for this recipe. It’s just one in a long list of incredible dished I’ve prepared from this book.
Cook the Orzo
Warm a large skillet and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is to temperature, add the orzo.
Cook and stir constantly for about 5 minutes or until you see the orzo begin to lightly brown. At that point, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 3 cups of water to the skillet. Raise the heat to high until the water begins to boil. Then, lower the heat back to medium, cover the pan and let the orzo cook for approximately 10 minutes until it’s soft, yet firm.
Be sure to check on the orzo every few minutes. You may need to add half cups of water as time goes on. As I was cooking this, I needed to add 1 extra cup of water because the orzo began getting a bit dry. You be the judge on this.
When it’s finished, you should have nice toasted orzo that’s tender and tastes great.
Remove the skillet from the heat and let the orzo cool down for 15 minutes.
Prepare the Vinaigrette
In a medium sized bowl, add the vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Also add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk these ingredients together well.
Prep Remaining Ingredients
Now that the bulk of the work has been finished, you can prep the vegetables as you wait for the orzo to cool down. As I did this, I snapped a few photos of the results.
First, I rinsed off the tomatoes and sliced them in half lengthwise (after the photo) and I coarsely chopped the baby spinach.
Then, I coarsely chopped the basil and parsley and measured out the kalamata olives.
I’ve been growing basil and parsley, among other things, in our garden in the back yard. That’s where I got these ingredients. Isn’t that incredible? I love it because we have tons of this stuff.
Toast the Pecans
Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of olive oil to it and then add the pecans. Keep flipping the pecans for a few minutes over the heat until you begin to smell them toasting. Remove the pan and turn off the heat.
In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, spinach, basil, olives, pecans, parsley and vinaigrette and toss well.
Next, add in the orzo, mix and let sit for a few minutes so the flavors can combine with each other. If necessary, season with salt and pepper.
Plate & Serve
Divide the salad between plates or bowls, serve and enjoy.
The Final Salad
It does seem like there were a lot of steps, but really, there weren’t. If you read through this recipe twice, you’ll formulate a plan that’s really simple to execute. I suggest you double up because this salad refrigerates well and you’re definitely going to want some tomorrow night too. Enjoy and thanks for reading!