A few weeks ago I had an amazing salad at a noon hour presentation my husband and I attended to learn about rain gardens and rain barrels. We learned a little bit about both, but the food grabbed my attention even more. My favorite was one of the salads. The colors caught my eyes first – the deep green of fresh spinach, bright red tomatoes, dark slices of Kalamata olives and white ovals of pearl couscous. I topped it with the green olive vinaigrette and goat cheese they served with it, and sat down to eat. I think this salad was my favorite part of the meal. The flavors and textures blended beautifully.
Afterward I endeavored to make something similar at home. I kept the spinach, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives, but added sliced mushrooms, zucchini, and red onion. You could add even more vegetables if you want. Truth be told, I had most of these on hand when I started. They complemented each other in the salad so I kept them in. Plus they’re good for you – supplying all kinds of nutrients and fiber.
I found orzo at Trader Joe’s for only 99¢, so I went with that instead of couscous; and used a red wine vinaigrette that I modified from a recipe I found on Food Network. You can find the original vinaigrette recipe here. If you’re concerned about calories use less of the vinaigrette on your salad – or dip your fork into the vinaigrette and then stab the salad. You’ll use less vinaigrette and still get a bit of the flavor from it.
To complete the salad I added sunflower seeds for crunch and had goat cheese and feta cheese nearby as a topping – to add a little creaminess. I think it would be good with grilled chicken too, but I haven’t tried it that way yet. All in all this salad turned out tasty and visually appealing, and it makes a healthy addition to a meal.
Have you ever been inspired to come up with your own recipe by a dish you’ve had elsewhere? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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Spinach and Orzo Salad
- 1/2 c. dry orzo
- 1/2 c. thinly sliced red onion
- 1 c. sliced zucchini
- 1 c. sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 c. sliced kalamata olives
- 1 1/2 c. halved grape tomatoes
- 6 c. baby spinach or other greens if desired
- 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
- 1/2 c. feta cheese or goat cheese if desired
- 1/3 c. red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- Cook orzo according to package directions till tender, about 9 minutes. Rinse and cool completely.
- In large bowl place cleaned and sliced red onion, zucchini, mushrooms, and olives.
- Cut tomatoes in half and add to bowl along with spinach.
- Pour sunflower seeds evenly on top.
- Prepare vinaigrette by placing red wine vinegar, lemon juice, kosher salt, honey, basil, olive oil, and pepper in small bowl. Mix thoroughly with whisk or immersion blender till completely blended.
- Pour desired amount of vinaigrette over salad ingredients (or serve alongside salad and allow individuals to pour their own viniagrette)
- Toss all ingredients together.
- Top with feta or goat cheese if desired.