Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Orzo Salad 1

This is a great summer salad that goes well with any backyard barbeque or potluck. It’s perfect to make ahead because the kale and spinach are hearty greens that hold up well with dressing. In fact, I think it tastes even better the next day.  I made it to go with my Mediterranean grilled meatballs…that recipe is on the way soon! It would also make a great weeknight dinner with a little grilled chicken on top.

There are a few things that make this dish stand out. The bold flavors of the sun dried tomatoes, olives, and feta really make this salad. I like to buy olives from my grocery store’s olive bar so I can get a couple of different types. It’s nice to be able to buy exactly as much as you need, too.  A really good feta also makes a difference.

I love Pastures of Eden which is sold at my local Trader Joe’s. It’s an imported sheep’s milk feta and it is mellow and delicious. Even my husband likes it and he is not a big fan of feta cheese.

This recipe really feeds a crowd. We served it to company and had leftovers for lunch…yum! You can cut it in half or just use less pasta if you don’t need as much. It keeps really well for a few days in the fridge. I promise you, if you serve this salad at your next summer gathering…your family and friends will think you are a culinary genius!

Orzo Salad 2

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Serves 8 – 10

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad Printable Recipe Link

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 lb of orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one bunch of dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato or Tuscan kale), ribs removed and chopped
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup of assorted olives of your choice (I used a combo of green and kalamata), sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (I like the kind in olive oil)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil

Directions:

Make the lemon vinaigrette first by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well. Slowly whisking in the olive oil at the end makes for a nicely emulsified dressing that won’t separate. But…you can always throw everything in a small mason jar and shake it really well! Just remember to shake it again before dressing your salad.

Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until it is just al dente. I like to cook it just a minute less than it needs so that it still has a little bite once it has absorbed the dressing. Drain the orzo, add it to a large salad bowl, and toss it with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil so that it does not stick together. Let it cool down to room temp. Add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing and mix well. I like to save a little cheese and some pine nuts to sprinkle over the top before I serve it.


Spinach and Asparagus Salad

Delicious, Flavorful, and Healthy!

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For those of you that follow Juicy Bites, I’m SURE your wondering where the heck I have been! Or…at least I like to think you have all been wondering that :). I haven’t gone anywhere (except for Maui on vacation!). I have been right here, thinking about how I should be blogging, but not finding the motivation to do it.  While we were in Maui, my 6 year old Finn asked me, “Mommy, did you forget that you have a blog?”. Ouch! Guess it had been a while since I had talked about it or posted anything. I have come up with a lot of excuses not to blog some of the things I have been cooking.

First off, it is a bit time consuming. Then there is the fact that you actually have to make something “blog worthy” to post. I know there is a really wide variety of people that seek out food blogs for recipes. I was finding myself thinking that even though I made something delicious, I would worry that some readers would think it wasn’t healthy enough, some readers would think it was too healthy, some readers would think it wasn’t easy enough, or people just plain wouldn’t be interested. I got a little caught up in what it was that I wanted this blog to be all about.

I needed to remind myself why I started Juicy Bites in the first place.  I wanted a “cook book” of the things that my family and I love to eat.  A place to record all of the juicy bites that I make at home. Sometimes those things are super healthy, like my Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl, and sometimes they are super easy, like my Super Quick Fish Tacos. I thought it would be a great way to record my favorite recipes, and share them with my family and friends. Sometimes when I ask my son, Max, what he wants for dinner, he will say he wants to look at my blog and pick something out. I kind of LOVE that! So, I guess I better keep up with this and not worry about weather anyone else wants to make whatever it is that I posted. And, if  they do…fabulous!!IMG_1827So let’s talk about this salad! A while back my good friend, Lori, made a similar salad when I had her family over for dinner. I have loved it ever since and it has been on my blogging to do list for a while. I decided to make it for lunch yesterday and forced myself to take some pictures before gobbling it up! It is a delicious combo of baby spinach, blanched asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and avocado. I topped it with a little shaved manchego cheese and toasted pine nuts. The dressing is a balsamic dijon vinaigrette, really simple and delicious!

There are a ton of adaptations you could make with this. My friend’s original version had arugula instead of spinach (which was really good!) and Marcona almonds instead of pine nuts. You could also use what ever cheese you have on hand. Shaved parmesan would be great.

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Blanching

This salad is simple to make…just a quick blanch for the asparagus before hand. And when I say quick, I mean like a minute or less! When you blanch a veggie, you want your salted water to be at a full boil. Throw your veggies in and be ready to get them out pretty quick and put them straight into an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the texture crisp and the color bright. After a few minutes in the ice bath, drain and let them dry on paper towels. You can do this step in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

IMG_3560Avocados are plentiful right now in California and they are oh so good! We go through at least a couple a day in my house. For a salad I like my avocados “firm ripe”, which means I don’t want them too soft, but just so they give a little when you press on the skin. A “firm ripe” avocado holds together better when you are tossing a salad. Save the soft ripe avos for guacamole or avocado toast (a favorite breakfast around here).

IMG_3561The dressing I made is a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I love the sweetness from the balsamic vinegar.  A little dijon mustard adds just the right kick. This is a good time to bust out your best olive oil. I used a Spanish olive oil with amazing flavor…it really makes the dressing! This recipe made more than enough for my salad, so depending how much you use, you may have a little left over.IMG_1826

Spinach and Asparagus Salad

Makes 2 entree size salads or 4-6 servings as a starter

Ingredients:

  • 1 six-ounce package of baby spinach
  • 1 bundle of asparagus (about 12 – 16 ounces) – cut into 1 inch pieces, and blanched & chilled (see directions on blanching above)
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and blotted with a paper towel
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • a couple ounces of shaved hard aged cheese (like manchego, parmesan, or romano) – a vegetable peeler works great for this!
  • Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Toss the spinach, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and diced avocado together with the dressing (how much you use depends on how “dressed” you like your salad, it’s best to start with a little and add more if it needs it). Season with plenty of salt and pepper (this is important…avocados scream for salt and pepper!). Top with the shaved cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (adjust to suit your taste)
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate any unused portion.
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