As promised, we are sharing another delicious recipe from Brian Talley’s new cookbook, Our California Table, in anticipation of the book’s spring release date. This fresh and veggie-filled side dish is the perfect way to kick-start all of those healthy New Year’s resolutions. Not to mention it’s versatile, too. Just add some grilled chicken or shrimp to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a good looking entrée.
This is a recipe that my wife, Johnine, has been making since before we got married, and one that family members and guests have requested many times. It was originally developed by Mary Evely, the chef at Simi Winery in Sonoma County, one of the oldest wineries in California. The salad incorporates a number of vegetables that we grow, including spinach, red bell pepper, and green onion. Orzo, if you’re not familiar with it, is a small, rice-like pasta. The original version of the salad calls for capers as well, but Johnine doesn’t like capers, so she omitted them from her version. The dish can be made well in advance and, with the addition of shrimp or chicken, makes a perfect entrée salad.
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook orzo as directed on the package to al dente, rinse with cold water, and drain. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then set aside.
Prepare dressing by combining remaining olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, herbs, and cumin. Whisk until smooth, then set aside.
Place orzo in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Add spinach, olives, pepper, and green onion. The salad can be held for several hours.
To serve: Top with feta cheese and pine nuts.
What to drink: This fresh summer salad is perfect with a light white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé. A light Pinot Noir is good if the salad accompanies grilled meat.