This salad proved two things to us: yes, there is such thing as a hearty winter salad; and yes, you can assemble a really excellent meal from Trader Joe's cupboard staples.
Winter greens, rosemary almonds, sun-dried tomatoes steeped in hot walnut oil, and more, in this salad...
We were looking for a salad with orzo. Orzo has a pleasantly firm bite and tender texture that makes it really delicious in salads - especially salads of bitter greens. There was this chicken salad at Macaroni Grill (shhh!) that we used to get and it was delicious.
Here we cooked orzo till it was barely al dente, then tossed it with winter spinach and some endive for crunch. Sun-dried tomatoes give it sun-warmed flavor, even in the dead of winter. We added a can of cooked chicken from Trader Joe's too, although you can leave this out if you're a vegetarian or if you just want a lighter side salad. The chicken elevates this into hearty one-bowl meal territory.
The crowning touch for this salad, though, is Trader Joe's Rosemary Marcona Almonds. Roasted and oily, with flecks of real rosemary, these are little explosions of flavor that the tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, and winter greens all come together in a salad that is a true meal.
Orzo Salad with Rosemary Almonds and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
serves 6 as a side
1 head winter spinach (the tough, full-grown spinach - not bagged baby greens)
1 head endive, radicchio, or arugula
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into slivers
1 12.5 ounce can Trader Joe's Canned Chicken
1 package Trader Joe's Rosemary Marcona Almonds
About 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Wash and dry the greens very thoroughly - the spinach will be sandy and dirty. Cut the spinach into fine ribbons, and hand-tear the arugula or endive into bite-size pieces. Toss the greens.
Pour about half a cup of boiling water and tablespoon of the walnut oil over the tomatoes. Let them bloom and soften for at least fifteen minutes. Drain the tomatoes and reserve the steeping liquid.
Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot over medium heat. Film with olive oil and add the chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes - just until all heated through. Toss with the salad greens.
Toss in the almonds and cheese and mix well. For the vinaigrette, mix the tomato steeping liquid with the walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix to taste, then pour over the salad. We used about half the vinaigrette; we don't like our salads too wet.