Orzo and Bean Salad with Sweet Potatoes

Orzo and Bean Salad

One thing that is really hard for me about life in Walla Walla is the lack of a Trader Joe’s within a 200 mile radius. Whenever I travel to Portland, or even California, I stock up and drag all my TJ’s loot back home with me. I even shipped a box of kitchen goodies home from San Diego this winter, and have been happily enjoying my Candy Cane Jo Jo’s since then. One thing I always pick up is a can or two of their Marinated Salad Beans. These beans are awesome for a quick weeknight dinner, and this salad is one of my new favorites. In fact, I love it so much that now that I’m out of Trader Joe’s Marinated Salad Beans, I’ve been working on making the same vinaigrette to marinate my own salad beans. I’ve also found a few other brands that are more widely carried, and they make a decent substitute, although I don’t think they’re quite as good.

One thing I really like about this particular bean salad is the sweet potatoes. At first I wasn’t really sure they fit in here, but after a few bites, I realized that their unexpected sweetness balances the bitterness of the spinach and acidity of the beans’ vinaigrette very nicely. They do add some time to the cooking process; without them, this would be a 15 minute meal.

Is a salad really sufficient as a full meal? This would probably be a side dish in most houses, but I find a larger serving is perfect for dinner. And it’s even more delicious the next day, when the vinaigrette has had a chance to soak into the orzo, and the spinach is just a bit more wilted.

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If you’re lucky enough to live close to a Trader Joe’s, I urge you to go buy some marinated salad beans and make this for dinner. If, like me, you live in a TJs-free land, you might be able to find salad beans at your local supermarket, sometimes in a vinaigrette, sometimes not. I included a recipe for a simple vinaigrette below that stands in quite nicely for the TJ’s marinade.

Orzo and Bean Salad with Sweet Potatoes
This makes 2 large or 3-4 small servings

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 14-ounce can of marinated salad beans (mine included kidney beans, chickpeas, and pinto beans)
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the sweet potato into 1-inch chunks. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, or grease it with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, turning them once halfway through baking.

While the potatoes cook, boil some water and cook the orzo until it’s al dente. The rest of this is about as easy as pie. Just stir together the beans (don’t drain them; the marinade acts as a vinaigrette), orzo, roasted sweet potatoes, and spinach. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you don’t have marinated beans, you can make your own vinaigrette.

Simple Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinaigre
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste

I make vinaigrette as simply as I can: I just put all the ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake it until it’s emulsified. Use as much as you prefer; the rest will keep for awhile in the refrigerator.

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I absolutely love meals like this: Fast and simple, healthy and light, but filling, and the leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day. If you’re not sure about the sweet potatoes, some roasted red potatoes or fingerling potatoes would be terrific (although they don’t add quite as many healthy properties). And this salad was practically made for picnics; I can’t wait until the weather is warm enough for outdoor eating. I’m sure this dish will make many appearances this summer, at least as long as I can keep stocking up at Trader Joe’s when I travel.

19. February 2011 by laura k
Categories: beans, pasta, salads, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Glad you’re back! This salad recipe was a perfect inspiration yesterday. We needed something fast and vegetably with good leftover potential. I skipped the sweet potato and added little broccoli florets instead, and chopped olives for extra flavor. It was perfect.

    Also, I am completely enamored of those cranberry scones from a few months ago. I pretty much always have a bag of frozen scones in the freezer now.

    • I think your version of this salad sounds even better! I will have to give it a try.

      I’m running a little low on the cranberry scones, myself. Might be time to make another batch.

  2. Thx for your comment, the salad looks really good. Have to try it sometime.