Yields: 6-8 servings
- 5 ounces fresh spinach (half a 10 ounce bag)
- 1 and 1/2 cups dry small pasta
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 can (15 ounces) mandarin oranges
- 1 large Granny Smith Apple
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/3 cup pecans
- Optional: Feta cheese
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2-4 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon each: paprika, onion powder
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the oil (the vegetable oil yields a richer and in my opinion better taste, but the olive oil is healthier and still tastes great), apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar, (adjust — more or less to personal preference, we like a less sweet dressing and use about 2 tablespoons) paprika, and onion powder. Pulse or blend for about 10 seconds. Stir in the poppy seeds.
- Drain the pasta once it’s cooked through and immediately toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the pasta. This helps the pasta soak in the dressing and the flavor.
- Chill the dressed pasta in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, combine the (washed and de-stemmed) spinach with the chopped celery in a large bowl. Add in the cranberries and a can of drained mandarin oranges.
- If desired peel the apple (We like to leave on the peel!) and then slice into thin slices. Toss with lemon juice and then add to the salad.
- Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Add in the completely cooled pasta and toss with the rest of the salad.
- If you want to toast the pecans, place them in a single layer in a dry saucepan (don’t add anything) over medium heat. Stir constantly until the nuts are barely fragrant — just a couple of minutes. Watch carefully as the nuts are VERY easily scorched/burned.
- Alternatively, you can candy the pecans if desired. Check the link in the last paragraph of the blog text for how to candy pecans.
- Top the salad with the pecans and feta cheese.
- Enjoy immediately.