Toss It

With summer well on its way (despite not officially beginning for about a week), it's time to pay tribute to some summer favorites. Whether you are hosting a backyard cookout or heading to a neighborhood potluck, make sure you have some tried and true favorites on your side. This time around, we're talking about a quick and healthy pasta salad.

This pasta salad is brimming with fresh spinach, sweet mandarin oranges, tangy dried cranberries, and crunchy almonds. Then it's tossed with a fantastic teriyaki dressing that's salty, sweet, garlicky, and more. Once assembled, it will keep for a few days, but it is best just after being tossed with the dressing. It makes a perfect backyard potluck offering because it is great chilled or at room temperature and has no ingredients in it that cause trouble in warm weather.

The combination of fruit and spinach along with the complex dressing makes this one of my favorite go-to summer recipes. I've been known to make variations on it, but the options listed below really are my favorites. It's always good to have a few picnic-ready salad recipes in your pocket when summer's here and I'll be setting you up with another the next time around. In the meantime, happy eating!

Orange-Spinach Pasta Salad

  • 16 ounces short pasta — choose your favorite shape
  • ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
  • ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds
  • 1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

While the pasta is boiling, prepare the dressing. In a resealable jar, combine the dressing ingredients (teriyaki sauce through extra virgin olive oil). Cover and shake to combine. Chill until ready to use.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the pasta, spinach, dried cranberries, almonds, and mandarin oranges. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad, toss, and serve.

  • Yields: 12-16 side dish servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes