Salad is an interesting dish, but we often think of it in its humblest form: the side salad with a few leaves of lettuce and maybe a few add-ons soaked in dressing. In reality though, salad can be a hundred different dishes. There are salads with grains, salads with noodles, salads that are grilled, salads topped with steak or salmon. In North America, we typically think of salads with lettuce or greens, but Israeli salads are usually perfectly cubed vegetables like sweet, slightly acidic tomatoes (technically a fruit!), refreshing cucumbers, a little onion if you like and maybe some peppers.
This Orzo salad is a twist on a classic Israeli salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. The Italian rice-like pasta orzo is added in with the vegetables, and a pesto of parsley, almonds and feta creates the sauce and seasoning for this tasty summer salad. Pesto comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to crush. A pesto is a delicious paste of crushed herbs and and spices. For this salad you can add in any additional vegetables you like.
Israeli Orzo Salad
- 1/2 cup of blanched almonds
- 1 cup of curly parsley, stems removed
- 1/2 lb of feta, divided
- 2 small cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 3 large tomatoes OR 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, OR a combination of both
- 3 cups of chopped cucumbers
- 1/2 lb of uncooked orzo
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 a green pepper, optional
- 1/2 cup of pitted olives, optional
1. In a large pot, boil water and add a tablespoon of salt.
2. While the water is boiling, wash and dry your parsley. Add your parsley, blanched almonds, garlic and a 1/4 pound of the feta to a blender or food processor. Add in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Purée together to make your pesto.
3. Once the water comes to a boil, cook the orzo as directed on the box (about 7-9 minutes usually).
4. Drain the pasta and mix in 1/2 of the pesto, then toss to coat.
5. While the pasta cools to room temperature, wash a cut your vegetables. You want the tomatoes, cucumber and optional green pepper to be about 1/- inch cubes.
6. Once the orzo has cooled, toss in all the vegetables. Toss in the zest of one lemon and the rest of the pesto. Crumble the rest of the feta cheese (or less to taste) over the top of the salad and sprinkle on the olives (optional).
This salad makes a perfect lunch alone, or serve with some grilled fish or meat for dinner.