Israeli Orzo Salad with Pesto Dressing

  

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.

Israeli Orzo Salad with Parsley Feta Pesto

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

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of blanched almonds
  • 1 cup of curly parsley, stems removed
  • 1/2 lb of feta, divided
  • 2 small cloves of garlicSAMSUNG CSC
  • 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

Directions:

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.SAMSUNG CSC

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).

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This salad makes a perfect lunch alone, or serve with some grilled fish or meat for dinner.

Spinach and Feta Hamentaschen (Haman Spanikopita)

  

Haman spanikopita

Haman spanikopita for Purim

Hamentaschen, a popular treat for the holiday of Purim, translates to “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the story of Purim and in addition to booing whenever his name is mentioned, on  Purim we eat sweet filled cookies that are in the triangular shape of Haman’s hat. This is a savory twist on the traditional Hamentaschen and can be served as an appetizer or as part of a Purim meal. It is made with pre-made pie crust, so it is a quick and easy dish to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes of pre-made pie crust (2 crusts/box)
  • 2 oz. of soft fresh goat cheese
  • 2 oz. of Feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of cottage cheese
  • 1/2 medium sized onion
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/4 lb. frozen broccoli
  • 1 bunch of dill (1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. nigella seeds (optional)

chopped broccoli

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450℉. Thaw the broccoli in a colander by running cold water of it. Then set it aside on a kitchen towel to dry a little. Then, thaw the spinach in a colander by running cold water over the spinach. Once thawed, put the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the excess water out of the spinach or push the moisture out through a sieve.

mixed spanikopita ingreditents2.  Mash the goat cheese, cottage cheese and feta in a bowl with a fork until uniformly mixed. Add the salt, pepper and lemon zest. Scoop out 1/3 of the cheese mix to set aside. The other 2/3 will be mixed with the spinach, broccoli, dill and onion.

3.  Finely chop the broccoli and the dill. Slice and mince 1/2 the onion. If the spinach is whole leaf then chop the spinach as well. Stir the broccoli and spinach into the cheese mixture. Set the mixture aside and prepare your pastry.

4.  Roll the pie crusts out slightly so they are about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the sides to make approximately a 9-10-inch square. Do not worry if your measurements are off as long as you have a rectangle or square-like shape. You can keep the trim to roll out again later. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares or whatever looks even. You will have about 9 squares per pie dough.

make triangles of dough

add cheese to spanikopita

fill in your spanikopita5.  With a knife you can score diagonally across the square (or just eyeball it). Then cut a triangle window out of one side of the square with at least a 1/2-inch border. Carefully pull the uncut side of the square over onto the cut side and push along the middle crease. Then flip the dough over so you’ll have a triangle cutout on top of a triangle of dough.

6.  With a fork, press down along the edges of the triangle to crimp the dough. Fill each pastry cutout with a small spoonful of just the cheese mixture and then a larger spoonful of the spinach, broccoli and feta mixture piled high in the center. You can pinch the edges to fill out the corners of the triangle.

7. Brush the sides of each hamentaschen with egg and sprinkle with nigella seeds (optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pie crust is a light golden brown.

Delicious spanikopita for Purim

Haman spanikopita