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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. 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).
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.
A bagel is naked without a good schmear. The word schmear comes from the Yiddish word “to spread.” In the world of bagels and brunch a schmear has come to mean cream cheese or other, usually cream cheese-based, spreads for bagels.
This quartet of schmears has something for everyone: There’s a vegetarian, smoked salmon, egg & arugula and a sweet schmear. They are perfect to bring to a Shavuot brunch for a crowd or make one or two for a family meal. Dairy plays a central role on Shavuot because the holiday commemorates the revelation of the Torah. The Torah brings with it the rules of Kashrut (Kosher laws) and since it was given on Shabbat there could be no cattle slaughtered, so it would have been a dairy day. The Torah is also a symbol of nourishment like milk for a baby. Although dairy is the base for all four of these schmears, they are each very different, easy to whip up and full of flavor.
There are four schmears because each schmear is made with 1/2 block of cream cheese. You can also make three schmears and leave 1/2 a block of cream cheese plain for the picky eaters at the table.
Salted Lemon and Smoked Salmon Schmear
2. In a small bowl, put the room temperature cream cheese.
3. Slice the smoked salmon into long, thin strips and then slice them again into little cubes.
4. Add the lemon zest and salt to the cream cheese and mash it together with a fork.
5. Once the zest is thoroughly mixed into the cream cheese, carefully mix in the minced smoked salmon. Serve immediately or chill and serve.
Vegetarian Tomato Schmear
This can be made vegan with vegan mayonnaise and vegan cream cheese.
2. Sprinkle Kosher salt over the minced tomato.
3. In a small bowl, add mayonnaise and with a rasp or smallest side of a box grater, grate garlic into the mayonnaise. You can also use a garlic press. Mix garlic into the mayonnaise.
4. Add the room temperature cream cheese into the garlic mayonnaise. Mash it all together with a fork until it is uniformly mixed.
5. Mince white onion, about the same size as the tomato. Mix the onion into the cream cheese and then carefully stir in the minced tomato and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill and serve.
Eggs and Arugula Schmear
1. Hard boil two eggs. I like to use the J. Kenji Lopez-Alt method.
2. With a cheese grater, grate the 2 hard boiled eggs into a bowl. Add in salt, sour cream and mustard and mix together. With a fork, mash in the cream cheese. Toss in black pepper (freshly ground if possible).
3. Chop about 1 cup of baby arugula, for 3/4 cup of chopped arugula. I like to hold a small bunch of leaves and with kitchen shears, snip the arugula into the egg and cream cheese mixture. Stir together gently until combined. Serve immediately or chill and serve.
Sweet Schmear with Ginger & Blueberries
The last 1/2 block of cream cheese can be left plain or you can play a little with it for something sweet. I chose to add sugar and ginger.
Mash the sugar into the cream cheese with a fork. Grate the ginger into the mixture and serve with a bowl of fresh blueberries.