Welcome Summer with an Italian Inspired Salad

Finally! Summer seems to have broken through the grip of the nasty winter. This means a return to colder food, and of course, salads are on the menu.

I recently had to prepare a filling dish that was easy to transport. Nothing like a good old pasta salad to fit this bill. Bored with my regulars, I decided to come up with something new, pretty much hauling out whatever was in my fridge, and it worked!

I was so inspired by the colors of my favorite country in the world to visit – Italy. The red, white and green are covered by the pasta and zfatit cheese (white); roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes (red); and rocket and basil (green). With a few additional colors abd tastes to round out the flavor, this salad is just yummy, and looks great on a table. You can also adjust the quantities of the vegetables and cheese according to your own preferences.

ITALIAN FLAG PASTA SALAD

Ingredients

500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or any other sturdy noodle)

1-2 cups of roasted pepper pieces (if you’re in a hurry, you can used bottled roasted peppers, or for a more tasty option, roast them yourself – click here for the “how to”).

200 g (7 oz) Tzfatit cheese cut into small cubes (I recommend the Meshek Tzuriel brand – very creamy) If you can’t get Tzfatit, use a very mild feta cheese. For the parev version, just omit the cheese.

½ cup of chopped black olives (I buy the pre-cut olives – saves tons of time)

¾ cup corn kernels

About 15 cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

A large handful of rocket leaves

A small handful of fresh basil leaves chopped

Dressing

¾ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 heaped teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper

How to do it

1. Roast the peppers (if you’re not buying). You can prepare them ahead of time and refrigerate. Cut the peeled roasted peppers into small pieces.

2. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box. When you drain the pasta, rinse with cold water to cool down quickly and set aside. Rinsing also stops the pasta from sticking together.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, peppers and all the rest of the ingredients and gently toss.

4. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad and mix

Serves about 12 as a side dish.

 

 

Pasta-free Zucchini Lasagna for Pesach

Zucchini Lasagna

You know those recipes that people post on their Facebook statuses? I am sure most of you ignore them. But recently, one caught my eye for a zucchini parmesan. Coming just before Pesach, I decided it was worth a second read as it didn’t have any chametz.

I wasn’t excited about the part that called for frying the zucchini, but I saw the potential and decided to transform it into a “fake lasagna” that would work well as a side dish or even main dish for vegetarians for Pesach. So I went all mad-cook on the recipe, and came out with a dish that will definitely become part of my year-round repertoire. It’s got all the flavors of lasagna without the pasta, so this means it’s also good for those who stay away from gluten.

PASTA-FREE ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

4-6 large zucchinis sliced lengthways into half centimeter (¼ inch) slices (if you only have small zucchinis, then make sure you have enough to cover two full oven trays). Slice off a thin slice of skin on either side of the zucchini so that there aren’t any slices that are half skin. zucchinilasagna1

300 g (12 oz) grated Mozzarella

400g (14 oz) crushed tomatoes

4-5 garlic cloves crushed

6-8 fresh chopped basil leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

250 g (½lb) ricotta cheese (you can also use cottage cheese)

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

100 g (4 oz) grated Parmesan or Emmental cheese (any cheese with a nice tang)

How to do it

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF)

2. Line two large baking trays with baking paper and lightly spread them with olive oil. Line the trays with the sliced zucchini – squeeze them all in there; there’s no need for space between the slices.

3. Roast for about half an hour till just starting to get color, turning them over halfway through. (Make sure not to overcook them as they will get too soft and you won’t be able to handle them.)

3. In a small saucepan, heat some olive oil and fry the garlic just until it starts to get golden. Add the crushed tomato, chopped fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper, and sugar. Allow to come to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

4. In a bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, salt and pepper. Mix till combined. Set aside.

5. To assemble, grease a medium-sized baking dish with a little olive oil or cooking spray. Evenly spread about 4-5 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.

6. Place a layer of zucchini strips on top of the tomato sauce, trying to cover as much of the area as possible. Spread the ricotta mixture over the tomato sauce, spread about one third of the tomato sauce over the ricotta, and then sprinkle about half the grated Mozzarella over the tomato sauce.

7. Add another layer of the zucchini strips on top of the cheese, and spread another one third of the tomato sauce over it, followed by the rest of the Mozarella.

8. Add a final layer of zucchini strips, followed by tomato sauce and the Parmesan or Emmental cheese, spreading it evenly over the top of the dish.

9. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese starts browning slightly.

Serves about 8 as a side dish.