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bowl of pasta and vegetables salad

MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD RECIPE 

This fresh easy pasta salad comes together so quickly.  It is loaded with so much Mediterranean flavor and pairs well with any menu.  This pasta salad is great served cold, so it’s a perfect make ahead dish.

This pasta salad is one of my favorites as a main meal or great served as a side for any menu. It’s so refreshing and a great way to use up many of your pantry staples. 

WHAT IS ORZO?

Orzo is a shortcut pasta that is shaped like a grain of rice. You can easily find this in the pasta aisle of your grocery store. You cook it just like any other pasta following the box instructions. I find this pasta not very heavy like other types of pasta. 

WHAT’S IN THIS MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD? 

If you love eating fresh, then many of these salad ingredients may already be stocked in your fridge or pantry. Below are the ingredients I used in this salad: 

  • Orzo pasta
  • Bell pepper
  • Red onion
  • Grape vine tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Sun Dried tomatoes
  • Fresh dill
  • Fresh parsley 

VINAIGRETTE 

  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Dry oregano
  • Salt & pepper

There is no hard-and-fast rule for these types of salads. You can easily swap out any of the above ingredients for: 

  • Other short pasta like bowtie, penne or elbow
  • Chickpeas, couscous or quinoa 
  • Mix of greens like spinach, arugula 
  • Grilled chicken or shrimp
  • Avocado 

LEFTOVERS & STORAGE

This pasta tastes great as leftovers. Store in an airtight container and it’s good for about 3-5 days. Since it has cheese you want to make sure you refrigerate it soon after serving.

MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD RECIPE

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8
This fresh, easy pasta salad comes together so quickly.  It is loaded with so much Mediterranean flavor and pairs well with any menu. This pasta salad is great served cold, so it's a perfect make ahead dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup orzo pasta (uncooked)
  • 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 small red onion (diced)
  • 1 cup grape vine tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/2 large English cucumber (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup mixed olives (pitted/sliced)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (sliced)
  • small bunch fresh dill (chopped)
  • small bunch fresh parsley (chopped)

VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (see notes for substitute)
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 garlic clove (finely minced)
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (adjust salt to taste)

Instructions 

  • Boil the pasta according to package instructions. After draining the pasta just drizzle some olive oil so it does not stick together. Set aside and allow it to cool. You don't want to add hot pasta to all the veggies.
  • Transfer the cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped veggies, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs.
  • In a small bowl whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients. Make sure to taste and adjust any of the flavorings.
  • Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad and toss until well combined. Lastly add the crumbled feta cheese and toss to mix. You don't want to over mix the feta cheese. Give a taste and adjust any flavors like the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Garnish with extra feta cheese and herbs. Serve cold.

Video

Author: Shazia
Course: SIDE
Cuisine: GREEK, Mediterranean

 

bowl of rice and green peas

SIMPLE MATAR PULAO (Green Peas Pilaf)

Matar Pulao is a very classic South Asian dish made with caramelized onions, spices and green peas. This is the perfect side that is served along with many Pakistani and Indian curries. 

WHAT IS MATAR PULAO?

Matar is the Urdu and Hindi word for green peas. Pulao’s are rice dishes of South Asian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern origin. The recipe for pulao is usually made with rice, meat, chicken and vegetables, but can also be made plain.  It’s got aromatics, whole and powdered spices and can be cooked in water or stock. Pulao’s can be sweet and savory with the addition of dry fruits and nuts. Many recipes will use basmati rice, resulting in rice that is so aromatic and fluffy. 

This is the ultimate classic and comfort rice dish that I grew up eating and have passed down to my kids. It’s always on rotation on our weekly menu. This is a great beginner’s recipe to make if you are trying to perfect your rice making skills because it’s easy and delicious. 

RECIPE NOTES

Don’t shy away from the recipe if you are missing an ingredient or two. I feel like Pakistani recipes are very forgiving. Many times, it’s not the ingredients but the technique and method you want to focus on. Below are some details about this recipe that will help you make this delish Matar pulao. 

LET’S TALK ABOUT RICE 

Everyone has got some different tips on how to cook the perfect rice. But few tips are mentioned every time. 

  • TYPE OF RICE: Best rice to use for this recipe and other pulao recipes is basmati rice. This is a long grain rice that is commonly grown in Pakistan, India, and the Himalayas. It’s aromatic and once cooked properly, it’s light, tender and fluffy. Basmati rice has varieties, so you have to try a few different brands. 
  • RINSE: Make sure to rinse the rice to get rid of extra starches. Rice should be soaked following the package instructions. Regular varieties of rice mention that soaking can be for around 20-30 minutes. You can cook basmati rice without soaking. 
  • RICE & WATER RATIO: Standard ratio of rice to water is 1 cup of rice to 1 ½ cups of water. But depending on the variety of rice and soaking ratios will be different. It can also depend on how you prefer the cooked texture of your rice. Some may even do 1 ¾-2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. 
  • TIGHT FITTING LID: You want a tight-fitting lid so there is no escape of steam. We want to create the steam so the rice turns out tender and fluffy and that will happen with the steam. If the lid is not fitting tight you can wrap the lid with foil. I wrap the lid with a clean kitchen towel. If using the kitchen towel be very careful of the flame not being high. 
  • DON’T PEEK: Once you cover the rice to cook, do not open the lid. Always check the rice towards the end of cooking time. Once the timer has gone off, still let the rice sit with the lid on. Gently fluff the rice with a fork or using a flat spatula 

ONIONS: Onions give an amazing flavor to Matar pulao. You really want to be patient browning the onions until they get brown. 

PEAS: I always end up using frozen sweet peas because that is what I have on hand. If you can use fresh green peas. Don’t skip the step of giving these a sear, this really adds flavor. 

WHOLE & POWDERED SPICES: The spices I have used are very standard when it comes to Pakistani cooking. You can add more or less according to your preference. 

STORAGE & REHEATING: Rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days. You can reheat this Matar pulao in the microwave or stovetop. Sprinkling some water on the rice will make it tender again. 

 

SIMPLE MATAR PULAO (Green Peas Pilaf)

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 3 -4
Matar Pulao is a very classic South Asian dish made with caramelized onions, spices and green peas. This is the perfect side that is served along with many Pakistani and Indian curries.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup basmati rice (rinsed and soaked)
  • 3 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • few cloves
  • few brown cardamom
  • bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 small onion (sliced)
  • water

Instructions 

  • Use a medium nonstick pot for rice. Have everything ready before you start.
  • On medium heat add oil and add all the whole spices that is cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and peppercorns. Let these sizzle in the oil about 10-15 seconds. Make sure to not let these burn.
  • Add the sliced onion, and sauté till the onions get a medium brown color, this will take about 5 minutes.
  • Add peas and sauté for about 5 minutes. Keep stirring.
  • Add salt, garam masala and cumin powder, mix well and let these spices sear for few seconds. Add about 1/4 cup of water and let this mixture boil for about 5 minutes, to extract all the onion flavor.
  • Add rinsed drained rice and 1 1/2 cups of water, mix well. With heat still on medium let it come to a boil. After about 3 minutes much of water will have evaporated. Now cover the pot with a tight lid and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Let the rice cook without checking for about 15-20 minutes. Turn flame off and let the rice sit without opening the lid if you don't need to serve right away. Gently fluff with a fork or spatula.
Author: Shazia
Course: SIDE
Cuisine: PAKISTANI/INDIAN

tray of roasted vegetables

ROASTED MIX VEGETABLE CURRY

This is my twist to the authentic Pakistani mixed vegetable curry. It’s a simple and healthy side dish, using any vegetables you have on hand. Roasted to bring out all the flavors, it’s the perfect dish with less calories.  

Sometimes I want all the flavors of classic South Asian dishes but not the extra calories from the oil. Recently I have been roasting so many of my favorite Pakistani dishes, and they have been tasting amazing. This is that perfect dish where you can use your favorite vegetables, aromatics and spices, spread on a baking sheet and roast the flavors away. 

WHY ROASTING?

Roasting vegetables is one of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy vegetables. Roasting helps caramelize and crisp the surface of vegetables. You don’t need a lot of oil because it’s a dry-heat cooking method, so it’s a great lighter alternative.

WHY I LOVE THIS DISH

  • Lighter in calories but full of flavor
  • Great way to use up any vegetables
  • Very hands off recipe
  • Great meal prep dish

RECIPE NOTES

  • VEGETABLES: make sure you have rinsed and drained the cauliflower ahead of time. If there is excess water, the cauliflower will steam before it roasts. Try to chop the cauliflower, potatoes and green beans into the same bite size pieces. Use a variety of vegetables you enjoy. 
    • SPICES: Go light on the spices. Since this dish is not made in the typical manner with enough oil, you don’t want the spices to stay raw. 
  • ROASTING: I baked these on a broil which is 500 degrees F. Know your oven if you think this is a high temperature you can roast at 400 degrees F. Avoid overcrowding the pan, make sure vegetables are in a single layer, so they roast not steam. Halfway roasting does give them flip, to make sure they are cooking evenly. 

ROASTED MIX VEGETABLE CURRY

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 -5

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower (cut into medium florets, rinsed & completely dry)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, chopped
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dry red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. dry fenugreek leaves
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions 

  • First you want to make sure the cauliflower is rinsed and dry ahead of time. If the cauliflower has water, it will steam and won't roast well. Cut the cauliflower florets by removing the leaves from the cauliflower. Cut around the underside of the head removing most of the core. Separate the florets by cutting through the base to make smaller florets, Rinse and drain.
  • Preheat oven to broil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the garlic, spices & oil and mix well.
  • Toss the potatoes, green beans, onions and tomatoes well in the spices.
  • Toss the cauliflower florets till well coated.
  • Using a roasting pan. You can line pan with foil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer.
  • Roast the vegetables for about 25-30 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are fork tender. Garnish with some fresh cilantro. Make sure to keep an eye on it, broil temperature is very high and food can easily burn.
  • I served this with plain yogurt that has been thinned out with milk or water. Season with salt and pepper and some fresh cilantro.
Author: Shazia
Course: SIDE
Cuisine: SOUTH ASIAN

 

 

HOW TO MAKE ROTI/CHAPATI

One of the first things I learned to cook from my mom was Roti. This was a long time ago, so I feel pretty confident about sharing all the details on how to make the perfect Rotis at home. 

Learning how to make Roti is like making any other bread, there is no special recipe, it is just practice. 

Typically, when we think of making any type of bread, we think of oven, yeast, mixer and a lot of experience needed. But South Asian flatbreads are some of the simplest and delicious breads to make.  No use of any fancy kitchen tool, not worrying about dough rising times, but just a little practice is needed. Once you master the skill of making Roti, you will truly feel like an artisan bread maker.

WHAT IS ROTI/CHAPATI?

Chapatis and Rotis are the same and can be used interchangeably. Phulka is similar as well, but usually can be finished off on an open flame and rolled out very thin.  All 3 are whole wheat South Asian flatbreads. Traditionally made from atta, which is a whole wheat flour with higher gluten content.  Roti is a staple across South Asian households. There are also variations of Roti in the Caribbean, West Indies and East Africa. These thin and soft breads can be eaten with vegetable or meat curries, used as wraps, or just with a spread of butter or ghee.  Depending on the region, the thickness and size and preparation of the Rotis will be different.  

WHAT WILL YOU NEED?

  • Atta (flour)
  • Water
  • Oil & salt (optional)
  • Large bowl 
  • Clean kitchen towel 
  • Rolling pin
  • Extra dry atta flour
  • Flat griddle or tawa (round concave griddle)
  • Small kitchen towel or spatula 

WHAT FLOUR IS BEST FOR ROTI 

The perfect flour to use for Rotis are whole wheat flours. These types of flours are called Atta, these are Roti specific flours.  Atta can come in varieties of 100% whole wheat, refined options and multigrain. You can try different types of Atta to see which flour you prefer. For each brand of flour, the quantity of water will be a slightly different and will be the flavor. 

Recently I have been using the Golden Temple Atta: Products (golden-temple.com) brand. They have a variety of Atta flour to choose from. 

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE ROTI

There is no special recipe for making the roti dough. It requires just flour and water. Sometimes also an addition of oil and salt. You can definitely add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, for some varieties of flour it can make the dough more pliable. I would recommend that you try making dough with and without the oil and salt and see what you prefer. 

DOUGH

You will start by slowly adding lukewarm water to the flour. Using your fingertips in a circular motion bring the dough together into one mass. Initially the dough will look dry and coarse. You want to keep kneading using knuckles and folding the dough. If dough is very dry and tough add water tablespoon at a time and continue kneading. If the dough is very soft add dry atta tablespoon at a time and knead.  If you are adding oil, add it to the flour first and using your hands work the oil into the flour until it looks grainy than add the water. Once you have used up the initial water see how the dough looks.  If very 

Continue kneading for about 5-7 minutes. Then you want to rest the dough. Wet your hand and moisten the dough, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest on the countertop.  This will continue to form the gluten. When I am in a hurry, I rest the dough for 15-20 minutes. When I have more time, I allow it to rest for 30-45 minutes. Once it’s done resting knead again for a few minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft and pliable. 

If you realize the dough has become very soft, then you can refrigerate for a few hours or overnight and it will be easy to work with. 

If you are not using the dough right away. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and use it within 3-4 days. 

USING STAND MIXER TO KNEAD DOUGH

Keep in mind a stand mixer will mix with more power than your hands. You want to keep the speed very low when using a mixer. Kneading the dough at a high speed will form the gluten too fast that will make the dough very tight and tough. I recommend you start off learning to knead the dough using your hands. Once you really get to know what the dough should feel like then you can use the stand mixer. 

SHAPING THE ROTI

Shape into a round ball then a flat disk using your palm.  Try to use less dry flour as possible. Roll out on a wooden board, the dough sticks less on wood then other surfaces.  Roll out in a circular motion as evenly as possible, lifting after each roll and adding dry flour as needed. Once the Roti is rolled you want to cook it immediately. The longer the dough sits on the counter it will get very soft. Best way is to make a few round balls and have one Roti rolled out. This will make the process go faster. 

COOKING ROTI

Traditionally a tawa is used to cook the Rotis. This is a concave round cast iron griddle. These can be found at the local South Asian or international markets and on amazon. You can also use a nonstick flat griddle. 

Important to remember that Rotis cook very fast. The heat has to be on medium to medium high. The longer the Roti sits on the griddle it will get tough and hard. If the Roti cooks too fast, it can burn. So, keeping the temperature at a certain flame will come with practice. 

Place the Roti on the griddle. Once it starts to change color and small air bubbles appear, flip the Roti. After a few seconds you want to flip it again. You will see some brown spots or blisters appear.  Gently press the sides and turn the Roti. You can use a small kitchen towel or a spatula to press the Roti. Flip it one more time to cook any raw areas. Take off the flame. 

Once they are cooked, brush a little butter or ghee and keep covered. 

TIPS FOR MAKING SOFT ROTIS 

  • The more you practice the better your Roti skills will be. 
  • Dough has to be kneaded smooth, soft and pliable. Knead with warm water. 
  • Allow the dough to rest. 
  • Roll each dough ball into a smooth, crack-free.
  • Roll out evenly as possible. 
  • Avoid using too much dry flour when rolling. Dust any excess dry flour off. 
  • Griddle should be nice and hot but not high heat or too low. 
  • Roti should cook pretty fast. Longer it sits on the griddle the tougher it gets.
  • Brush with some butter or ghee and keep covered till ready to serve. 

HOW TO STORE COOKED ROTIS 

Once your Rotis are cooked. You can place them on a paper towel first then roll in aluminum foil to stay soft. Letting them stay out at room temperature covered for a day is fine. You can store them for longer in the fridge, but place in an airtight container. 

Reheat on the griddle or microwave. 

HOW TO PARTIALLY COOK REFRIGERATE OR FREEZE

Rotis are something my family enjoys routinely and often I make them daily, so they are fresh. I know sometimes we just don’t have the time to be in the kitchen for long but still would love homemade Roti. If you are new to making Roti it may also be taking you longer to cook Rotis.  Partially cooking the Rotis and placing them in the fridge or freezer is such a time saver. You can fully cook the Rotis and store them, but I don’t like the texture and just feel like they don’t taste that good. When you partially cook Rotis and store them, they still need to be fully cooked, so they have that fresh taste and aroma. 

Keep in mind this will save you time but don’t compare prepped Rotis to the fresh. 

  1. Shape the Rotis and roll out 2 at a time. This will make the process go faster.
  2. Heat the tawa or griddle. 
  3. Place rolled Roti on a hot griddle; within 15-20 seconds you will start to see it get cooked. Then flip it over, give it another 5 seconds and take off the griddle & place on a clean kitchen towel. Don’t allow Rotis to cool without being covered, they will get tough.
  4. Prepare all chapatis in the same manner.
  5. Stack & place parchment paper top & bottom of the stack so they don’t get soggy. Place it in a Ziploc bag with a date. Place the bag in the refrigerator & keep for up to a week.
  6. You can also place bag in freezer. Make sure squeeze out extra air from the bag to prevent freezer burn. You can also place parchment paper between each Roti as well. You can place in freezer for few months, but I don’t freeze for that long.
  7. Once ready to cook set refrigerated or frozen Roti out on paper towel and let it come to room temperature or thaw. This does not take long.
  8. Heat the griddle, continue cooking just like you would making fresh roti. Brush little butter or ghee on top and enjoy warm. 

 

A recipe that does not require an ounce of thought. These potatoes are an easy and delicious side for any meal. With a mouthwatering herb coating, it makes a great alternative to mashed potatoes or fries.

ROASTED POTATO WEDGES

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 med. russet potatos
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed/minced)
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper (salt to taste)

Instructions 

  • preheat oven 450 degrees F.
  • Scrub potatoes and pat dry. 2. Cut potatoes into wedges by cutting them in half lengthwise, than cut each half into quarters that they will give you 8 long wedges per potato.
  • In large bowl add potatoes and seasoning and toss well.
  • On lightly greased or foiled baking sheet line wedges in single layer skin side down.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes or until fork tender.
Author: Shazia
Course: SIDE