Well, I couldn't go far into 2012 without a recipe featuring the blessed almond feta could I? :-) This was a complete experiment but turned out so well and is a MUCH quicker and easier way of using the almond feta - no straining and no cheesecloth - you can use it immediately so it doesn't take days to make, just the same amount of time as any pasta dish would. After blitzing all the feta ingredients in the blender you just mix it with cooked orzo and spinach, also some fresh oregano and spring onion, spread it into a buttered casserole dish and bake it, skipping the straining step altogether. Brilliant.
The end result is something that tastes remarkably like spanakopita but with orzo instead of phillo and I almost called this an Orzo and Spinach Quiche as you slice the end result, it's not a saucy pasta dish, more like one of those pasta quiches, sans pastry ;-) Whatever you want to call it it's absolutely delicious and so super easy to make. You get pretty conservative servings out of this, mostly as it's rich and although the almond feta is pretty healthy it's also pretty calorific, so I cut 6 servings out of my 8" square baking dish. That being said both my husband and I were full and satisfied after this.
To balance the richness I served this with a simple fresh side salad, just crisp lettuce and tomatoes with this amazing mustard dill vinaigrette we've been loving lately. It's quite sharp - that's how I like it and goes absolutely perfectly with the pasta dish.
** Update - this recipe is proving to be very versatile, read the comments to see changes others have made. I just made this again swapping the spinach with grated zucchini and the oregano with lots of fresh basil and it was just as good! I added the raw grated zucchini and basil to the cooked orzo and poured the sauce over then baked as per instructions. A delicious variation, somewhat light and "summery" :-) **
Greek Style Orzo, Spinach and Almond Feta Bake - serves 6
200g or 1 cup orzo, dry weight
200g chopped fresh spinach
4 spring onions, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 recipe Almond Feta:
150g ground almonds or 1 1/2 cups
60ml lemon juice or 1/4 cup
125ml water or 1/2 cup
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Get a large pot of salted water on the boil for the orzo and cook according to package instructions. Mine said to boil for 17 minutes and I cooked mine for 15, it was just al dente which is perfect as it'll get another cooking in the oven. Good thing about orzo is it seems to be pretty difficult to overcook ;-) When there is just a couple minutes left add the spinach and cook until it just wilts, it'll only take a minute if that. Drain it all together.
While it's cooking make the almond feta by simply placing everything in a blender and blitzing until super smooth.
Tip the orzo and spinach back into the pot and pour over the almond feta, add the chopped spring onions and fresh oregano and stir well. I added a splash more water here to make sure everything was coated and creamy, actually I added some water to the blender and turned it on to make sure I got all the feta stuck to the sides of the blender ;-)
Vegan butter up a casserole dish, any size that will look like the pasta will fit in will do, I used an 8" square dish. Sorry I got no photos of this, it's too dark at dinner time to take photos this time of year - you're seeing the leftovers for lunch here! Spoon the pasta into the dish, level off the top and pop into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. It won't really change colour but the top will look dryer and it will be 'set', crucially what happens when you bake it is that graininess the almond feta has when first made goes away when baking, otherwise I would say just eat it without baking!
Slice into 6 servings, or less - up to you, but we found this a satisfying serving with the salad and I do highly recommend the mustard dill vinaigrette here, the sharpness and flavours of dill and mustard go so well together.
2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
couple grinds black pepper
chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill
Measure the olive oil into a small bowl then slowly add the vinegar whisking all the while until the mixture is emulsified. Add the dijon, salt and pepper and whisk until thick-ish and creamy, there should be no specks of dijon left. Whisk in the dill.
I opted for simple fresh lettuce here, you want something really crisp, romaine and butterhead would be a nice combination, add some chopped tomatoes and spoon over some dressing. The rest will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Source: Dressing based on Tea and Cookies Blog's brilliant ratio advice.
Nutritional Information - Orzo bake only, 1 slice out of 6
Sat Fat: 2g
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