Sunday, February 19, 2012

Recipe for Effie's Easy and Amazing Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar

Easy Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar
This Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar was one of those must-make-again recipes from the first bite!

Every now and then I try a recipe and from the very first bite I know it's something that I'm going to be making over and over again.  When Jake and I tried this Easy Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar, we couldn't stop exclaiming over how fantastic it was.  But just as fun as the salad itself is the story of how I happened to be making Effie's amazing salad!

In late 2011 I got an e-mail from a reader named Effie who told me she enjoys the blog and she offered to send me some spices from Israel, where she lives.  I love Middle Eastern flavors, so I was excited when a few weeks later I got a package with lots and lots of different spices, plus recipes!  Effie's package has so many new things I'm having fun experimenting with, but since I was at least a little familiar with Za'atar, this salad was one of the first things I tried.  When we ate this Jake and I wondered how different the cottage cheese in Israel is from what we call "cottage cheese" here, but even if this version is a little different from the one Effie says is a favorite of her kids, we simply could not stop eating it.  Many, many thanks to Effie, and now I am working on a package to send back to her.  (If anyone has ideas for uniquely American ingredients that are not too heavy to mail, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!)

Effie's amazing salad is a perfect Meatless Monday dish for tomorrow, although it has now joined my mental list of favorite lunch salads, so I'll be eating it often any day of the week.  (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index.  For Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly post spotlighting one of the fabulous meatless recipe ideas I find around the web.)

The Za'atar Effie sent me was very green compared to what I had seen here, and the flavor was amazing.   Za'atar contains Sumac, which I've loved in so many recipes.  (You can buy Za'atar from the Spice House if you don't have a nice person offering to send you some!  That's not a sponsored link, I just love their products.)

For four servings of salad, I cut up 4 small Persian cucumbers, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced green onion, and 1/2 cup sliced olives.

Mix the veggies in a salad bowl that's big enough to toss the ingredients together.

Then we topped the vegetables with 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, a generous drizzle of olive oil, and about a tablespoon of Za'atar.  Stir together, and enjoy, with more Za'atar to sprinkle on at the table for people like me who can't get enough of this flavorful spice mix!

Effie's Easy and Amazing Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar
(Makes about 4 servings; recipe from a generous reader named Effie who lives in Israel.  Effie says this salad is a favorite of her kids.)

4 small Persian cucumbers, cut in fourths lengthwise and then into slices (Persian cucumbers are sometimes called mini-cucumbers in U.S. stores)
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes cut in half)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup sliced olives (I used regular black olives, but Kalamata olives would be good)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
about 2 T olive oil (a generous drizzle)
1 T Za'atar (more or less to taste)

Cut the Persian cucumbers into fourths lengthwise and then cut into slices.  (If you have to use regular cucumbers, they may need to be fully or partially peeled.)  Dice the tomatoes, slice the green onions, and slice the olives.  Combine the vegetables in a salad bowl, large enough to toss the ingredients together.

Put the cottage cheese on top of the tossed vegetables.  Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle with Za'atar to taste, and toss again.  Serve right away, with more Za'atar to be added at the table.

South Beach Suggestions:
This salad is loaded with healthy low-glycemic ingredients, and it would be approved for any phase of the South Beach Diet.

More Tasty Meatless Recipes that Use Za'atar:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
100% Whole Wheat Quick Bread with Za'atar, Feta, Olives, and Green Onions from Kalyn's Kitchen
Baked Whole Wheat Flatbread with Olive Oil and Za'atar from Kalyn's Kitchen
Fattoush from The Perfect Pantry
White Bean Salad with Za'atar from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Za'atar Tofu from Tofu for Two
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.) counter customizable free hit
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  1. I've never cooked with Za'atar but u have my interest peaked now!

  2. Becky, I am betting you will love it!

  3. I would send coumin as I love this in so many things though started using it first in Mexican food. Like Becky, I am going to get some Za'atar and try this delightful sounding salad!

  4. This looks wonderful. I will try after I get some Za'atar.

    Kalyn, I think there is a typo in the last line of the blog. The word "lime" should be "like".

  5. Oh, yes, these are my flavores, too! I trade I would send some ground chiles from the Southwest -- uniquely American flavors.

  6. Thanks everyone for the good ideas for spices! And I fixed the typo too; what would I do without people to check up on me?

    1. Do you have a recommendation for a substitute for the olives and onions? I want to try this but am not a fan of those two ingredients.

  7. I think dried chilis would be a good idea too, plus any spice mixes at the store like Old Bay and cajun seasoning.

  8. Cassandra, we were typing at the same time. I think Old Bay is a great idea, and very American!

  9. Ditto the Old Bay and Southwest seasonings. Though I am not a fan, Lawry's seasoned salt is, I think, uniquely American.

  10. Wow! First, I've never tried za'atar and now I have to look for it! What a beautiful salad Kalyn! You make eating healthy look so delicious!

    Cottage cheese...sounds interesting! I am really trying to eat it more, I know it's good for me :)

  11. I am not a fan of Lawrys either; don't thin I would send that!

    Aggie, so glad I could introduce you to Za'atar.

  12. This looks great! The Za'atar you got looks about as green as the one I get - I'm always surprised to see the ones that are darker due to a higher percentage of sumac. I'll definitely try this one - we love Za'atar in everything. It's also great on oven-roasted veggies.

  13. Blepharisma, love the sound of Za'atar on roasted vegetables. Now I'm wondering why I have never tried that!

  14. This salad sounds wonderful. I've never tasted za'atar but it's on my to-try list!

  15. I am so curious to try zaatar! Never heard of it before or tried but sounds like I will enjoy it.

  16. I love it that this recipe from Effie is getting people excited to try Za'atar!

  17. As soon as I read this post--I went on a search for the ingredients of Za'atar and see some blends feature more sumac (like 1/4 cup) and other blends feature less sumac like 1-2 TBS of ground sumac berries,oregano, basil, ground thyme and whole thyme, savory, ground marjoram
    and whole dry marjoram, and dried ground lemon peel.

    Is it easier to purchase this spice blend or try and make it?

  18. How do you think it would be usin ricotta instead of cottage cheese?

  19. I used to be a serious cottage cheese addict but haven't had it in FOREVER! I love the idea of using it as a dressing for the salad...especially when seasoned with one of my favorite spice blends!

  20. Za'atar is great in salads, and I look forward to trying this one (once decent tomatoes are available again.)

    Since I grew up in Maryland, I was also going to suggest Old Bay. (I always try to get the low sodium blend.) I believe wild rice is a uniquely North American ingredient. My mom used to take it to her friends in Argentina.

  21. Thank you! As far as I know, there are 2 spices or spice mixes called Zhaatar. 1 is sumac and is reddish. The Israeli one is a mixture of herbs, and many Israelis mix it with olive oil and eat it on bread or pita.

    Yes -- confirmed by Wiki: "a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera Origanum (Oregano), Calamintha (Basil thyme), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme) and Satureja (Savory). It is also the name for a condiment made from the dried herb(s), mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices.... Some varieties may add savory, cumin, coriander or fennel seeds... a Lebanese variety sometimes contains sumac berries, and has a distinct dark red color.

  22. DD- I have never tried making my own Za'atar, but it might be fun tweaking it to your own taste. I do like the blend from The Spice House pretty well, although not as much as what Effie sent me!

    Gabby, I think ricotta might be more similar to what is called "cottage cheese" in other parts of the world. I bet it would be fine in this.

    Joanne, this recipe has your name on it!

    Corinna, wild rice is a great idea!

    Mommy, thanks for that info. Maybe it's similar to seasonal varieties of curry powder mixtures in different parts of India.

  23. This looks great, Kalyn! I, too, love the flavor of Za'atar and have never seen a version so green. I never would have thought to add cottage cheese to a salad like this but it looks like it works!

  24. Kelley I don't think I would have thought of it either, but I loved it!

  25. What a beautiful and flavorful looking salad! Thanks for sharing. You have a very nice blog and I'm glad to have found you!

  26. I have to tell you how thankful I am to have found your site.
    We started SB diet 7 weeks ago and I cook from your recipes daily.

    You have made this process easy and delicious. I love the fact that so many of your recipes are easy.

    Thank you so very much. You are a Godsend!!

  27. Can't wait to try this! What about dried cranberries as reciprocal gift? I'm not sure but I think they are unique to North America.

  28. Georgia and Lynn, glad you are enjoying the blog!

    Patrish, I think dried cranberries are a great idea!

  29. I am familiar with za'atar, as I am familiar with Israeli food. I wonder if the olives used are meant to be the kalamata variety, as those are the olives that I would always encounter in Israel.

  30. Enid, you could certainly use those. Effie did not specify in the recipe she sent me but good to know that Kalamata olives are common in Israel.

  31. I was just wondering if I could sub the cucumber with a zucchini? i'm allergic to cucumbers... this looks really yummy! I will have to order some za'atar!

  32. I think raw zucchini would be great as a sub for the cucumber in this.

  33. How interesting that the za'atar that your friend gave you is green - mine is brownish. I've never tried cottage cheese to dress a salad - I have to say I'm not a huge cottage cheese fan, but I can see using it in a dressing now, adding some creaminess without all the fat.

  34. Okay, I have to order some Za'atar now. That cottage cheese salad sounds like something I could happily eat everyday.

  35. We had this tonight and it rocked! I'm not normally a big cottage fan, but I could eat this every week. Thanks - it is awesome!

  36. Jeanette, I heard from someone who said the blends with more Sumac are more brown, which makes sense. Like curry powder, everyone has their own blend I guess.

    Dara, I loved this and could eat it every day, especially in the summer when tomatoes are so good.

    Sandye, so glad you enjoyed it!

  37. Wow! This looks so yummy, but it is hard to find the ingredients here in our country. But I'm gonna find an alternative for those veggies that are not available in our market. Thank for this. Perfect for vegans, eh.

    Cathy@Foods that are not Good for Your Heart

  38. Maple syrup is pretty unique... I live in New England so it's pretty common around here. There are about 4 grades of syrup as I recall: Grade A Light, Grade A Medium, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. Whenever possible, get the Grade B; it has a much more intense flavor than any of the Grade A's, which just seem watery in comparison.

    Pecans are another thing that's pretty unique; and frying some pecans in a little drizzle of maple syrup until the syrup turns into the candy stage gives you wonderful candied pecans for salads....

  39. 'Slap your MaMa' is a blend of Cajun spices that my son LOVES. The name is a laugh in itself.

  40. I'd probably just leave them out. I think the salad would still be great.

  41. I've had this recipe bookmarked since you posted it back in February. I had to wait until we went to Memphis to get some za'atar at Penzey's.

    Because I have portion control issues, I made a single serving of this salad for lunch today. Oh My Goodness! Had I made the recipe as written, it would have become a single serving. I'll be eating this for lunch every day this week. I think I might even like it for breakfast.

    I too am trying to follow the SB way of eating, and find your recipes invaluable to have on hand. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  42. Hi Meg,
    So glad you're finding the recipes to be helpful. I loved this salad too! Luckily most of the ingredients here are things you don't have to worry about portion size, but I do like the idea of making a single serving.

  43. I just started SBD last week and discovered your website today. I love the recipes you post. I imagine you probably already sent the package of goodies to Effie here in Israel, but just as a comment to your readers: Cumin is a common spice in Middle Eastern cooking, we have an abundance of dried cranberries here (sweetened and sugarfree). What we don't have is fresh cranberries, SF maple syrup (we have pure maple syrup here in every supermarket). Mexican spices and Cajun spices are sometimes available here but not always so that would be nice. When I visit the States (I'm originally from Long Island, New York but have been living in Israel for many years)I bring back Cream of Tartar, SF maple syrup and the big bag of Splenda from Costco.
    Effie's salad is also made here with a soft lowfat cream cheese simply called "white cheese" here and it's equally delicious.

  44. Does anyone know what to use in place of Za'atar?

  45. You can use any seasoning blend that's suitable for sprinkling on prepared food.

    The ingredients in Za'atar are Sumach, Thyme, and Sesame seeds if you have any of those.

  46. I am late in commenting, since I just found this recipe on Pinterest. This looks and sounds so yummy, that I just ordered some Za'atar so that I could make this! I have been looking for some meatless meals and I'm so glad that I found this post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  47. Stace, I love this salad; hope you enjoy!

  48. Hi Kalyn,

    I think that that 'israel cottage cheese' is almost more like a soft, but more tangy version of our cream cheese, kinda like a greek yogurt sort of tang. It's highly popular and found at EVERY meal, either sweetened with fruit at breakfast (or even savory with za'tar and oil ) and then throughout the day! (I've been there to visit twice) I'm going to see what I can dig up at the israeli grocery here and let you know my results. This will be perfect for going back on phase one!

  49. Mollie, fun to know. This was pretty spectacular with the American cottage cheese, but I'd love to try the real thing.

  50. Hi- just to let you know that to balance this out and to make everything pop, it' pretty important to add some acid, as the olives dont quite do it. So I used about three quarters of a freshly squeezed lemon. Also, instead of black olives, may I suggest pitted calamata olives. (i personally think that black olives from a can are an affont to yummy olives everywhere...). You could also substitute the cottage cheese for feta for a yummy change!


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