Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is an avid baker, blogger and all around food-lover. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. When she isn't tweeting, eating, or tweeting what she's eating, Shannon spends her time in Jersey City, NJ with her daughter, her husband, and her rescue dog, Otis.

Halva Swirl Brownies

Yield:
16 brownies

For some time now I had in my head that I wanted to make a brownie that involved halva, that delicious Middle Eastern sesame confection. I researched. I pondered.

And then when I got a jar of the brand-new Soomsoom Foods Tehina, I knew it was my sign to go for it. What I loved about using this particular sesame paste was the super smooth consistency, easy pour-ability and also the fantastic plastic container. Much less messy or tricky to open than the metal cans!

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I used this recipe for Nutella Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies from Lovin’ in the Oven as the inspiration for my recipe.

While I chose to sprinkle the halva pieces on top of the brownies, you could also mix them into the brownie batter itself, or make a double batch of the brownies and do a layer of brownie filled with the tahini-cream cheese filling. The possibilities are endless.

Want to make this “semi-homemade” or pareve? Use some tried-and-true store-bought brownie mix and mix as directed. Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips to batter, and sprinkle 1/2 cup crumbled halva on top for another variation.

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Halva Swirl Brownies

Ingredients

For the halva-cream cheese layer:

5 oz cream cheese

2 Tbsp butter, softened

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

1 Tbsp flour

½ cup tahini

For the brownie layer:

¾ cups flour

1/3 cup Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

¼ cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs

1/4 cup chocolate chips

For the top:

¼ cup – ½ cup crumbled halva pieces

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line an 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray.

For the brownie layer:

Sift flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and baking powder into a medium sized bowl.

In a small bowl cream the sugar and butter together until smooth, add eggs one at a time, beat well then add vanilla.

Fold egg, sugar, butter and vanilla mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread 3/4 of the brownie batter into the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish.

For the halvai-cream cheese layer:

Cream together butter, sugar and flour. Add cream cheese and mix/blend until smooth.

Scrape bowl and add the egg and beat until light and creamy.

Scrape down bowl again and add the tahini. Beat one minute or until the tahini is mixed into the cream cheese mixture completely.

To assemble:

Randomly dollop the tahini-cream cheese topping over the brownie batter. Dollop the remaining brownie batter on top.

Sprinkle halva pieces on top. Swirl the topping together into batter using a butter knife.

Bake at 350 for around 40-45 minutes.

Allow to cool and cut brownies into squares.

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Posted on December 11, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Time for Jewish Christmas Cookies

This time of year can be strange for Jews, and Christmas parties can exacerbate the weirdness. Many a Jew has gone to a Christmas party wondering: Is it okay if I eat Christmas cookies? Is it okay if I make them? Do they have to be in the shapes of Jewish stars and dreidels?

For me, the Christmas cookie tradition has never posed much of a problem. I grew up making traditional Christmas cookies like gingerbread men with my mom, who wasn’t Jewish, and I love spending weekends making batch after batch of holiday cookies for my husband’s office and other loved ones. The concept that food is love transcends ethnicity or religion, and so I relish this time of the year to show my affections through the universal language of COOKIES.

Jewish Christmas cookiesHoliday cookies don’t have to be overtly for “Christmas” in fact my fellow food-loving writer Tamar Fox suggests a Hanukkah Sugar Cookie, with a special Austrian twist, perfect for a Jewish celebration or for other holiday treats.

Another way to update a cookie-classic with some Jewish spirit? Shades of Blue Rainbow Cookies from Nosher contributor Joy Prevor.

Or go totally “non-traditional” with my Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies! My husband loves these, and who doesn’t just love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

Here are some of my other favorite cookie and treats recipes that I will be making later this week, Do you bake holiday cookies? Post your favorite recipes below!

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Chai-Spiced Cookies from Whole Foods (pictured above)

Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti from King Arthur Flour

Poppy Seed Hanukkah Sugar Cookies from Weelicious

Oreo Cheesecake Brownies from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Salted Fudge Brownies from Food and Wine

Traditional Rugelach from Joan Nathan

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Cherries (pictured below)SONY DSC

Posted on December 9, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Post-Hanukkah Detox

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. Sigh. This has been such an exciting year to celebrate. But between Thanksgiving, the long holiday weekend and eight nights of latkes and sufganiyot, my stomach is sure ready to move on to lighter fare.

I’ve put together some of my favorite healthful eating ideas to help you detox from the eating debuachery of the past week. Got a great a recipe to get our eating on track? Post below and let us know!

For breakfast:

Detox Very Berry Smoothie

Shannon’s Health(ier) Pancakes

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For lunch:

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup from Martha Stewart

Raw Kale Salad with Lentils and Apricot Vinaigrette from Food52

kale lentil salad

Dinner ideas:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza from Bev Cooks

Quinoa with Pesto and Greens

Best Roasted Chicken

Don’t forget dessert: Strawberry Lemon Granita

granita 1

Posted on December 4, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Tomato Alphabet Soup

Yield:
6-8 servings

When I used to live in Washington, DC there was a little bar I loved frequenting which served, among other delicious items, tater tots, grilled cheese and even homemade tomato soup – all the best childhood comfort foods, just a bit upgraded. At some point in the restaurant’s history it changed over the menu to tapas (small Spanish-style plates), and the tater tots and grilled cheeses were a thing of the past. Sigh.

I love updating comfort foods, like my Sweet Potato Mac n Cheese and Shakshuka Pizza among other dishes. There is something so exciting about taking a bite that is both new and also brings back fond memories.

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So on a cold November day a few weeks ago when my friend’s son requested soup for lunch, I knew right away I wanted to make something a 3 year old would enjoy as much as I would: creamy, healthy tomato soup with just a spoonful of playful alphabet letters, a throwback to childhood classics. Everyone enjoyed the tomato soup that day, including my 1 year old daughter, the 3 year old Jonah and me and the husband.

Make sure not to add the alphabet pasta until you serve otherwise the pasta will absorb too much of the soup and it will have a mushy, non-soup-like consistency.

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Tomato Alphabet Soup

Ingredients

2 Tbsp butter or olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 ½-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and pepper

½ cup alphabet or other small pasta

Fresh chives

½ cup heavy cream (optional)

Directions

Add butter or oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.

Add crushed tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat after 10 minutes to low.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta around 6 minutes or according to directions. Drain pasta and drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. Set aside until ready to serve.

If you want the soup to be a smoother consistency, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If not, you can leave soup as is.

If making the soup dairy, add heavy cream before serving.

Add a heaping tablespoon of pasta to each bowl. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.

Posted on December 2, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Mashed Potato, Turkey and Cranberry Knishes with Cranberry Mustard

Yield:
18 appetizer-sized knishes

Is there anything better than waking up the day after Thanksgiving and raiding the fridge full of leftovers while everyone else is elbowing one another at the mall?

My favorite Thanksgiving leftovers were always the excess crescent rolls slathered in butter next to some stuffing and a heaping pile of glazed sweet potatoes. A few carbs during the holidays never hurt anyone. But there comes a point sometime on the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving where you just can’t look at another plate of turkey and glazed sweet potatoes. You are craving something different, but ahhh – who wants to waste all those leftover?

Fret no more because I have your solution: bite-sized Thanksgiving knishes made with leftover mashed potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce. Combine these mini treats with some cranberry mustard dipping sauce and leftovers never sounded so good!

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Other variations:

  • Substitute the mashed potatoes with leftover stuffing or mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Substitute the cranberry sauce inside the knishes for leftover gravy.

The possibilities are endless, or at least as endless as your leftovers.

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Mashed Potato, Turkey and Cranberry Knishes with Cranberry Mustard

Ingredients

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed for 30 minutes

1 cup cranberry sauce, divided

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp whole grain mustard

½ cup leftover mashed potato

½ - ¾ cup leftover turkey, diced

1 egg, beaten

All purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry on all sides so that dough stretches slightly. Cut into 9 even squares.

Using fingers stretch each square just a little bit more. Add tsp of mashed potatoes, a few pieces of turkey and tsp of cranberry sauce onn each square.

Fold each point of the puff pastry up and pinch at the top. Twist puff pastry and then push down. Repeat.

Brush each knish with beaten egg.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

While knishes bake, mix ½ cup cranberry sauce with 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard and ½ tsp whole grain mustard. Spicy brown mustard can also be substituted. Whisk together until smooth.

Serve knishes while warm with cranberry mustard.

Posted on November 24, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Cakey Crunch Sweet Potato Kugel

Yield:
16 servings

Most of my favorite recipes use wholesome, healthful ingredients that are local and seasonal. I don’t buy a lot of processed products or packaged snacks. I truly enjoy making things from scratch.

But once in awhile I find a recipe or a product that I simple cannot resist. Oreo cookies. Entenmanns’s Cheese Danish Twist. And most recently a sweet potato kugel my mother-in-law made last year using sweet potatoes, marshmallows and a box of cake mix.

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My sister-in-law and I sat at one end of the long kitchen table with two heaping platefuls of the addictive kugel, unable to prevent ourselves from eating yet another serving.

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Soon after the sweet potato kugel binge, I fell asleep with my daughter upstairs for a full hour and a half. Forget the turkey-induced snooze fest…my kugel nap was just divine.

I convinced my mother-in-law to hand over the recipe, and with just a few small tweaks, I share it with you all. But I warn you: there is no going back. Make this at your own risk. You may not be able to put down your fork.

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Cakey Crunch Sweet Potato Kugel

Ingredients

8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

3-4 heaping Tbsp brown sugar

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ cup orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur

8 oz mini marshmallows

1 box yellow cake mix

2 sticks margarine or butter, melted

Directions

Boil sweet potatoes in large pot of water until tender, around 20-25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the sweet potatoes and mash in a large bowl. Add vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur and mix well.

Grease a 9x11 baking dish. Layer half of the sweet potato mixture evenly in the baking dish.

Sprinkle marshmallows over the top. Add remaining sweet potato mixture on top of marshmallows and spread evenly using an off-set spatula or knife.

Sprinkle yellow cake mix evenly over the top of sweet potato mixture. Pour melted butter or margarine evenly over the top of the cake mix.

Bake for 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted on November 20, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Meatball, Egg, and Arugula Cheeseless Pizza

Yield:
3-4 servings

Every home cook has those go-to meals that their friends and family can’t get enough of. For me, it’s my Italian meatballs that I learned in the kitchen with my mother. While standing at my mother’s side, she would fry batch after batch of meatballs. But only after taste-testing the first one to make sure it was seasoned correctly.

I love carrying on this tradition, and relish sharing this special meal with my loved ones. When my close friends hear I am making spaghetti and meatballs for Sunday night dinner they will drop everything to come join us for dinner. The husband isn’t always so eager to share this coveted meal.

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Last week for the first time I served up spaghetti and meatballs for my pasta-loving daughter. She typically gobbles up pasta with sauce pretty quickly, but this time she voraciously ate 5 entire portions of chopped up spaghetti with bits of meatballs. I was a proud mama.

One of my favorite parts about whipping up a large batch of meatballs and sauce on a Sunday is having leftovers for the rest of the week. The husband and I often buy a crunchy loaf of fresh bread the next day and make meatball subs. It’s such an easy weeknight meal, especially when paired with a side salad or steamed broccoli.

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But even after heaping bowls of spaghetti and meatball subs there were still more meatballs to be had.  What to do with those last precious meatballs?

A light bulb went off and I thought: pizza! I have made non-dairy pizza with meatballs before, and it was good enough. But I wanted to make something really special. As I was mulling over what I had in my fridge and what might combine nicely with the meatballs I thought….eggs….arugula…and another great non-dairy pizza combination was born in my humble kitchen.

Tip: don’t skimp on the extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt – it really brings out the flavor of the unique pizza. And don’t worry if you don’t have a pizza stone – you can also use a baking sheet.

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Meatball, Egg and Arugula Cheeseless Pizza

Ingredients

To make the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground veal

1 extra large egg or 2 medium eggs

1 1/2-2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs (preferably fresh)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 tsp dried parsley

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

vegetable oil for frying

small bowl of cold water

tomato sauce of your choosing

To make the pizza:

1 store-bought pizza dough, left at room temperature 1 hour

flour for dusting

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 meatballs

1 cup tomato sauce

3 eggs

1 cup fresh arugula

olive oil for drizzling

thick sea salt

Special equipment: pizza stone

Directions

To make the meatballs:

In a large mixing bowl, combine breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, basil and garlic powder.

Add meat and eggs and mix thoroughly, but lightly, with hands; do not overwork the meat. Set the small bowl of cold water next to your working station.

Prepare a platter lined with paper towels and place next to the stove as you prepare the meatballs.

Working with just the palm of your hand, and not packing too tight, make fist sized meatballs and place on unlined platter. Use cold water to wet hands in between each meatball. Place meatballs in skillet, and brown on all sides until even.

When meatballs are all fried, put into a slightly simmering pot of tomato sauce to finish cooking through and absorb the tomato sauce flavor.

To make the pizza:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once oven is fully heated, place pizza stone in oven for at least 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes.

Working on a lightly floured surface, stretch pizza dough using hands and rolling pin until desired thinness and shape.

Using pastry brush or fingers, spread 2 Tbsp olive oil all over pizza dough.

Cut meatballs into rounds. Spread sauce evenly over dough. Place on pizza stone and cook 6 minutes.

Crack eggs into a bowl while pizza is cooking.

After 6 minutes, open oven and carefully spread eggs over pizza a few inches apart from one another. Put back into the oven for another 5-6 minutes.

Remove pizza from oven. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle fresh arugula over top of pizza. Drizzle with olive olive oil and sprinkle thick sea salt.

Serve immediately.

Posted on November 13, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Yield:
12 cupcakes

Everyone loves cakes and bread made with pumpkin this time of year (especially me). But have you ever tried sweet potato cake? It is not nearly as popular but it is just as delicious as its pumpkin counterpart, if not more so.

The great thing about making dessert with vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash and zucchini is that due to the vegetables’ water content the recipe will likely call for vegetable oil instead of butter. And therefore these delicious cakes are also perfect pareve dessert choices. No need to scramble to alter the recipe for a meat meal.

cupcakes2

I have been making this recipe for sweet potato cake for years and people are always shocked when I share that the recipe is dairy-free. And now it’s your turn to wow guests with this sweet treat.

When paired with Martha Stewart’s simple Marshmallow Frosting Recipe it makes the perfect Fall dessert. And hey, this totally counts as a serving of vegetables, so have two.

sweet potato cupcakes

 

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp cinnamon

¾ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Half recipe for Marshmallow Frosting

Equipment: muffin tins, piping bag, hand-held torch

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and wrap in tin foil. Roast for 40-50 minutes ofr until soft. Let cool.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop out flesh. Place in a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add pureed sweet potatoes, sugar and oil to a large bowl. Beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture in batches; beat just until blended.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line and grease muffin tins. Fill muffin trays until 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out cool. Allow to cool.

Make frosting.

Pipe frosting in a swirl on top of each cupcake. Using a hand-held blow torch, gently drag the torch across the frosting, toasting the frosting until just lightly brown.

Posted on October 30, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Eight Crazy Nights of Latkes

Is there anything more enticing than a perfectly fried, crispy potato latke? Served with apple sauce, sour cream or my own favorite combo: creme fraiche and smoked salmon. Look at these crispy, golden gems. Makes me drool a little just thinking about breaking out the oil.

SONY DSCBut there is so much more than the basic latke, as delicious as it may be. So if you have been hankering for something different to serve for your Hanukkah (or even Thanksgivukkah) celebration next month, I’ve got you covered.

I have been scouring the internet and other blogs for the most creative, crazy latke combos that exist. And here they are in all their awesome glory. You’re welcome.

eight crazy latkes

Coconut Latkes with Cranberry Applesauce & Cardamom Mascarpone from What Jew Wanna Eat

Latke Crusted Apple Stuffing

Leftover Mashed Potato Latkes from Andrea’s Garden Cooking

Parsnip Sweet Potato Latkes

Apple and Cheese Stuffed Latkes from The Kitchn

Potato Latke Sandwiches with Smoked Salmon

Carrot Rosemary Potato Latkes

Sweet Potato Latkes with Brown Sugar Syrup & Candied Pecans from The Shiksa
Sweet-Potato-Latkes-with-Brown-Sugar-Syrup-640x480

Posted on October 29, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Israeli Salad with Chickpeas, Feta & Fresh Mint

Yield:
4 servings

In our home there is a clear division of labor when it comes to the kinds of meals we both cook. The husband is in charge of meat and fish. I am in charge of soups, sauces and salads. (And dessert too of course). Thankfully we both help out with the cleaning-up, at least most of the time.

Salads are really so much fun to throw together. I love experimenting with seasonal ingredients I find at my local farmer’s market and also using ingredients I have hanging around in my house. And above all about salads: I love that you can improvise.

The salad calls for arugula but all you have is spinach? Just substitute! Have some apples in the house that you want to use before they go bad? Chop them up and throw them in! This is actually how some of my best salad creations came about in the first place including one of my favorites, this Spinach, Blueberry & Goat Cheese Salad with edamame and cucumbers. It was literally what I had in my fridge and it happened to combine together for a delightful and delicious result. Just take a look:

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I have found that traditional Israel salad is just the kind of salad that can be made into multiple variations, each one slightly different. For a little more spice you can add a pinch or two of sumac. You can leave out the peppers, leave out the cucumbers, or even add a few things, like chickpeas, feta and mint.

This salad came about like so many of my other favorite salad combinations. It was Saturday afternoon, my daughter was playing at the park with her dad and I was given a few moments to enjoy lunch by myself – glorious. Wine might have also been involved. I looked in the fridge, and threw together what I had: tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chickpeas and feta!

chickpeas for Israeli salad

And by adding chickpeas and feta, this classic side salad becomes a light but hearty main dish packed with protein, fiber and most importantly, flavor.

Keep improvising and enjoy!

Israeli Salad with Chickpeas, Feta & Fresh Mint

Ingredients

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced

¼ cup diced red onion

2 scallions, sliced

1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, rinsed

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice from ½ lemon

Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, red onion, scallion, chickpeas and feta cheese in a medium bowl.

Dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle fresh mint on top.

Posted on October 24, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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