Za’atar-Spiced Brussels Sprouts & Orzo With Bacon-Halloumi Dressing

January 18, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger, prop styling by Brooke Deonarine, food styling by Lauren Lapenna
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6 as a main course; up to 8 as a side dish
Author Notes

This warm, cozy pasta salad laden with shaved Brussels sprouts and za’atar features a bacon-halloumi dressing that's the best thing since...well, plain bacon dressing! I grew up on warm bacon dressing (my mom made it on repeat to wilt big lettuce salads), and now it's on constant rotation in my own kitchen. But sometimes curiosity strikes, and the wheels start turning, and then you find yourself one night adding seared halloumi to said dressing. This newfangled version is as fun as it is delicious—salty, tangy, crispy, and chewy—all in the same bite. I love the fact that halloumi—a semi-firm, salty cheese from Cyprus with a high melting point—takes on a softer, less squeaky texture when seared in hot bacon fat and doused in vinegar. And when paired with orzo and shaved Brussels sprouts, which quickly slouch and soften under the hot dressing, you've got a dinner that hits all of the right flavor and texture notes on a cold night.

To make easy work of shaving a pound and a half of Brussels sprouts, use the slicing (not shredding) blade of a food processor. You can also use a mandoline or a sharp knife, or buy them pre-shaved at the supermarket. If taking the latter route, anywhere from 1 to 1¼ pounds of pre-shaved Brussels sprouts will do nicely since they’re trimmed and ready to go. —EmilyC

Test Kitchen Notes

It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her twice-a-month column on weeknight wonders, Emily shares simple, flavor-packed recipes that'll have a good meal on the table in no time. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) orzo
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 8 to 9 ounces halloumi, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo-style pepper or 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 6), white and light-green parts thinly sliced, dark-green tops finely chopped and reserved as a garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced/shaved
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the orzo and 2 tablespoons of the salt; cook until al dente according to package directions.
  2. In a 12-inch sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until crisp. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate. Scrape up any fond or browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour the bacon fat and scrapings into a small heatproof bowl.
  3. In the now empty pan over medium heat, return 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pan. Once shimmering, add the halloumi. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes, until the first side starts to brown and develop a crust, then flip (a thin metal spatula works well) and cook until browned on the second side, another 2 to 4 minutes. (If some of the pieces break apart or start to stick, no worries—the crumbles are delicious, and you can scrape up any stuck bits in step 4.)
  4. Once the halloumi is golden, return the bacon to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 3 tablespoons of bacon fat (you can use olive oil to make up any difference), Aleppo pepper, and the sliced scallions. Cook, stirring, for about 15 seconds, until warmed through. Add the Brussels sprouts, vinegar, za’atar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to wilt the Brussels sprouts in the hot dressing for 30 seconds to 1 minute, adjusting the heat if needed. You’re looking for the Brussels sprouts to lose their rawness but still maintain their texture and green color.
  5. When the orzo is done, drain and add to the Brussels sprouts mixture, or, depending on your pan size, add the Brussels sprouts mixture to the orzo. Toss well. Taste and add salt and lemon juice (I usually add a few teaspoons to brighten the flavors). Stir in the reserved dark green onion tops and serve warm. Sprinkle with a bit more za’atar before digging in, if desired.

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Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

2 Reviews

Heido January 29, 2022
This is SO GOOD! All the better with the za'atar made with love by our friends in Beirut. Halving the recipe worked fine. Only had a little balsamic left so did 50/50 with sherry vinegar. Fine. Probably squeezed on more lemon than called for. Still fine. Thanks!
EmilyC January 31, 2022
Yay, so glad you tried and liked this (and with handmade za'atar -- yum)! Thanks for your note!