The second course, of our extravagant Italian meal, was a salad course, featuring another dish from the Almalfi coast. Jamie says that the key to this salad is to slice everything very thin, the thinner the better. Unfortunately, my knife skills are a little lackluster and I don’t own a mandolin, but we persevered anyway. This salad was a nice fresh light contrast to some of the heavier dishes with a lovely combination of flavors and textures. The vegetables are very crunchy with a strong bite, the orange has a pleasant softness and sweetness, and the vinaigrette complements them both.

Recipe after the Jump

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CSA box

This morning I picked up my first box of fresh organic local produce from my CSA. Back in the winter, I signed up for a summer subscription and paid for weekly deliveries of fresh vegetables (and sometimes fruit). My farm is called the Gardens of Huckleberry Hills and is located in Alabama (but still within a couple of hours drive of Atlanta). Ever since I wrote my check, I’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the harvest season to begin. This first box is a little light (by the farmer’s admission), as the season progresses there will be more and more goodies in my box. But light as it is, this box still looks great. This week I got: squash, greenbeans, assorted greens, spring onions, oregano, mint and parsley. I can’t wait to start eating.

But first, I want to share a recipe that has been a favorite since college. In high school, I liked to cook, but as my mom would say, I liked to cook gourmet. I didn’t really have to worry about putting dinner on the table or staying within a budget. It wasn’t until college, that I really started cooking on a regular basis, and my favorite go-to cookbooks turned out to be the Weight Watchers’ Cook it Quick and Take Out Tonight. The Take Out Tonight book was my favorite of the two, by far. But this gem is actually from Cook it Quick. I now have many more sophisticated cookbooks, but when I want an easy, healthy, tasty meal, I often come back to Weight Watchers. The Tex-Mex Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Salad is best the second day and shines when you use good quality salsa, fresh corn, and well-seasoned chicken. I pan-fried my chicken with a little cajun rub this time, and really liked the result.

Tex-Mex Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Salad

Recipe after the jump

Last night, I threw together another quinoa salad. I needed some comforting, and I knew a quinoa salad would do it. This time, I roasted an eggplant and a couple of tomatoes, tossed in some basil and diced spring onions, and served it up with a creamy lemon dressing. It was good, both warm and cold, but especially warm, I think the cold version could have used some baby spinach tossed in for good measure. It was comforting, but I did still resort to ice cream and hot fudge later in the evening… and then nachos and a hard cider even later… not really the way to look good in a bathing suit this summer.

The quinoa salad I made had lots of flavor, which was not true, sadly, of the Lucky Green Tea Quinoa bowl that I had at R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill the other day. A friend and I decided to check out R. Thomas’ because they have a fairly extensive range of gluten-free options and their chef really pays attention to his ingredients. The first thing I noticed about R. Thomas’ is that this is not the typical Buckhead restaurant. The side of the building is lined with birds in cages, happily singing away, and the whole restaurant seems to have been beamed in from a different planet, or maybe just Berkeley in the seventies. The menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly, but there are also plenty of free-range meat options. I immediately zeroed in on the quinoa bowls (hello, my name is Lynn, and I’m a quinoa-holic).

I had heard that the Thai Quinoa bowl was amazing, but since they let the local paper print that recipe, I plan on making it soon and wanted something different. I decided on the Lucky Green Tea bowl because it sounded interesting and flavorful. The vegetables were fresh and tasty, the quinoa was good, but I couldn’t taste the green tea or the miso. There was also supposedly some wasabi in the bowl, but I couldn’t taste even a hint of it. I mixed in a purple relish that was hanging out on the side of the plate, and that kicked up the flavor a bit, but at almost $12, I was disappointed. Still, I bet there are some real winners on their menu. My friend’s burger was very good, and so was her Raw Spicy Gingerade. Next time, I’m trying the Down Home.

R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill
1812 Peachtree St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
404.872.2942
eat@rthomasdeluxegrill.com

For a gluten free menu, look here. This menu is not available in the restaurant, so print it out and take it with you. I forgot to do this, but my server was quite comfortable helping me figure out what I could eat (it helps that 70% of their menu is okay… even the chicken piccatta)

Recipe after the jump

As the weather gets hotter, I find myself turning more and more to salads. Although, I’m a pretty finicky salad eater. I get bored easily, and like my salads light on lettuce and heavy on flavors. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve made two great chickpea salads. I love chickpeas in salads because they add so much flavor, and they give a salad heft.

The first of these salads, I found on 101 Cookbooks. I discovered it a year ago, made it a couple of times, and somehow managed to forget all about it. I forgot it so completely, that when I was looking for something to take to the baby shower, and a friend suggested I make “that chickpea salad,” I had no idea what she was talking about. A little sleuthing though, and the salad was found. I hope I don’t forget it again, because this is a nice quick tasty salad. It definitely has enough staying power to count as a meal, and that pesky lettuce is nowhere in sight. I’ve actually never made it with the butternut squash, opting for sweet potatoes the first time I made it and purple potatoes the second. Next time I make it, I’m going to toss in some quinoa and maybe even some avocado.

The second salad, is another gem from Didi Emmons’ Entertaining for a Veggie Planet. With this salad, I particularly enjoyed the roasted eggplant and tomatoes and the excellent lemon dressing. At first, I was actually a little ambivalent about the crunchy chickpeas, although they grew on me. Next time I might try seasoning the chickpeas, or even sprinkle soy nuts on the salad instead.

Recipes after the jump

“I actually cooked something I really liked!” Maureen exclaimed one evening, about a month ago, as I walked in the door around 9:30 after teaching a class for Kaplan. Now, Maureen and I do fairly even duty in the kitchen, at least when it comes to dinners. But she had made a string of meals that while perfectly edible, she considered failures, so cooking was becoming a little disheartening. This salad, however, was excellent, and has hopefully restored her confidence. We happily ate it for lunch several days in a row without getting tired of it, and we made it again for our cook-out this weekend, only this time I helped. Most of our guests had never had quinoa before, but they all seemed to enjoy their first excursion.

So assuming some of you, too, have never had Quinoa, here is a short introduction. Quinoa is a pseudo grain — it is actually a seed, but it behaves like a grain. To prepare it, you simmer the seeds in water (or broth) until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid, just like you do when you make rice. Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor when cooked, and can easily be substituted for bulger in recipes like tabbouleh or it can be used in place of couscous. Because, quinoa is not really a grain, it is a great choice for passover, as well. Even better, quinoa contains a complete protein, is high in antioxidants, magnesium, and is a good source of fiber — making quinoa a healthier choice than wheat or rice. If you live in Atlanta you can buy it in bulk at the Dekalb Farmers Market both in seed and flour form. I haven’t actually played around much with quinoa while baking, but when I do you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But really, if you’ve never tried quinoa, this recipe is a great introduction. But don’t stop there: also try Heidi Swanson’s Lemon Scented Quinoa or her Delicious Big Bowl – Quinoa, both of which are sure to please. Or, be like me and substitute the couscous for quinoa in Smitten Kitchen’s Couscous and feta-stuffed peppers. These peppers were amazing (or maybe I just have a thing for quinoa and feta together).
Recipe after the jump