Chef Mike Shannon at Cooks of Crocus Hill originally hails from South Carolina. Eight years ago, he shifted his creative focus to cooking when he left the engineering world to attend Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. Now Shannon melds his gift for public speaking, formed in his earlier career, with his joy of teaching culinary enthusiasts to cook.
As director of culinary experience at Cooks, Shannon often teaches alongside nutritionists and physicians on wellness topics. One of his goals is to help home cooks make small nutritional changes and eat better by using fresh, natural ingredients. Shannon’s approach is to consider foods that are naturally gluten free, healthful and easy to prepare.
So for your next late-summer get-together, Shannon offers these amazing salad recipes. Find out for yourself how tasty and easy it can be to prepare wholesome foods.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ white onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed, drained
1 Tbsp. Za’atar *
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups water
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
¼ cup sundried tomato, chopped
½ cup feta cheese
3 cups fresh spinach
2 Tbsp. lemon-infused olive oil
Heat oil in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in quinoa, spices and salt and toast for about 1 minute. Add water and juice of lemons; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is tender and all liquid is fully absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add oregano, olives and tomatoes and mix well. Just before serving, toss in spinach and sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with a little lemon olive oil and garnish with reserved zest. Serves 6
* Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix of thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seed, and sometimes wild oregano. Arabic for the word “thyme,” za’atar has been used in Arabic countries since medieval times.
Cauliflower and Barley Salad
½ cup pearled barley
2 lemons, zest reserved and juiced
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1½ cups cooked cannellini beans,
rinsed well and drained
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves, divided
Place barley in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain. Run under cold water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and 5 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until emulsified. Season dressing with salt and pepper and reserve. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower and cook, turning occasionally, until browned in spots, 10-12 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl, add beans, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 tablespoon tarragon, reserved barley, and half of reserved dressing. Toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with lemon zest, 1/4 cup parsley, and remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon. Serves 6.
To learn more about healthful cooking, consider taking a class at Cooks of Crocus Hill.