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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Gluten-Free Heirloom Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese

I love the abundance of tomatoes this time of year. I only had room to plant one heirloom Paul Robeson tomato plant and an heirloom black cherry tomato plant this year, so whenever I need more tomatoes than what I can produce at home, I just pick some up at the farmers market. This past Saturday I bought 8 quarts of Roma tomatoes and roasted them all. I made sauce out of half of them and froze the other half for soup or sauce later in the fall or winter. I have been wanting to experiment with making an heirloom tomato tart with some of the tomatoes coming from my garden and some from the farmers market. After making the delicious pea and goat cheese tart this spring using Gluten Free Girl’s delicious tart shell recipe, I couldn’t wait to make another beautiful and tasty savory tart with it.

I wanted many layers of fresh flavors, so rather than an egg/dairy based tart like the pea tart I made, I decided to start by roasting a whole head of garlic to spread on the bottom of the tart shell before laying on the tomatoes, I then added a handful of flavorful, freshly cut herbs from the garden (I am trying to use those as much as possible, while I still can). I finished the tomatoes with the light, creamy and tart goodness from the goat cheese, that gets slightly browned and crisp on top, while retaining the soft center (thanks for the wonderful idea David Lebovitz) and I also decided this would be the perfect time to make another balsamic reduction syrup to drizzle over the top of it all. You could also take a tip from David Lebovitz and just drizzle a good honey in place of the balsamic reduction.

The only thing I regret about this tart is that because I made it on a weeknight when I was done with work, by the time I roasted the garlic, blind-baked the shell and finished the tart, it was far too late and dark out, to take a good quality photo of the tart as a whole. I knew that my silly little light box and lighting would never do all the beautiful colors justice, so rather than setting it all up, getting frustrated and delaying dinner, I decided I would have to settle for a photo of a single slice of the tart the next day. Small price to pay, but I think you can see from just that one slice just how beautiful and colorful this tart was and you can also see how deliciously crumbly and flakey the gluten-free tart shell is.

* A note about this tart shell recipe: For those of you that are gluten-free bakers, I know most of these gluten-free baking recipes can at first seem daunting because of the seemingly long list of flours that you have never heard of, compared to a traditional recipe that just has one type of flour and that’s it. That being said, after you start baking more and more, you just learn what flours you like to bake with and those that you will use over and over, so you should always have them on hand in your pantry. I now have my go-to flours and as soon as I run out of one, I pick it up on my next grocery trip, so they are always on hand, it’s as easy as that. It can get pricey the first time you make something and have none of the items on hand, but thereafter they run out at different paces and you are just picking one type of flour up, here and there. No biggy. I actually had all of these flours on hand, since I always do, so this recipe was super simple. Also, in a lot of ways, this tart shell recipe is easier than the traditional since without the gluten you can’t over work it and you can easily mend any tears with your hand, no harm done. I really cannot recommend it enough, even if you don’t make it with this tart recipe, you should try it out.

Gluten-Free Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
serves 8-10

Tart Shell
adapted Gluten Free Girl and The Chef – A Love Story (I added in the cheese for this particular recipe)

1/2 cup (63.5g) sorghum flour
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca flour
1/2 cup (96g) potato starch
1/2 cup (102g) sweet rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen organic butter
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 large local farm fresh brown egg
1/4 cup of ice-cold water

(if making a sweet tart, instead of savory, include 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon)

Sift the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and sweet rice flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt (sugar and cinnamon if making a sweet tart). Sift into another bowl.

Grate the frozen butter directly into the dry ingredients. The butter will fall into the flours in soft swirls and start to melt in as soon as you stir. Add in the Parmigiano Reggiano. Work with your hands to mix everything, until the dough feels like cornmeal or large pieces of sand.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together with a fork. Make a well in the center of the flours. Stir in the liquid, working from the inside out. Feeling the dough for soft suppleness, instead of stiffness or sogginess. Feel free to use your hands at the end.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour an 11-inch tart shell, I used sweet rice flour as the original recipe suggested. Pull the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. While your tart dough is coming to room temperature, and your oven is preheated to 375º, roast your garlic. Place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Wrap to enclose garlic in foil, and place on the rack in the center of your oven. Bake until soft, the outside will be golden brown and the flesh will be soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.

Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, to the approximate shape of the tart pan. (this way you don’t have to flour your countertop and add more flour to the dough).If the dough falls apart or breaks a bit, don’t worry – there is no danger of the crust becoming tough by overworking it, which can happen with gluten dough. Press the dough into the pie pan and repair it that way.

Place the tart shell into the freezer until the crust is frozen, approximately 1 hour.

Butter a piece of aluminum foil approximately the size of the pie crust. Place it butter side down, onto the tart crust and fit snuggly against the sides. Bake pressing down any puffed up spots with a spoon until the shell has a good color, about 15 minutes. The tart should look and feel flaky, rather than sticky. Prepare the filling while the tart is blind baking.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart Filling

1 large head of garlic
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
2-3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes (I like to use a variety of colored tomatoes, since it is just all so beautiful together)
2 tablespoons olive oil
a large handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used basil, chives and oregano
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon organic light brown sugar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven, roast your garlic and blind bake your tart shell, all the details can be found above with the tart recipe. When the garlic is cool enough to touch, with either your hands or a utensil, squeeze the cloves out of their skins and into a small bowl; mash with a fork, and set aside.

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

After the tart comes out from being blind baked, evenly spread the roasted garlic over the tart shell’s bottom. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano over the garlic. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the garlic and cheese in a single, even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the top, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh herbs over the tomatoes, reserving some to put on top. Arrange the slices of goat cheese rounds over the tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction overtop of everything and sprinkle the remaining herbs on top.

Bake the tart for 30-45 minutes or so, until the dough is fully cooked and slightly browned, the tomatoes are tender, but retain their shape and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes, serve warm with a bit more freshly chopped herbs and a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, if you wish.

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Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds

I have seen a number of crispy oven-baked zucchini recipes floating around online and in cookbooks, some as rounds, some as “fries”, but obviously all were made with regular wheat flour and breadcrumbs, so they weren’t gluten-free. However, with my insane love of zucchini, every single time I would see a photo of one of these recipes, I would instantly salivate, how couldn’t crispy oven-baked zucchini slices be delicious? I decided to experiment with making my own gluten-free version and I have to say for the first attempt, they turned out perfectly. I am so excited. I love when that happens.

The outside was so incredibly crispy, the inside was tender. Topped with a bit of freshly shredded parmigiano-reggiano and some fresh basil from the garden, each and every bite was full of flavor. I only sliced up one of the large zucchini we grabbed from the farmers market, but it was more than enough for the two of us as a side dish, with plenty leftover. It would be enough for 4 people, but if you like this as much as we did, it is actually a perfect sized side dish for two. We ended up eating seconds, since they were so delicious. I served this alongside some gluten-free penne with a delicious mint pesto .

These crispy zucchini rounds would also be wonderful as an appetizer. You could create a delicious creamy dipping sauce or even serve them with some hot marinara sauce. Though a dipping sauce would be delicious and fun, we went nude and enjoyed them as is. They were so full of flavor, they didn’t really need anything more.

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds
I ended up using my mandoline slicer to make sure each round was cut evenly, so they would cook evenly, but it isn’t necessary. You could simply cut by hand, doing the best to keep them generally at the same thickness.

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds
serves 2-4

1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick rounds
2 large farm fresh brown eggs *see below note about making this vegan*
1/3 cup tapioca flour (sometimes called tapioca starch)
1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plus more if needed
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 450º and lightly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller) with olive oil . On 2 separate plates, add tapioca flour and bread crumbs. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a medium bowl.

Dust both sides of zucchini rounds with the tapioca flour, dip in egg, and pat onto the plate of gluten-free bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet(s). Drizzle olive oil over the top, sprinkle with sea salt and a very small amount of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes on the first side, using a spatula flip each zucchini round over (you can drizzle a bit more olive oil on this side, if you wish) and bake an additional 10 minutes until crispy and lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven, sprinkle the remaining parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the fresh basil overtop of the rounds and serve immediately. Salt and pepper to taste.

*To Make This Vegan: After a request on Facebook, I decided to make these again, but this time I attempted to make them vegan. In place of the two eggs I used 3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer with 1/4 cup of warm water. Stir together until fully mixed. You may find you need to make a bit more depending on how large your zucchini is, but that is a good starting point. Substitute the egg replacer for the eggs in the above recipe, do everything else the exact same and just skip the parmesan cheese. That’s it. They turned out just as delicious, with a perfectly wonderful crispy brown outside.

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Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This recipe is a fast and simple twist on the original, with no accurate measurements needed. It’s all about taste. I grabbed a quart of colorful local heirloom tomatoes at the market and I couldn’t wait to pick some of the beautiful heirloom black cherry tomatoes from my own garden to make a big tasty salad with. Since the tomatoes themselves had so much flavor and the basil from our garden was abundant, I decided to not go crazy and put the full 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into the salad, it just didn’t need it. I also decided that by saving half of it, I could use it to add to an omelette with the next morning.

I wanted to get a nice sweet and tart punch from the balsamic, so rather than just pouring it on as is, I made a simple reduction syrup to drizzle over top the salad when serving. It is incredible how the concentrated flavors from the vinegar reduction really sing with the subtle sweetness. It is one of my favorite, simple kitchen tricks that works for so many dishes. In addition to drizzling over top salads like this one, the balsamic reduction is also wonderful drizzled over a steak, grilled fruit and so much more.

There is something about a good insalata caprese that just screams summer to me. But much like the balsamic, it is bitter-sweet, by the time the tomatoes in our gardens are ripe enough to start picking for the beautiful salad, summer is on the down-swing and definitely more than half over.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
serves 4

Approximately 1 quart of mixed heirloom tomatoes, any variety. (Mine were all smallish – cherry and grape sized, some from our garden)
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (you can use the full 8oz, but I was attempting to keep this light and much more about the tomatoes)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
A few tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool. (The sugar is optional as the vinegar has a natural sweetness when reduced, but I find that just a little is nice to compliment the tartness of the vinegar)

Meanwhile, half or quarter the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss lightly to combine. Season the salad with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve individual servings of the salad on small side plates, drizzle both the olive oil and the balsamic reduction over top each serving. Serve immediately.

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Fruit Infused Liquor

I came across this super easy how-to on the Bon Appétit blog this Spring and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with different flavor combinations. My very first batch was strawberry vodka that I made at the end of June when the strawberries were at their peak ripeness and I couldn’t get over how incredible the flavor was. Since then I have made blueberry, rhubarb, cherry and apricot. In the next week or two I plan to make some cucumber, pepper and basil infused vodkas (separately of course) with the lovely goodies growing my garden. I also want to play around with other liquors like rum and tequila. The sky is really the limit on what you can do.

I have yet to play with other liquors, since vodka tends to be my first pick. Since the vodka itself is fairly tasteless, it can really let the flavor of the ingredient that you are infusing with, shine. Also, FYI, no reason to buy Grey Goose or Ketel one, but don’t buy that cheap crap on the bottom shelf either. I have been buying a nice middle of the road vodka like Svedka or Smirnoff.

I tend to like the fruit infused vodkas with a bit of soda water, a wee bit of simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint or basil. I keep a jar of homemade raw sugar simple syrup in my fridge at all times which can be made very easily with 1 part sugar to 1 part water, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

The strawberry vodka was great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Tonight I plan to experiment with an apricot martini of sorts. I cannot wait to make the pepper vodka with the super spicy heirloom Korean peppers growing in our garden, it will be perfect to make delicious homemade bloody marys with.  The beet infused vodka that BA suggests is also super intriguing, I think I will have to add that to the list, too.

Cocktail Made from Cherry Infused Vodka

This is a simple cocktail made with my cherry vodka, just a tad bit of my homemade simple syrup, soda water and a fresh sprig of mint. So refreshing!

Step 1: Choose your liquor
Vodka is an obvious choice, but why not use white rum or tequila, brandy or grappa? Don’t go for the really cheap stuff, but don’t splurge either. A middle-of-the-road, neutrally flavored liquor will produce the best infused spirits.

Step 2: Choose your produce
Use what’s in season. Go to your local farmers’ market or, better yet, pick berries from your own berry patch, and bring home the most beautiful produce you can find. The super-ripe peach that dribbles juice down your chin is a perfect candidate. Also try raspberries, strawberries, pears, figs, lemons, cherries, blueberries, even beets and chiles, as long as they are ripe, ripe, ripe.

Some of Bon Appétit’s favorite fruit-and-spirit combos are:
Apricots + Eau de Vie
Figs + Bourbon
Jalapenos + Tequila
Pineapple + Rum
Beets + Vodka

Step 3: Prep your fruit
Wash it well and cut it into pieces. Remove peels and skins plus any part of the fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat: Stems, pits, cores, and seeds should all be tossed into the compost pile. As the liquor infuses, bitter flavors from citrus pith and seeds can leech into the liquor, so you want to avoid that.

Step 4: Bottle & Wait
Fill a clean resealable glass jar or bottle with fresh, cleaned fruit. Top off with liquor and screw on the lid. Place in a cool, dark place (like a fridge) until the flavors infuse (anywhere from a week to a month, depending on your taste and the strength of the fruit). Shake the jar every few days. When you’re happy with the flavor of the hooch, strain out fruit* and pour infused spirits into a clean resealable glass jar or bottle; store in the fridge.

Step 5: Drink Up
Use your freshly infused spirits in place of plain spirits in your favorite cocktail or serve up on its own as a Martini.

One caveat: This process requires a little patience. I generally start one mason jar of infused spirits per week throughout the summer. Depending on the type and ripeness of the fruit, infusions can take 2 to 3 weeks, so plan accordingly if you’re making it for a party (or use a fresh batch as an excuse to party). A pretty jar of rosy strawberry vodka is the perfect hostess gift, and it’s a lot more appealing than neon-green Margarita mix.

* though eating the fruit may be tempting, don’t bother. After the infusing process, the fruit is merely a ghost of its former self. All of the flavor has been sucked out and infused into the liquor so the fruit is left bland, soggy and tasteless.

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Vegan Apricot Coconut Ice Cream

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. After the long winter we had this year, it’s definitely welcomed, but it has been hot, none the less. It’s hard to get motivated to cook or bake some days, but I have been doing the best I can. I can’t say that every meal is necessarily blog worthy, some nights I just toss together a leafy green salad with all the goodies from our garden and we just pop home-made pre-frozen veggie burgers in the toaster oven, not exactly cooking but a healthy home-made meal either way.

I am still really trying to enjoy creating and “cooking” any way I can, even if that means never turning the oven or stove top on. One of the best things about the summer are the fun sweets you can make with all the fresh fruit at the farmers market. Besides the muffins and smoothies, there really is nothing better in the summer heat than an icy cold, sweet ice cream treat. As much as I love a classic, custard based ice cream, sometimes I just don’t have the time, patience and energy for all of it. Plus, I tend to have a bit of guilt after enjoying a bowl of it. Sure the ice cream I make at home is all fresh and local ingredients, organic and healthier than the gross dairy queen stuff that they can’t even call ice cream, but it’s a lot more fat than I would prefer to have on a regular basis.

This is where vegan ice cream steps in. I have made quite a few versions of my vegan ice creams and each time I make one I am just as amazed as the first time at the amount of flavor and the creaminess of the ice cream, considering there isn’t a bit of dairy or any egg in there.

This recipe is a bit different from the others that I have made since it is just coconut milk, I didn’t add in almond milk or any other non-dairy milk. I really wanted the coconut flavor this time.

The key is to use the full-fat coconut milk, not the reduced fat kind. You want the creaminess from the fat. The fresh slightly tart apricot flavor was so perfect with the creamy coconut flavor. If you wanted to take the time you could chop up some fresh apricot to add in just before you add the ice cream to the maker and you could also toast up some shredded coconut to top each serving with. I was far too hot and lazy to do either of these things. It was unnecessary either way, but would make for a nice presentation if you are making this for dinner guests.

It was so hot on the day that I was photographing this ice cream, that it was melting much faster than I could take the photos. I took the photos as quickly as I could, then promptly sat down and ate the bowl of ice cream. Guilt free.

Ironically as I typed up this recipe, it was one of the coolers days we’ve had in some time. It has been a lovely cloudy and rainy day, that I was quite happy to see. I am sure my veggies growing out back were likely just as happy as I was to see some rain fall.

Vegan Coconut Apricot Ice Cream

2 – 14 ounce cans organic full-fat coconut milk
1 pound fresh apricots, pitted and halved
1/2 cup honey or agave syrup (you could also use organic raw cane sugar)
1-2 tablespoons vodka*

Place the coconut milk, apricots and honey in a blender and puree for about 1 minute until fully blended.

Pour the mixture in a large bowl, stir in the vodka. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until fully chilled. Once chilled, make according to your ice cream maker‘s instructions. I find that putting the ice cream in the freezer for at least an hour after to allow it to get a bit harder is best. Pull it out a few minutes before serving, scoop and enjoy!

* this keeps the ice cream from over-freezing and being completely hard, a little tip I learned from David Lebovitz – you can substitute any other un-flavored liquor, or have fun with flavored liquor like Grand Marnier or Armagnac, etc.

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Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie

After our nearly 2-week long trip that we took mid-July to California for the Renegade Craft Fairs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I am so happy to be home for a stretch and back into a more normal routine. It seems to take a week or two for things to settle down and feel calm again after a trip that big and with how crazy we were before we left. Besides being able to cook and bake in my own home, one of the most important things for me is to get right back into my daily routine of yoga. I try to get to 5 or 6, 90-minute classes a week. I tend to prefer the morning classes, since I can just come home after I practice and get right to my desk and work for the rest of the day. I don’t eat before I leave for yoga, I usually have a kombucha after I practice, so most times when I get home I am not looking for a large meal, just something light to hold me over until lunch. Many mornings I whip up a quick smoothie and head up for my office. So I can “eat” and work. This past week I was just making up smoothies as I went along, trying out new flavor combinations and just exploring. This honeydew almond smoothie is probably my favorite discovery of the week. It was simple, very light and had a unique and bright flavor. The honeydew that I cut up was so sweet on it’s own I didn’t even have to add any sweetener. If your honeydew leaves a bit to be desired in the sweetness department, feel free to add in a tablespoon of agave syrup or honey.

We don’t leave home again until August 24, when we had back to NYC for another event with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We are doing a poster for St. Vincent who is playing on the rooftop of the Met. I am so excited to be going back to the city again but I am trying not to count down the days to that trip so as not to rush our time at home, but it is hard. I am hoping to accomplish a ton in the time before we leave again. Beside all of the work we have on the schedule, I have a ton of cooking and baking I want to do, a few crafty projects and some work around the house. Here’s hoping I can be that productive.

Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie
serves 2

2 cups honeydew, diced (this was half of a melon for me)
2 cups, organic unsweetened almond milk
1-2 cups of ice

Add all of the ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

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Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad

Now that we work from home, I love lunch time. My lunches at the store used to consist of leftovers or veggie burgers, even though I still eat and love both of those, a lot of days I can have more fun creating healthy lunches. Especially with my vegetable garden in full-force, I can just hop into the back yard, grab some lettuce and/or cucumbers, fresh herbs, etc and toss together a quick salad.

I saw a delicious recipe, a while back, for a Chickpea, Spinach & Feta Salad, on my friend Margaux’s blog that she keeps with her aunt, Sweet & Savory Kitchens. I couldn’t wait to play around with my own version. Such a simple, quick and healthy salad, why haven’t I been making this every single week?

I decided to use what I had on hand, so I cut up some red onion, a whole tomato, a roasted red pepper, some fresh oregano, etc and it was that easy. An incredible lunch salad in minutes. I served mine over some romaine lettuce, you could also add chopped up lettuce, spinach or other leafy vegetables like kale or arugula directly to the salad when mixing. Cucumbers would also be delicious. In Margaux and Aunt Suzy’s original recipe they included cooked broccoli which sounds like a tasty, crunchy addition. I think like most salads, the possibilities are endless with this one. This is definitely going to be a staple in my house at lunchtime and as a side at dinner. This would make a delicious dish to share at a picnic or party and with all of the beautiful colors, it’ll definitely impress everyone.

Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad
adapted from Sweet and Savory Kitchens

The Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

The Salad

1 large or two small cans of chickpeas (about 3 cups cooked)
1 large tomato, diced
1 large roasted pepper, diced
1/2 large (or 1 small) red onion, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl, whisk thoroughly to combine. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas if using canned. Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the feta cheese. Add the dressing and gently stir to thoroughly blend. Add the cheese and stir again to blend.

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