Dumped by Jason’s Deli, but Not Ready to Move on

One job ago, I learned from my coworkers about Jason’s Deli. I fell in love with the sandwiches, the speed of their to-go service, and the old school kitschiness of the dine-in use of number placards on your table to signal where your meal should be dropped off. (Having a little ice cream self-serve area wasn’t something I complained about, either.) I even suggested, when my family went for a trip to Atlanta a few years back, that we should stop at a Jason’s Deli there for meals one night. And we did. And everyone loved it.

What kept me coming back to Jason’s Deli? Their food. I loved that they catered to everyone with their offerings–including a decent menu of healthy, low-calorie items along with heavier fare. One of my favorite things to order was their Mediterranean Wrap.

To introduce you to this delightful sandwich (and to take myself down memory lane), it consists of an “organic wheat wrap with roasted turkey breast, roasted red pepper hummus, cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives, roma tomatoes, organic field greens.” Lots of flavor and crunch for an impressive 350 calories.

But then, to quote an old Buju Banton/Beres Hammond song, “just like magic, you were gone.” Jason’s Deli shuttered its doors here a few years ago. (Apparently this is just Pennsylvania and about 19 other states. According to the location map on their Web site, it looks like many of you in the continental US can go to their restaurant anytime you please. Dear Jason’s Deli, please let me apologize on behalf of Pennsylvania if it’s something we said.)

We broke up via phone–one day, I suggested that my job order from there when we had a big deadline to meet, and after someone tried dialing in our order, they gave me the bad news, that Jason and his pantry of meats, breads, vegetables and condiments had rambled on. (My second choice may have been Baja Fresh, another excellent fast food restaurant with healthy options that also closed shop and set sail from my corner of suburban Pennsylvania.)

What’s a jilted lover to do? My choice, recently, was to try to recreate the magic myself. I didn’t have low-calorie sandwich wraps on hand, so my sandwich is an open-face pita.

MedTurkeySand

This is what I made with what I had around me. Call it “Culinary MacGyver for the Soul.”

Ingredients

  • 1 pita (whole wheat or regular)
  • 2 T of your favorite hummus (mine is traditional flavr, but I’m a fan of roasted garlic, too)
  • 2 oz deli turkey
  • 4 kalamata olives (mine are pitted by , cut in half by me)
  • Lettuce of your choice (mine is spring mix)
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Sprouts

Spread the hummus on the pita. Top the hummus with the turkey, then your lettuce and sprouts. Finally, add your tomatoes and olives.

If you’re brave, you can try to fold this in half and eat it like a typical pita sandwich. Or, cut it into quarters for an open-face sandwich.

Cooking music: David Gilmour, by David Gilmour. Before Pink Floyd’s own nasty split, back in 1978 David Gilmour tried his hand at being a solo artist. I stumbled upon this album recently and have enjoyed its smoothed-out moments of rock and blues, as well as the clear sonic imprint of the Floyd on it.

My Chili: A Spicy Hot-Button Issue

I have been making chili for nearly 20 years now, starting with a simple recipe I’d seen in the 800+-page Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It started off innocently: diced onions and peppers, garlic, canned tomatoes, spices, and some ground beef or turkey.

I’ve since experimented with the spices recommended in that initial recipe, and I’ve also switched up the beans (from kidney to pinto or black beans) and added corn and fresh cilantro. But one modification I made ended up being a point of contention between me and an old boyfriend.

That was leaving out the meat. I had a quasi-vegetarian stage immediately after college, eating many vegetarian meals a week, without committing to that diet in full every day. So it made sense to me to modify the chili recipe, as the beans in the recipe were already providing protein. So I made a batch of chili, brimming with a supporting cast of vegetables and a blend of seasoning that was spicy and bold, but not hot to the point where you no longer tasted the flavor.

I mentioned to my boyfriend at the time that I had made vegetarian chili, and he was not amused. He basically wanted to know “where’s the beef?” like the original Wendy’s commercial. I made my disappointment known that he wouldn’t try something different. But I kept making the chili the way I wanted to; we just agreed to disagree.

Fast forward about 15 years, and I’m about to make vegetarian chili again today. I made it for a while after that tense conversation, but most often since then I’ve made it with ground turkey. This time around, though, I am prepared to accommodate my vegetarian version and a ground turkey version for my husband–I’ll be cooking the ground turkey separately, and he can mix it into the chili.

Mind you, my husband doesn’t have reservations about eating vegetarian meals–he’s eaten the chili sans meat before and has heartily eaten the soy chorizo and potatoes I’ve profiled. He also is a fan of vegetarian riblet sandwiches. Offering the meat is (1) me learning to not be pushy about my food preferences and (2) something that was going to be cooked anyway, for my son who won’t eat the chili (too spicy) but loves ground meat, only unadorned by any kind of sauce (no sloppy joe sandwiches, for example). 

Walking the line of eating the way that maintains your own health and still satisfying the palates of those who do not subscribe to your preferences is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had with eating healthy. But I realize now that it’s not fair to badger people into eating things they don’t want to (think the recent Bud Light beer commercial where the man is baffled by the quinoa patties that his girlfriend has brought to the tailgate party). I welcome the challenges that come with meeting the needs of different eaters, because it keeps me fresh on coming up with new recipe ideas.