Kitchen-palooza Tuesday

Tomorrow, friends are returning from a 3-week trip to Brazil. I figured after too much cachaça and fejioda, they’d appreciate something healthy in their fridge. So lucky me, I cooked for 6 today: us, our friends and their two kids.

Using the cauliflower from the market, I made a quinoa salad, which lends itself to infinite variations. For the uninitiated, quinoa is a fabulous pseudocereal that provides complete protein. The following recipe is great on a bed of greens for a light dinner or goes well with grilled sausages, as it lends a virtuous component.

Quinoa Salad

2 c. quinoa, toasted

2 c. low-sodium veg or chix broth

2 c. water

1/4 c. olive oil

1 small red onion, diced

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

juice from 1 lemon

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. roasted red peppers, diced

1/4 c. minced parsley

1 c. pinenuts, toasted

8 oz. ricotta salata or feta, diced

salt & pepper to taste

Bring quinoa, stock, and water to a gentle boil. Stir occasionally until all liquid is absorbed. Dump the quinoa into a large salad bowl and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in sauté pan and add onion until softened. Remove from heat and add onions to salad bowl. Using the same pan, sauté cauliflower until just starting to brown. Add lemon juice, then cover until florets are cooked but still have some crunch. Add cauliflower and remaining ingredients to quinoa and onions, toss well with salad tongs or two large spoons. Serve at room temp or chilled. Makes approximately 8 servings.

Boneless skinless chicken breasts were on sale at Dominick’s, and while I usually buy meat from Whole Foods or Bari, I went for the Xtreme Pack at $1.99 a pound. From Epicurious, I found a recipe for Chicken Breasts Provençal. Okay, I typed in “chicken breast” and “olives” because that’s what I had on hand and this was one of the first good-sounding recipes that popped up. I subbed a can of San Marzano tomatoes and used up the rest of my garlic scapes from the previous week’s farmer’s market run. By more or less doubling the recipe, we all have plenty of chicken to go around.

Finally, I reached way back into the recipe archives and made my Grandma Gattie’s Hot Milk Cake. A simple yet delicious family staple that can be made into layers, cupcakes, mini loaves, etc. Today I opted for a fluted tube pan. A while back a friend pointed out that when the cake gets a bit stale, it can be toasted, spread with jam, and called, “Breakfast.”

Grandma Gattie’s Hot Milk Cake

4 eggs

2 c. sugar

2 t. pure vanilla extract

2 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1 t. kosher salt

4 oz. unsalted butter (that’s 1 stick, people)

1 c. whole milk or heavy cream

Using a stand mixer fitted with the beater (or a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and pale yellow. Mix in the vanilla. In a small pan on the stove or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, heat the milk and butter until the butter is completely melted.Sift together the flour, powder, and salt into a small bowl. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the dry mixture to the egg mixture. Beat well. Add the hot milk mixture and slooowly beat in. Give it a good beating, then pour into a greased, floured pan. Bake at 325F until tester comes out clean. Let cool, then wrap and store on the counter. Can be frozen.

Dinner with the Husband in mind

The Husband loves scallops. Living in the Midwest, we just don’t get em fresh. So, I buy them frozen, in a bag, from Whole Foods. Not perfect for one’s carbon footprint but it’s not like we eat them every week.

A major coup was discovering a container of shrimp stock [shrimp shells, bay leaf, and water] in the freezer. I’d made it a few months ago and plumb forgot all about it. One of the tomatoes from the farmer’s market, a leek, the remains of a lonely bottle of white wine that’s been banging around on the fridge door, and aforementioned stock made a lovely broth for our sea scallops.

I made a salad of mixed greens, shaved slices of the baby beets from the market, shaved fennel, and dressed it with a vinaigrette and squeeze of an orange. A crusty loaf, a bottle of Torrontes (had not tried before, liked it), some candles…and we had a nice dinner to kick off the husband’s week-long staycation. Please don’t judge our early-90s sponge-painted dishes too harshly.

This week’s haul from the farmer’s market

As I didn’t have my act together enough this winter to sign up for a weekly farm box, I’ve tried to roll up to the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market every weekend. Which also fits in nicely with my physical therapist’s directive to walk as much as possible after February’s foot surgery (hence not having act together this winter).

Because I can go crazy with all of the additional farmer’s market booty—pastries, salsa, jams—I limit myself to produce only and in the interest of thrift, ten dollars. This weekend’s haul contained a couple of juicy tomatoes still on the vine, a gorgeous head of cauliflower, and an adorable bunch of golden baby beets. Total spent: $ 9.25

[Just what is it with baby vegetables? I can’t resist them. Last week I fell for tiny yukon gold and red skinned taters. So wee, so cute, so very babyish. If I plunged them into a cauldron of boiling water, would DCFS come calling? Opted for a quick steaming, which felt much less violent, and a gentle bath of browned butter.]

No corn to be had, but I have hope…despite predictions that we Midwestern lovers of the cob are doomed.