Our First Month Here- a temporary challenge

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November 29, 2012 by caitlinvaclark

For the first month Chris and I were in London, his firm put us up in temporary housing near his office, referred to quaintly as The Sugar House. We technically had a 2 week allotment, but our flat was not available until mid-October. When we initially viewed the flat, the estate agent told us the place would be available whenever we were ready to move in. All the landlord needed to do was move out the furniture. I don’t know if it was the shower that had obviously been used that morning or the dirty dishes in the sink, but as Chris and I looked around, we found that very hard to believe. And as it turned out, the tenants weren’t going anywhere fast. It would be a month before we could move in.

And so we stayed in corporate housing, or as I like to call it, IKEA. It wasn’t the worst situation in the world. The bathroom was nice and spacious. The location was great for Chris to get to work and for me to walk across the Thames to Borough Market. But the bed was small and springy and I was beginning to repeat outfits to a noticeable degree. I wanted my own stuff!

The biggest challenge was the kitchen. Can you call it a kitchen when it’s basically a small closet unit built into the wall? It reminded me of those Alfa closet organizers you get at The Container Store, but for cooking. Oh and don’t even get me started about the utensil options. The knives were weaker than child safety scissors. The first time I used my Wustoffs after we finally moved into our place, I’m not going to lie, I cried with joy. Okay, maybe it was just the onion.

But, refusing to eat out every night for an entire month, I still cooked dinner most nights. The meals primarily consisted of throwing a bunch of things into a glass baking dish and roasting in the oven, that yes, also served as a microwave. Oh, those Swedes and their space saving technology. The highlight of these make shift meals was probably a pork tenderloin with some fig jam on it, roasted with green beans then tossed with blue cheese and walnuts. Sounds fancy, right? But note that there is absolutely no chopping involved.

Two truly stellar recipes were created in the Sugar House, and I have decided to recreate them this week. Yes using my own knives and skillets and then sitting at my dining room table with proper silverware and placemats and napkins, oh my!

The first dish is my Scampi-ed Shrimp and Quinoa salad. Later this week I’ll also make my play on Chicken Saltimbocca. I have to say, sometimes what may seem like cutting corners ends up being a shortcut to a very good place.

I have a serious love of shrimp scampi but considering my one burner stove never truly brought water to boil, I had to find another way. I created a quinoa salad that used a very saucy warm shrimp scampi as the dressing.

Starting with fresh rocket (that’s arugula to all my stateside friends), grape tomatoes, and a tasty goat cheese, and finishing with a tangy, garlicy sauce makes a perfect light dinner.

The key is to reduce wine and lemon with sautéed garlic before adding the shrimp so you have a rich sauce without overcooked shrimp.

While the scampi cooks, assemble the salad. You want to use cooled quinoa so that the arugula doesn’t wilt (yet).

Once the shrimp is just about cooked through, melt a knob of butter into the sauce for added richness.

Pour the hot sauce over the salad, which will lightly wilt the arugula and slightly melt the cheese.

Once the salad is well mixed, you are ready to serve. This salad would also be delicious prepared in advance and served cold on a hot summer day.

Scampi-ed Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

1 cup Quinoa

2 cups water

6 oz. rocket/arugula

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

4 oz goat cheese

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp olive oil

Juice of one lemon

¾ cup of white wine

1 lb shrimp (medium sized, peeled and deveined)

1 Tbs. butter

Salt and Pepper

Prepare the quinoa by bringing water to a boil, adding the quinoa and a pinch of salt, turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 12 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked through. *Or follow your quinoa package directions.

Let quinoa cool for about 25 minutes and then assemble the salad. Combine tomatoes, rocket, quinoa, and crumbled goat cheese.

Heat olive oil over medium high head and sauté garlic for 2 minutes, stirring continually to be sure garlic doesn’t burn. Add lemon juice and white wine and boil. Once reduced by about 1/3 add the shrimp and cook until just through. Add butter and melt.

Toss the shrimp and warm wine sauce with the salad and serve.

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