When my father-in-law, Dan, caught wind of Sarah’s Saturn Return this past January at Frisch Kitchen, he knew instantly what he wanted for his 60th Birthday. A sparkly, cosmic celebration! As you might recall, aSaturn Return is an astrological transit whereby a “transiting Saturn planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth.” With the first return (28-31) we enter adulthood, with the second return (58-60) we enter maturity and with the third return (84-90) we enter wise old age.

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Now let me tell you a bit about Dan. I’m quite sure this man mastered maturity well before his second Saturn Return. Dan is one of the most generous people I know. Truly. He lives for his family. He encourages his children to follow their dreams. He is relaxed, interested, funny, decisive and brilliant (I’d embarrass myself if I tried to describe his work as an Economist). He’s also a good sport, which is how he ended up with a forehead of silver bindis.

He has certainly mastered the notion that when we depart this world we can only take with us the stories and connections we’ve fostered in this lifetime. And so, it is with all these qualities that he has welcomed his first granddaughter, Julia, into the world: with unconditional love and admiration!

It was Julia that lured us all eagerly back to Chicago to celebrate Dan’s 60th. Given that Julia was the greatest gift he could have fathomed, he asked us not to bring a speck of gifts. So instead, the first generation of children (me, Bobby, Laura, Mike and Christie) cooked an out-of-this-world mouthwatering feast that marginally represented this glorious universe. Without further ado!

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*Appetizers*
Charcuterie, Cheese and Fresh Bread

This simple beginning to a memorable feast embodied my favorite part of the adventure: shopping! We kicked off the evening with a spread of cheese, charcuterie and a tarragon-cranberry-almond loaf from Publican Quality Meats, an astounding Chicago hotspot. I am beaming Mike continued thanks for taking us here. We walked in and were instantly greeted with a sample of wine, followed by several tastes of fine, cured, succulent meats! Then on to Binny’s, where the General Manager, Aaron, had a feast himself escorting us from Washington State to France in search of the perfect pairings for our menu. Bobby is taking the famed wine class at Cornell, and thus took the lead on selecting a bubbly, an Alsacian wine, a German Riesling, a Pinot Noir and a sticky dessert wine which we never uncorked – too full!
Bobby, Laura and Mike scope the aisles at Binny's
Bobby, Laura and Mike scope the aisles at Binny’s

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Grandpa Dan entertaining Julia. Grandma Alice and Julia with matching bindis.
Grandpa Dan entertaining Julia. Grandma Alice and Julia with matching bindis.

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Deconstructed Solar System Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

Easy, original, sensational. This dish was purely inspired by Dan's Saturn Return, with inspiration from the planets. Planets...what reminds me of planets? I thought of every small, spherical fruit and vegetable and settled on an eclectic combination (grapes didn't make the cut). Though this recipe was plated with planetary precision, it would be excellent tossed with fresh greens and dressed with Arugula Cream Sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients

  • Kumquats - 2 cups
  • Baby radishes - 2 cups
  • Mixed olives - 1 cup
  • Hazelnuts - 1 cup raw, whole hazelnuts
  • Cipollini Onions - 1 cup
  • Olive oil - 3 tablespoons
  • Marjoram - 1 teaspoon crushed, dried marjoram
  • Sea salt - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Black pepper - 1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground
  • Agave nectar - 1 tablespoon

Instructions

  1. Note: No need to peel the radishes. Just cut off the roots and stem and rinse them. Rinse the kumquats as well. I prefer olives with the pit in because I feel they have more flavor; but remind your fellow eaters that pits are in!
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients except for the agave in an oven-proof dish. Layer the ingredients no more than 1.5 inches high so they have a chance to cook evenly.
  4. Cover the dish with foil and roast the "planets" for 20 minutes. Remove the dish, toss the "planets" and return to the oven. Continue roasting for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil and stir in the agave. Continue roasted uncovered for 30 minutes, until the radishes turn pink and wrinkly and the kumquats are lightly browned like the top of a creme brulee.

Notes

Allergens: tree nuts

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