Cooking Class: Square Cafe's Quinoa Lima Bean Skillet
All through Sherree Goldstein's career in drug and alcohol counseling, the Mt. Lebanon native had what she calls “a pipe dream” to open a cafe with “great coffee with pastries and some cultural” influence, she says.
A partner wanted to open a breakfast restaurant, so the two merged those ideas, and 11 years ago opened Square Cafe, named for its Regent Square location. They searched yard sales and secondhand stores for retro metal tables and chairs.
These days, Goldstein, 47, now of Regent Square, no longer has a partner in the business. But her pipe dream continues to offer breakfast and lunch seven days a week on South Braddock Avenue. Many customers walk in from the neighborhood, but others come from throughout the city and suburbs. One recent sunny day, folks dined inside the air-conditioned restaurant and outside on some of the 30 to 40 seats outside.
“You can bring your dog and eat outside,” says general manager Kevin Kelley, 37, of Turtle Creek. Inside, diners without dogs can dine within the walls decorated with colorful art for sale. Outside, diners can catch passing breezes. The restaurant staff thoughtfully sets bowls of water outside for passing pooches.
For its human customers, the cafe offers more than water. The attraction is food that is fresh and local. Some dishes are a little more caloric, like Italian Sausage Scramble, made with sausage, three eggs, onions, peppers and mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, for $10.79. Others are vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten-free, such as the Quinoa and Lima Bean Skillet, which contains shallots, spinach and hominy, for $8.99.
The Square Cafe serves three Gluten-Free Pancakes, with caramelized bananas, butter, powdered sugar and whipped cream, for $9.99.
The menu includes a variety of scrambles, omelets, pancakes, French toasts, crepes, sandwiches, salads, wraps, burgers and pasta. A Stacked Pecan Salad, with pecan-encrusted chicken, arugula, radicchio, tomatoes and goat cheese, runs $11.99; a Short Rib Wrap with sauteed mushrooms, peppers and asiago cheese in a whole-wheat wrap is $10.19.
“This is fabulous, the apples with the potatoes,” says Marcy Bates of New Brighton, as she tastes an apple-sausage-potato dish, a recent special.
The Square Cafe has an espresso bar, a smoothie bar and a milkshake bar that uses Dave & Andy's Ice Cream, based in Oakland. One creative choice from the milkshake bar is the LL Cool Shake for $4.79, containing lavender, lemon and brown sugar for a shake of elegantly complex sweetness.
The menu changes with the seasons and currently offers a Gazpacho for $4.29 or $5.49, depending on the portion size.
“You can come and eat healthy, or you can come and indulge,” says Kelley, who creates the recipes, manages the staff, cooks and pitches in to serve or clean up. Kelley trained at the former International Culinary Academy here and worked in fine-dining restaurants and corporate eateries for years before taking a break because “I didn't want to cook anymore.”
He then got a job delivering coffee. Seeing an opening at Square Cafe, Kelley applied to be a server.
“This re-motivated me” to return to his culinary roots, he says. Promoted first to cook-server, then assistant front-of-the-house manager, “I kind of grew as we grew,” he says.
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total media.
Quinoa Lima Bean Skillet
Square Cafe owner Sherree Goldstein's favorite dish on her restaurant's menu is Quinoa Lima Bean Skillet.
“Lima beans were my favorite growing up,” Goldstein says.
The dish, created by manager Kevin Kelley, is “packed with protein and vegetables, so people who aren't even vegetarian ask for this,” Goldstein says. “It tastes unbelievable.”
Without the fried egg, the dish is vegan. With or without the egg, the dish is gluten-free.
Unlike many traditional breakfast foods, the dish has plenty of vegetables. And while it is filling, the dish sits light in the stomach afterward.
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup hominy or corn
1 cup lima beans, fresh or frozen
1 small shallot, diced
3 ounces spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 large eggs, fried sunny-side up
Chile peppers, for garnish
Bring the stock or water to a boil. Add the quinoa, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes, until the quinoa is tender.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and add the hominy or corn, lima beans, shallot and spinach. Saute until vegetables are tender. Add quinoa and and toss all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper.
To plate each serving, place ¼ of the quinoa mixture in each of four small ceramic skillets. Top each quinoa serving with a fried egg and garnish with a few chiles.
Makes 4 servings.