April 18, 2014

Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb with Mint Gremolata

Close your eyes. Fall in love. Stay there.

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I have such fond memories of being a kid, watching my dad dye Easter eggs, the way his mother taught him when he was young in their little Egyptian village - with simmering pots filled with the natural dye of beets, onion peels, turmeric and bay leaves. After the eggs were dyed, then came the hunt, my favorite part of the day. This little ritual tapped into something deep and primal in me. It felt as if I was born to do this. My father, a minister, would often say, Seek and ye shall find, and then off I went. He hid them well and I relished in the challenge. There's nothing quite as satisfying as finding that which eludes us, especially if it has eluded us for a very long time. It was not uncommon to find eggs hidden on our hillside, months later. Growing up, it was not the traditional Easter ham my parents would have roasting in the oven, but instead, to some of my friends horror, leg of lamb.  Yep, those sweet little babies. By the time I fully understood what I was eating, it was too late,  I acquired the taste for it early on. To this day, the smell of lamb wafting through the house, brings me back to those happy times together as a family.

This leg of lamb recipe is tender and moist on the inside, with a flavorful savory herb crust.  It can be made ahead, and placed in the oven right before Easter dinner. It starts with a boneless leg of lamb that has been butterflied. A savory paste of herbs - rosemary, sage, or thyme, blended with garlic cloves, salt and olive oil, is rubbed all over the inside of the leg, and then it's rolled up and tied together with cooking twine. The savory herb mixture is then rubbed all over the outside, to create that delicious crust. In the oven it goes, over a bed of roasting vegetables, for about one hour. After its cooked to your desired temperature, let it rest a good 20 minutes, then slice it thinly. Spoon the tasty mint-caper sauce over top and serve it with the roasted veggies. And the leftovers make delicious lamb sandwiches.

April 10, 2014

Spring Asparagus Salad

There is a morning inside you waiting to burst open into Light. 

They are everywhere - buttercups, crocuses, little blue scillas, and budding syringa, all telltale signs of Spring. The earth is warming up and oh my, it feels so incredibly good. In Spring, all of a sudden, anything seems possible, doesn't it?  I have a serious case of Spring fever, and I plan to ride this wave as long as possible. 

Another sure sign of Spring is asparagus. It's also everywhere and at last, reasonable priced. We've been buying it up by the case for catering, and of course the leftovers get to come home.  In this asparagus salad recipe,  asparagus gets roasted and tossed with Israeli Cous Cous, kalamata olives, feta and a lemony dressing. It can be served warm, as a tasty side to fish, poultry or beef - or served chilled, as a hearty spring salad.  If you are going gluten free, substitute quinoa or wild rice. 

April 4, 2014

Cuban Chicken with Chili Roasted Yams

This zesty, brightly flavored Cuban Chicken makes me SO happy!  What gives the chicken its amazing flavor is a Cuban style marinade called Mojo (pronounced moho), made with fresh orange and lime juice and their zest, garlic cloves and cumin seeds. Colorful bell peppers and onions with white wine and bay leaves line the bottom of heavy bottom pot and nestled in the center, lies the chicken. The whole thing is placed in the oven and when it comes out, the chicken is roasted golden brown, and the delicious pan sauce has been reduced and infused with the juices of the chicken and mojo. Served over Chili Roasted Yams (or simple rice) spoon the flavorful pan sauce, peppers and onions over the chili roasted yams, and place the chicken over top. Finish with fresh zest and cilantro. I hope this makes you as happy as it makes me.

March 30, 2014

Lentil Meatballs with Indian Fenugreek Sauce

vegan meatballs, fenugreek sauce, coconut sauce
As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.
John Steinbeck

These savory Indian-spiced lentil "meatballs", both vegan and gluten free are served over a fragrant fenugreek-coconut sauce. The aroma will drench your kitchen in goodness.  The lentil meatballs are baked, rather than fried- so they remain relatively low in fat. Served with a salad, this meal is hearty, healthy and delicious.  If you are feeling the need to break away from meat and dairy for a night, give this a try!

It's official- our "slow" season has come to screeching halt. Back to reality. The last few weeks have been filled with furious menu planning, last minute wedding details and final meetings with brides and grooms- readying ourselves for the weddings to come. 

Often when I'm prepping food for a wedding, I like to imagine the soon-to-be newlyweds further down the road...  happy, blossoming and thriving in their new married lives. Sometimes I place silent "wishes" in the food. No, I'm not saying that I think this necessarily does anything, but it's a fun little thing I do in my head, to get through some of the more mundane tasks in the kitchen- and when I'm in that state of mind, my food usually ends up tasting better.  I like to envision them growing old together and learning the delicate art of loving. I picture them spending time together, in their own kitchens making meals and reconnecting after a busy day's work- hoping these simple daily acts, will keep them connected, through whatever comes. Because inevitably, it will come.

The other day, as Brian and I stood side by side, chopping a mountain of vegetables, a feeling of joy swelled up inside me. It didn't matter that the sun wasn't shining, or the sink was full of dirty dishes, or even that everything wasn't exactly perfect. Somehow in that moment, all was right.

Most of all, I wish for these new couples, a generous sprinkling of these simple joyful moments throughout their lives.

March 24, 2014

Mexican Short Rib Tacos

Tender, falling off the bone braised beef short ribs, cooked low and slow in the oven with dried Mexican chilies, beef stock and stout - are about as satisfying as it gets. Made into tacos, to me, they are the epitome of comfort food.  I love making these on lazy days off, while puttering around the house in pajamas. They require less work than you would imagine, allowing time to lounge and read a magazine, fold laundry or clean out your closet.  At home when it's just the two of us, I prefer them served up very simply- along with caramelized onions, melt-y queso fresco cheese and a little cilantro. The tender meat, is sufficiently flavorful. If entertaining,  pickled radishes or fresh pico de gallo  would make great side dishes.

March 19, 2014

Spring Orecchiette Pasta with Burrata

I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, 
bluebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses
I want to do with you 
what spring does with the cherry trees.
Pablo Neruda

Spring Orecchiette Pasta with Burrata
Spring is earth's love song. A gentle wooing to all of life to sprout, to grow. The seeds we have planted over winter can now begin their journey into existence. Have we planted carefully and with intention? It's never too late.

Celebrate the coming of Spring with this simple vegetarian pasta --Spring Orecchiette Pasta with mushrooms, fresh peas, sugar peas, wilted greens and dollops of creamy Burrata cheese. Mint ribbons and lemon zest give it brightness while the "sauce", similar to carbonara, gives it richness without the addition of cream, butter or oil. It's perfect for weeknight meals, coming together in an easy 30 minutes.