lamb

Rack of Lamb with Mustard, Apricot and Rosemary

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We never eat out on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants are too crowded, the service is usually awful and the food not worth leaving the comforts of home.

Besides, there’s always the next day. My taste buds don’t know and don’t care if it’s February 14th or 15th. Valentine’s Day is an “extra” that, for us, doesn’t need the same kind of clock-like precision of Rosh Hashanah or Passover.

But I do always make a lovely dinner and serve on lovely plates with lovely utensils.

Ed would prefer Chinese food, but that’s too much of a fuss for the evening. So: rack of lamb. It’s easy. Simple. No fuss at all. An indulgence, but we deserve it, don’t we?

Roast Rack of Lamb with Mustard, Apricot and Rosemary

  •  1 whole rack of lamb

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon apricot preserves

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the meat in a roasting pan. Mix the mustard and preserves and spread on the top surface. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Roast for 20-35 minutes, depending on degree of doneness desired (a meat thermometer should register between 120-140 degrees). Let the meat rest a few minutes before carving.

 

Makes 2-3 servings

 

The Birthday Dinner Dilemma

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It's my daughter Gillian's birthday today. A round numbered one. And she asked if, instead of going out to dinner at some fancy shmancy joint to celebrate, whether I would make a special dinner at home.

Of course!

With the fancy shmancy china and silverware and different size wine glasses for different wines for different courses.

Of course!

So, okay, I have the china and silverware and wine glasses. All I have to do there is make sure I have candles for the candlesticks, iron the napkins, fill the salt cellars, set the table and so on. Ed will take care of the wine.

It's all good.

BUT WHAT SHOULD I COOK?

Something new and glamorous? Fancy shmancy?

Or old favorites like Pearly Meatballs? Fried Chicken Wings? Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings? with pre-dinner cocktails.

Should I make a soup? Like Beet Soup with Orange and Mint (even the name sounds fancy doesn't it?).

For the main course I'm thinking maybe lamb. Everyone in the family eats that. But she really does like turkey. Unfortunately turkey is not the universal family favorite, so maybe no? Plus -- Gillian is our family carver, so could I really ask her to do all that slicing and deboning for her birthday dinner?

Another dilemma is that Gillian is not such a big dessert person. Or at least what people consider the usual kinds of dessert. This dessert thing would be easy if the birthday person was my son-in-law Greg. He likes chocolate cake.

Ed would always welcome chef Raymond Oliver's Normandy Ice Cream (coffee with Grand Marnier).

For me, birthday dessert is always apple pie

We are celebrating in a few weeks, so I have some time to finalize the menu plus make sure I buy those candles. 

If anyone has suggestions -- I am all ears.

In the meantime, should I also make some candy? Like chocolate dipped dried fruit?

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit

  • 2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or rum
  • 50 pieces (approximately) dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apricot halves, candied orange peel (about 6 ounces)

Melt the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let the ingredients melt, remove the top part of the pan from the heat, pour in the brandy and stir to make a smooth, uniform mixture. Dip each piece of fruit in the chocolate mixture, shake off the excess and place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Makes approximately 50 pieces

Does Making it Three-Cornered Mean it's Hamantaschen?

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In short, yes! 

Last year Soom Foods, who produces absolutely fabulous tahini, sponsored a contest which was basically to come up with an unusual or new riff on an old Purim favorite: hamantaschen.

I won!

I won with this idea: Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce. Sure, it's not classic cake-dessert hamantaschen with prune or poppyseed filling. But, although I love those (all year, not just on Purim), I don't think hamantaschen has to be a sweet, cakey version in order to qualify. 

My prize for winning was a jar of Soom sesame butter. What could be better when you want to make hummus or tahini sauce or anything else using sesame paste (butter, tahini)?

I've gone through a few jars of the stuff since then.

So here, folks, just in time for Purim, is:

 

Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough, approximately

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Stir in the mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, currants and pine nuts. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Place the phyllo sheets on a cutting board and cut out circles using a 3-inch cookie cutter (work with about 6 layered sheets at a time; you'll need about 12 sheets in all; some will crinkle and dry and need to be discarded). Keep the cut out phyllo circles in a pile, covered with plastic wrap. Working with three circles at a time, brush each circle with a small amount of olive oil and place a heaping tablespoon of the lamb filling in the center of the circle. Bring up the sides to form a triangle and press the edges together. Place each triangle on a baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the lamb has been used (about 24 filled triangles).

Bake the triangles for about 35 minutes or until browned and crispy. Serve hot with Lemon-Tahini Sauce.

Makes about 24

Make the sauce while the triangles are baking:

 

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste, sesame butter)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

Stir the tahini in the jar to blend in any oil that has risen to the top. Spoon the 1/2 cup tahini into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and blend it in. Add the water, olive oil, garlic and salt to taste. Blend thoroughly (use a food processor or immersion blender).

Makes one cup

 

 

 

Ouch! It's So Cold

It's like 9 degrees outside.

And there's something wrong with our furnace so it's not exactly warm enough in the house either.

Fortunately, there's a serviceman here.

Plus a slow-cook dish in the oven.

Both, I trust, will get life warm soon enough.

Lamb Shanks with White Wine and Rosemary

  • 4 lamb shanks, about 1 pound each
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 habanero chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trim any excess fat from the shanks. Pour the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shanks and cook them for 8-10 minutes, turning them occasionally, to brown all sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Pour out all but about a tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the tomatoes, carrots, onion, leek, garlic and chili pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly. Pour in the stock and wine, mix the ingredients and bring to a boil. Place the shanks into the vegetable mixture and baste a few times. Place the rosemary sprigs and parsley in the pan, season to taste with salt and pepper and cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the meat is soft. Discard the rosemary sprigs. Serve the lamb as is, with the vegetables and pan fluids OR, puree the pan fluids with the vegetables and serve it as gravy with the meat.

Makes 4 servings.