Olive Oil Roasted Baby Eggplant w/ Red Pepper Salsa & Ricotta Cheese

I love fresh vegetarian dishes.  Last weekend, I went to the international grocery store, where I get most of my not so easy to find Lebanese ingredients.  I found the most beautiful baby eggplant that are often used in Lebanese cuisine, whether stuffed, fried, or roasted, and made into some wonderful dishes.  This time, I decided to make them into a lighter dish, something that can be part of a Mediterranean lunch or brunch … or even a side dish.

OLIVE OIL ROASTED BABY EGGPLANT WITH RED PEPPER SALSA AND RICOTTA CHEESE

10 baby Eggplant
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
15 oz whole milk Ricotta Cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

SALSA
2 Red Bell Peppers – fire or oven roasted
1/2 cup Cilantro – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic – finely minced
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lemon – zested
Pinch Salt
Few fresh Black Pepper grinds

Begin by washing and drying the baby eggplant, red peppers, cilantro, and lemon.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the red peppers on a baking sheet and into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  While the peppers are roasting in the oven, start working on the eggplant.

On a clean cutting board, cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, and place them in a large bowl.  (I remove part of the eggplant stem that might burn in the oven.  See pic above.)  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Mix well.  Place the oiled eggplant cut side down on a baking sheet.

If the red peppers are done roasting, remove them, and place them in a bowl.  Cover them with plastic wrap for 10 minutes to keep the steam inside the bowl.  This will help remove the peel instantly.

Bring the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the eggplant in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Finely chop the cilantro and finely mince the garlic.  Place them in a small bowl with the zest of one lemon, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Remove the plastic wrap from covering the red peppers.  Peel and deseed the peppers.  Slice them into cubes, and place them into the bowl.  Stir the salsa to combine all the ingredients.

In another bowl, add the Ricotta cheese, and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

When the baby eggplant slices are out of the oven, serve them in small plates or in one large serving plate.  If you choose to serve them into individual sides, as I did, then place a few baby eggplant in one small dish.  Make a quenelle, or football shaped dollop, out of a large spoonful of Ricotta cheese, and place it in between the eggplant slices.  Drizzle one or two small spoonfuls of the red pepper salsa over the eggplant slices.  With the assertively zesty and fresh flavor of the salsa, the mild flavor and creaminess of the Ricotta works well to bring balance to this delicious side dish.

 


Ricotta & Pecorino Romano Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta dishes can be very easy and simple to make, yet cooking the pasta to al dente is not such an easy task for most.  Al dente, which means ‘to the tooth’ in Italian, is where the pasta is cooked through, but still retains some resistance or chewiness in the center.  Make sure to have enough boiling salted water, in which the pasta can cook and swim freely.  If the water is not salted enough (like sea water), the pasta will be bland and flavorless.  Also, wet or fresh pasta cooks at a much faster rate than dried pasta.  And certain sauces go with different pastas, depending on their shapes and sizes … but that is for another post.

I found these very pretty imported and bronze cut pasta shells at a specialty store a few weekends ago.  I decided to use them for a stuffed shell dish.  Since I had some Ricotta cheese and many tomatoes to use, I made a stuffing out of the Ricotta cheese and a few other ingredients, and a very fast and simple sauce out of the tomatoes.  I then put the sauce on top of the shells, and topped them with a generous amount of one of my favorite cheeses, Pecorino Romano.  Into the oven, and then on the table.  My family loved this dish!  I hope you enjoy it as well.

RICOTTA AND PECORINO ROMANO STUFFED PASTA SHELLS

17.6 oz (1 bag) bronze cut Pasta Shells or any kind you prefer
2 tablespoons organic Butter
2 large Shallots
2 large Garlic cloves
30 oz whole milk Ricotta Cheese
2 cups grated Pecorino Romano** – filling
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
2 cups grated Percorino Romano** – topping
Basil to garnish

**When using Pecorino Romano, please be careful not to over salt your food, as this cheese is very salty on its own.**

THE SAUCE

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small yellow Onion
2 large Garlic cloves
8 ripe Tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh Basil – chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Oregano – chopped
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Sugar

Begin by finely chopping the shallots and garlic.  In a sauté pan on medium low heat, sauté the shallots and garlic in butter.  Once they are caramelized, take them off the heat, and allow them to cool.

In a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated Pecorino Romano, the cooled shallots and garlic, salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Stir to combine, then taste to make sure the seasoning is right.  Leave the stuffing to the side, while you cook the pasta and make the sauce.

In a very large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta, and immediately stir to keep the shells from sticking together.  Closely monitor the pasta, as the cooking time depends on its dryness and thickness.  Do not cook the pasta to al dente.  The shells need to be undercooked by a few minutes,  as they will finish cooking in the oven.  You do not want mushy pasta.  When the shells are a bit undercooked, drain them from the pasta liquid, and set them to the side.  Make sure to reserve some pasta water, in case the sauce is too thick.

Roughly chop the onion, garlic, tomatoes, basil, and oregano.  In a pot on medium heat, begin sautéing the onions and garlic in olive oil.  After about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Allow the tomatoes to cook down for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the sugar, stir, and then cook for another few minutes.  Taste the sauce, to make sure the seasoning is right.  Place the sauce in a blender, and purée it until it is very smooth.

ASSEMBLING THE PASTA SHELLS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ladle a couple of scoops of the puréed sauce into an oven safe casserole dish.  This will keep the pasta from sticking to the dish.  You can use a small spoon, a small plastic bag, or a pastry bag to stuff the shells with the Ricotta filling.  Place each stuffed shell in the casserole dish, until it is full.  Ladle the rest of the sauce over the shells, and place them in the oven for 30 minutes.  Take the shells out of the oven, and top them with the last 2 cups of the Pecorino Romano.  Grind some black pepper on top of the cheese, and place the shells back in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve with some fresh basil leaves.  Enjoy!


Lebanese Meat Pies – Lahm Bi 3ajeen – Sfeeha

Lahm bi 3ajeen or sfeeha are delicious and savory meat pies that are eaten all over Lebanon, usually as part of a mezze spread, a side dish, or just as a snack.  What makes them so mouthwateringly tasty is that the raw lamb (more traditional) or beef cooks inside the dough, not separately from it.  This allows all the flavorful meat juices to be absorbed by the dough, yielding an amazing flavor.  For me, making and eating these exquisite meat pies takes me back to when I was young in my mother’s kitchen.  Whenever she made these meat pies, the intoxicating aroma filled the house, as we all gathered to devour them.

LEBANESE MEAT PIES – LAHM BI 3AHEEN – SFEEHA

Recipe yields about 36 to 40 small Lebanese meat pies.

BASIC DOUGHrecipe below
2 lbs ground Lamb (or beef)
1 large yellow Onion – finely chopped
6 large Garlic cloves – grated or finely minced
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped
4 Roma Tomatoes – finely chopped and drained
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/4 cup Tahini
1/4 cup Labneh or Greek style yogurt
3 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses (optional)
1 tablespoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 tablespoon Allspice
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Sumac
2 Lemons – juiced
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for brushing pies

LEMON WEDGES – to serve with the finished Lebanese meat pies

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, finely chopped onion, grated garlic, finely chopped parsley, finely chopped and drained tomatoes, tomato paste, tahini, labneh, pomegranate molasses, salt, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, sumac, and lemon juice.  Cover the lamb mixture with plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the refrigerator until the dough is made and has risen.

Make the dough and allow it to rise.

Now that you are ready to make the pies, roll out the dough on a lightly floured clean surface.  Using a round cookie cutter of your choice, cut the dough into rounds.  Remove the lamb mixture from the refrigerator.  Scoop about one tablespoon of the mixture into the middle of the dough rounds.  Do not overstuff the dough.  Pinch the two opposing ends of the round dough, making sure the stuffing stays in the middle.  Then pinch the other two opposing ends, forming an open square.  Repeat until all the dough is stuffed with the lamb mixture.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place all the meat pies on a lightly greased baking sheet.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush all the pies with extra virgin olive oil.  Place the meat pies in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the meat is cooked and the pies are golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges or yogurt.  Enjoy!

BASIC DOUGH

3 cups all purpose Flour – plus a little extra for dusting
1 teaspoon coarse Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus a little extra for finished dough
1 – 1 1/2 cups warm Water – depending on humidity
1 pkg rapid rise Instant Yeast – about 2 1/4 oz

*You may use regular active dry yeast, but you will have to proof the yeast in the warm water and sugar before you add it to the flour, salt, and olive oil.  I like using rapid rise, because it is much easier and takes less time for the dough to rise.

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer, and turn it on low.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, and slowly add in the warm water.  Start with a cup; should you require more, add a little drizzle at a time.  If your dough is too moist, add more flour.  Turn the stand mixer to medium low and keep kneading the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.

On a clean board, sprinkle some flour and transfer the dough to the floured board.  Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil to coat the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave it a warm dark place to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half.


Olive Oil Roasted Vegetables w/ Barley & Feta Cheese

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  I wish all of you a very healthy and happy year to come.

Lately, I have been using many kinds of whole grains as the base for my vegetarian dishes.  I love using Farro and Barley.  Both are anciently cultivated grains that have made a comeback.  They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber; so, they are very good for you.  They are also quite budget friendly.   For this recipe, I used hulled barley, as opposed to the pearl variety, since it is more nutritional.  Because it retains its bran and endosperm layers, hulled barley takes longer to cook than the more polished pearl kind.

OLIVE OIL ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH BARLEY AND FETA CHEESE

BARLEY
2 cups Hulled Barley – uncooked
6 cups Water or Stock
1 teaspoon Salt

ROASTED VEGETABLES
1/2 red Bell Pepper
2 Shallots
2 Celery stalks
4 Garlic cloves
2 large green Zucchini
10 large Brussels Sprouts
4 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup White Bordeaux – Optional – or any white wine you like

HERBS & CHEESE
1 tablespoon Dill – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1 Lemon – zested
8 oz Greek Feta
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil – per plate

Rinse the barley under cold water.  In a large enough sauce pan, bring the barley, water (or stock), and salt to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer, and cover for 45 – 60 minutes.  If the barley is not cooked through and looks dry toward the end of the cooking time, add more water, and cook it for a longer time.  After the barley is cooked through, turn the heat off, and allow it to sit (covered) for 10 minutes.  However, while the barley is simmering away, get the sautéed and roasted vegetables ready.

Mince the garlic, finely chop the shallots, and dice both the celery and the red bell pepper.  In a sauté pan, sauté the garlic, shallots, celery, and red pepper in 3 tablespoons of olive oil with  1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper, until they are translucent.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and allow it to reduce, as most of the alcohol will cook out.  Remove from the heat.

Clean, wash, and slice the Brussels sprouts and the zucchini.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the vegetables on a baking sheet.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add 1/4 tablespoon of both salt and freshly ground pepper, and mix the vegetables well.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and slightly golden.

Now that the barley is cooked and is done resting for 10 minutes, rinse it under warm or hot water to remove the excess starch.  Drain the barley well, then place it in a large bowl.  Add the sautéed garlic, shallot, celery, red pepper, and the roasted Brussels sprouts and zucchini to the bowl.     Gently combine the vegetables with the barley.

Add the dill, Italian parsley, Greek feta, lemon zest, and the salt and pepper to taste.  Stir, serve, and top each portion with a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  You may garnish the plate with a few celery leaves for some added freshness.  ENJOY!

 


Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters are quite an easy brunch dish to make, whether just for family or for friends.  You may make them any way you like, using whatever you have in your refrigerator, as I do.  In this recipe, I use Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve White English Cheddar; it is my husband’s and my favorite cheddar cheese, and it is always in our refrigerator.  However, you may use Parmesan, Asiago, or even Pecorino Romano as your cheese of choice.  Also, instead of corn flour, you may use regular flour (this will make the fritter a bit more pancake-like), potato flour, chickpea flour … the list is practically endless.

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

7 green Zucchini
3 tablespoons Corn Flour
1 organic Egg
1 large Garlic clove – grated
1/2 cup grated aged white English Cheddar – Barber’s 1833
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil or light Olive Oil

GARNISH

3 tablespoons Lebanese Labneh or Sour Cream
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped
3 grinds Black Pepper

Begin by washing and grating your zucchini using a box grater.  Squeeze all the moisture out of your shredded / grated zucchini, and place them in a bowl.  Add the corn flour, egg, grated garlic clove, grated aged Cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper.  Mix well, until all the ingredients are properly incorporated.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Form the zucchini mixture into patties, and very gently place them individually into the hot oil.  Do not crowd the pan, as you want the patties to caramelize and form a crust.  Also, be careful not to splatter yourself with the oil.  After they form a crust on one side, which can take 2 -3 minutes, gently turn them over, and allow them to caramelize until they reach the desired crispiness.

Remove the fritters from the oil, and place them on a plate lined with two or three paper towels.  This will keep your fritters from being too oily.  Allow them to sit for a minute or so, as you finely chop the Italian parsley.  Place the fritters in a serving plate, topping each fritter with a teaspoon of labneh or sour cream.  Sprinkle the chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper over them.  Serve and Enjoy!


Cannellini Bean & Vegetable Soup w/ Sprouted Bread Gremolata

With the holiday season upon us and winter eminently approaching, we tend to eat more than usual, and less healthy than usual.  So, In an effort to be a little healthier during the non-holiday meals, I have been making more vegetarian dishes for my family.  I hope this deliciously light and healthy soup serves as a worthy alternative to thick and creamy soups and stews for you this season.

CANNELLINI BEANS AND VEGETABLE SOUP WITH SPROUTED BREAD GREMOLATA

1 yellow Onion
2 large Shallots
6 large Garlic cloves
2 Tomatoes
6 Carrots – peeled
3 cups cooked Cannillini Beans
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
8 cups Chicken Stock
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette (optional)
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Begin by peeling and rough chopping the onions, shallots, garlic, and carrots.  In a dutch oven or a large pot on medium heat, sauté the peeled and chopped vegetables in the olive oil.  Once the onions, shallot, carrots, and garlic are translucent, chop and add the tomatoes.  Allow the tomatoes to cook down for about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and stir.  Add the tomato paste, piment d’espelette, salt, and pepper, and stir  everything together to get all the ingredients incorporated.

Add the bay leaf and the chicken stock.  Cover the soup, and allow it to simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf.  You may serve it as is, in its current rustic style.  I, however, prefer it puréed and topped with a fresh gremolata.  Place the soup into a blender, and purée it.  Place the puréed soup back in the dutch oven or pot on very low heat, while you make the gremolata.

SPROUTED BREAD GREMOLATA

2 slices Sprouted Bread
2 Garlic cloves1 large Lemon – zested
1/2 cup Italian Parsley – loosely packed
Pinch of Sea Salt
5 grinds of Black Pepper

I usually chop the ingredients of my gremolata by hand, but this time I use a food processor.  Begin by toasting or broiling the sprouted bread on high.  Be very careful not to burn the bread, even though you want it to be well toasted completely through.  Let the toast stand (upright if you can), as it hardens a little more.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves and salt.  Crumble the bread and add it to the food processor, and pulse.  Now add the lemon zest and Italian parsley.  Process all the ingredients together.  You may lightly sauté the gremolata in olive oil, if you want a crispier texture.  However, I decide to skip this part.   I am, after all, going for a lighter application.  The sprouted bread gremolata is ready.

In an individual serving bowl, ladle the puréed soup, and then top it with a spoonful of gremolata.  Serve and enjoy!


Lebanese Lentil Soup w/ Lemon & Swiss Chard – 3adas Bil Hamod

Every time I think of this Lebanese lentil soup, I am transported to the distant past, when I was little, and my mom would make this delicious lentil soup for me, my dad, and my sister.  I remember coming home from school, starving.  I would walk into the kitchen, and the scent was just intoxicating!  Onions, garlic, and cilantro sautéing in extra virgin olive oil.  It was such a lovely treat, especially, on a cold afternoon.  Even though, my mom has made it many times since, my most vivid memories are from the days of my childhood.  Now, it is up to me to create those vivid food memories with my own family.

LEBANESE LENTIL SOUP WITH LEMON AND SWISS CHARD 

1 small yellow Onion
1 large head of Garlic – minced
2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 bunch Cilantro
1 1/2 cups brown Lentils
3 quarts Water
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1/2 to 1 Lemon per bowl – juiced

Start by rinsing the lentils.  In a large sauce pan over medium heat, simmer the lentils in water, until they are soft.

Finely mince the onion and garlic, and finely chop the cilantro.  In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until they are translucent.  Add the cilantro, and sauté for another few minutes.

Wash the potatoes, and cut them into small cubes.  Sauté them along with the onions, garlic and cilantro mixture for about 5 minutes.  Add the cooked lentils and all their cooking liquid to the dutch oven.

Wash and chop the swiss chard.  Make sure to remove the very bottom part of the stems, and discard them.  Add the swiss chard to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for 3o minutes.

Now that the soup is ready, juice about half a lemon per bowl of soup.  As I am Lebanese, I squeeze one whole large lemon for a bowl.  I hope you enjoy this deliciously healthy soup.

 


Pommes Anna

In the last two posts, I told you about the Seared Rack of Lamb with Salsa Verde and the Asparagus with Tomato and Garlic Confit.  Now is the time to talk about a delicious potato dish from France, Pommes Anna.  A classic Pommes Anna has potatoes, of course, butter, salt, and a bit of pepper.  My version has garlic and thyme added to the ingredients, just because garlic, thyme, and butter make for very fabulously delicious potatoes.  I, also, make and serve this dish in individualized portions.  In my opinion, that makes it prettier to serve.

POMMES ANNA

5 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 stick organic Butter (8 tablespoons)
2 large Garlic cloves
16 sprigs Thyme
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

After rinsing and drying the potatoes, slice them into uniform thin slices using a mandoline.  Make sure to dry them thoroughly, as they will be a little wet.  In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on low heat.  Finely mince the garlic, and add it to the melted butter.  Pick the thyme leaves off the sprigs, and add them to the garlic and butter.  When the butter, garlic, and thyme become fragrant, remove them from the heat, and add them to the potatoes, along with the salt and pepper.  Toss the potato slices with the butter concoction, until the slices are thoroughly coated.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a baking pan / sheet.  Take a handful of buttered potato slices, and gently stack them onto the baking sheet. Do so, until all the potatoes are stacked in individual little towers.  Top them with a couple of thyme leaves and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through, and the edges are golden and crispy.  Serve alongside you favorite main dish.  I served it with my seared lamb and salsa verde.  It was very delicious!  Bon Appétit!


Seared Rack of Lamb w/ Salsa Verde

I LOVE LAMB!  Fortunately for me, so does my husband.  So, when I presented him with three different menus I conjured up for him to choose from for his birthday, he picked the lamb.  Since lamb is generally not lean, it needs a little bit of freshness and citrus to cut through the richness of the fatty meat.  Salsa verde would be the perfect condiment for the lamb.  It is the bit of citrusy freshness that is needed to balance the dish.  This version of salsa verde has anchovies in it.  Trust me, you will not taste anything fishy.  My husband does not like the assertive flavor of anchovies, yet he loved the salsa, as he could not taste it.  The anchovies lend a depth to this condiment, that would otherwise be absent.

SEARED RACK OF LAMB WITH SALSA VERDE

2 racks of Lamb – Frenched
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
4 Shallots
4 sprigs fresh Rosemary
3 tablespoons organic Butter
1/2 cup Sherry wine (optional)

You may choose to trim the fat off the racks of lamb, but I highly advise against it.  Seared and caramelized lamb fat, to a Lebanese like me, is the most delicious seared animal fat!  Plus, it keeps your meat moist, as you cook it in the oven.  That being said, take the lamb out of the refrigerator, and allowed it to sit on a clean counter, until it is close to room temperature.  Lather each rack of lamb with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, liberally sprinkle the salt and pepper on both the racks, and let them sit to the side for a couple of minutes, while you get the sauté pan ready.

In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, pour in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 tablespoons of butter.  When the pan is very hot, place one or both racks of lamb in the pan fat side down.  Do not over crowd the pan, and do not mess with the lamb for at least 5 minutes.  You want to get a very nice sear and brown color on the that lamb.  Add the peeled shallots and rosemary sprigs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn the lamb over to sear the other side for another 5 minutes.  Turn the lamb back over to fat side up, and place it in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, until you get a thermometer reading of 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  (While the lamb is in the oven, make the salsa verde – recipe below.)  Take the lamb out of the oven, remove it from the pan, cover both racks with foil, and allow the lamb to rest for at least 5 minutes, and until an internal temperature of about 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.  This will give you a perfect medium rare lamb.  If you like your lamb cooked longer, leave the racks in the oven longer.  Just make sure to allow the lamb to rest, when taken out of the oven.  

Return the sauté pan back to the stove over medium high heat, after removing most or all the fat, then add the sherry to all the delicious brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Allow the sherry to reduce to a syrupy consistency, while scraping everything off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off, and strain the sauce you just made, if you want a silky smooth sauce.  If you want a rustic sauce, skip this step.  Add it back to the pan, and finish it off with a tablespoon of butter, gently stirring it into the sauce.

SALSA VERDE

2 cloves Garlic
4 Anchovy fillets – packed in oil
1 tablespoon Capers – packed in vinegar
3 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped
3 tablespoon Sweet Basil – finely chopped
2 tablespoon Mint – finely chopped
1 Lemon – zested & juiced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Using a mortar and pestle, mash or grind the garlic with the salt into a very fine paste.  Add the anchovies, and grind to fine paste as well.  Finally, add the drained capers to the mortar and pestle, and mash the entire mixture together.  Place the paste in a bowl.  Zest and juice a lemon, and place both in the bowl.  Finely chop all the herbs, and place them in the bowl as well.  Add the extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to the salsa.  Stir it very well, and allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.  You can also make this salsa a day before, and leave it in the refrigerator until the next day.  If you choose to do so, cover the salsa with a little more olive oil to keep the greens from wilting and losing their vibrant green color.

Now that the lamb has rested, with a very sharp knife, cut the lamb into one chop or double chops.  In a serving  plate, place the lamb chops, either alone or with a side or sides.  You may use the sherry sauce made earlier for a more deep and rich flavor, or use the salsa verde for a more vibrant and refreshing flavor.  You can always use both!  My daughter preferred the sherry sauce, while my husband preferred the salsa verde.  I used both.  So, plate however you would like, and ENJOY this most delicious of meats!


Asparagus w/ Tomato & Garlic Confit

This weekend was my husband’s birthday.  Every year, on his birthday, I make him a special meal followed by a dessert of his choice.  For this meal, I made him a Seared Rack of Lamb with Salsa Verde, Asparagus with Tomato and Garlic Confit, Pommes Anna, and Rebecca Rather’s Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting, Kevin’s favorite.  I got up early on Saturday to get started on all those delicious dishes.  The next few posts will contain the recipes from my husband’s birthday meal.

ASPARAGUS WITH TOMATO AND GARLIC CONFIT

3 lbs Asparagus
1 pint Cherry  Tomatoes
1 head Garlic
4 sprigs Thyme
1 to 1 1/3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
3 quarts boiling Water
3 tablespoons Salt

In a small sauce pan on low heat, pour in the olive oil and add the peeled garlic, tomatoes, and thyme sprigs.  Let the tomatoes and garlic cook or confit for about 2 hours, or until the garlic is very soft.  Remove them from the heat, and remove the thyme sprigs.  You may go ahead and remove the tomatoes and garlic from the confit oil.  Make sure to reserve some of the confit oil for the asparagus, and the rest for another dish or bread dipping.

Meanwhile, clean the asparagus and remove their wooden ends.  Slice them diagonally into 3 or 4 equal segments.  In another pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add 3 tablespoons of salt, then add the sliced asparagus.  Parboil the asparagus for 4 minutes, then place them in ice water.  This process stops the cooking process, as you don’t want the asparagus to be overcooked or mushy, while retaining their deep green color.  After a couple of minutes or so, remove the asparagus from the ice water and dry them thoroughly.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, pour 3 tablespoons of the reserved confit olive oil, then add the sliced asparagus, half the salt and pepper.  After the asparagus have warmed up, gently toss in the tomatoes and garlic with the rest of the salt and pepper.  Gently mix everything together, then place them in a serving dish.  This is a very delicious and bright side dish.  It goes very well with meat and fish dishes.  In this instance, the main dish is lamb, which will be featured in the next post.  I hope you enjoy this very yummy side dish!