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As I mentioned, we were in Napa this past weekend with some friends at their gorgeous home … and I am kicking myself that I am back at home/work. The weather was perfect, if a bit hot, which necessitated lounging in the pool for hours at a time. In addition to the copious amount of both vino and good stories, no surprise there was lots of food. We all enjoy some time in the kitchen, which makes things so fun and easy when meals are a group effort.
Friday night we went a bit Greek, which seemed perfect for a hot summer night.
We stuck to something that worked (the version from a Spring dinner), simply studding bits of herbs, lemon zest, garlic and anchovies around the leg, and then roasting until just medium-rare. A hit every time.
with lots of dips and sides
store-bought, but jazzed up with some lemon juice and olive oil, topped with paprika and toasted pinenuts.
I make mine with greek yogurt and both diced and grated cucumbers – that way you get bits to bite, but it also melds completely with the yogurt. Of course a bit of garlic, lemon and olive oil are needed too.
Red Pepper Aioli
which was added last minute for some heat — whisking of egg yolk, lemon juice and oil (homemade mayo) with some garlic and a potent hot-pepper spread we found in the fridge…any hot sauce would work here depending on the direction you want.
because growing up, lamb meant mint jelly, but this one was a bit more current and definitely more fresh… really a mint pesto if you will.
and to balance it out,
Watermelon Salad, of course
and some Grilled Pita
The feasting didn’t stop Saturday, with a late brunch, afternoon snacks, and another Mediterranean dinner, this one Spanish.
Brunch was fairly simple, just a
this one was loaded with onions, sliced potatoes, sliced summer squash, and fresh corn and topped with goat cheese (which I may have forgotten to add earlier).
which, if you haven’t discovered the key to divine bacon, is buy the good thick-cut kind at the meat counter and then roast it in a hot oven on a sheet pan (or even better, a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan)– stays flat, is the perfect crisp/chewy ratio, and no one has to stand there frying bacon.
Yogurt and Berries
While for weekday breakfasts, I keep the yogurt as is, for brunch, I add a bit of orange juice and zest and a tiny swirl of honey.
After brunch we went for pool time, margaritas, snacks in multiple rounds (first chips, salsa, guac and leftover tzatziki, then cheese and charcuterie), wine and finally a Spanish dinner.–
Jamón y Melón
The traditional version is made over an open flame in a paella pan, but I find this Cook’s Illustrated version to be the perfect adaptation for home. I use this pan (which to me still feels more paella-ish tableside, but I happened to own long before I started making this), and make a few slight changes, including adding Pimentón, or smoked Spanish paprika, which I find to be non-negoitable and homemade chicken stock. As for the meats and seafood, it is pretty adaptable. Sometimes I add clams as well, or spicy turkey sausage instead of chorizo for some guests – you can see here the mussels didn’t make it, as turned out the fridge wasn’t cold enough to keep them alive, and we forgot to keep them on ice.
Now if only I could spend the rest of the summer this way. This whole work thing really gets in the way of things.
This past Saturday, we had a few friends over for an early Easter dinner. After a few busy weekends with work, it was my first foray into the kitchen since spring goodies started to pop up at the markets.
And seeing has how it had been almost a year since we last saw English peas, baby artichokes, and the like, I may have gone a bit overboard. But, truthfully, I hardly need such an excuse!
We started with ...
Fresh Pea & Mint Crostini
I essentially used this version from Jamie Oliver, but without the favas, as the one booth at my Farmer’s Market that had them this early sold out fast. Also, he recommends keeping the peas raw, which I find to be a bit starchy, so I blanch half and keep half raw to keep it super fresh.
and for dinner...
Roasted Leg of Lamb
It was studded with bits of garlic and chopped anchovy — a tip I saw in a cookbook while buying the lamb [alas, I cannot remember the name] and from this Food 52 recipe — and a rosemary, parsley, lemon zest crust. I am not sure if it was the anchovy or just Fatted Calf’s superb meat, but it was some of the best lamb any of us had ever had!!
Fried Baby Artichokes
So good – I rarely fry because it seems super decedent and what to do with all that oil – but wow, these were such a hit! There were six of us and 8 baby artichokes since there was a full menu, but I should’ve done 12 for sure. We could’ve all gone for more. This step-by-step from Food 52 (of course) also makes them super easy.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Made simply with olive oil and flaky salt (I skipped the rosemary, as there was plenty with the lamb), but with a trick I picked up from GOOP – first boil, then drain and shake with the lid on, to fluff up the outsides, which allows for the perfect little crust once you roast.
This traditional method keeps asparagus super simple but the additional of grated eggs and capers makes it particularly springy. You could wing it, but I used the recipe from Plenty (a favorite veg-centric cookbook).
Little Gems with Lemon Vinaigrette
This dressing from April Bloomfield is crazy good – and super puckery, which is a great balance to all the richness above.
and for dessert...
lest you think we ended there, in addition to the copious amounts of wine, dessert was a riff on this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 cookbooks. I didn’t think we needed a whole baked option, and rhubarb hasn’t shown up quite yet, so I turned it into a sundae of sorts.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries & Black Pepper-Pine Nut Crumble
I baked the crumb topping on its own from the recipe, and used it in place of nuts for the crunch in the sundaes, and the ice cream was my favorite vanilla from David Lebovitz.
Such a feast, combined with good company (and perhaps an impromptu dance party) made for the perfect night!
Farmer’s markets, restaurants, magazines, the weather, walking around, other blogs, friends, parties – while this could be a list of my favorite things, in fact it is a (wholly incomprehensive) list of where I get ideas for this site. But when chatting with B the other day, I let it be known that he could make requests. Many things on here are spur of the moment, what’s in the fridge kind of posts, but occasionally there are go-to-the-store-with-an-idea in mind type of thing too. And I let him know that I am always open to suggestions for those.
And in about 2.5 seconds he answered lamb.
I think he loves it because: