Rack of lamb is usually an entree reserved only for special occasions. However, this recipe is so easy that it can be prepared ahead of time and popped in the oven for 40 minutes before you’re ready to eat (25 minutes of cooking time and 15 minutes of resting time) ….leaving you time for entertaining.
Color a couple of dozen eggs and load them up in a big bowl to offer your guests with a cocktail before dinner. Deviled eggs are always a welcome treat as well. Caesar salad is a delicious and lite accompaniment with this spring-time meal. Other great ideas: roasted root vegetables, asparagus, rosemary roasted potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes.
“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have a small family, (4 members to be exact!) so at Thanksgiving, it fills my heart with joy to invite friends to my table to fill the room with laughter and love. According to what traditionally is known as “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag indians consisted of turkey, waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. Keeping with tradition, my menu this year includes roast turkey and stuffing (not to be confused with dressing),
whipped potatoes and gravy (not to be confused with mashed), cranberry sauce
(not to be confused with Cranberry jelly), scalloped oysters,
green bean casserole,
apple pie with rosemary and thyme
and to wash it all down with, an ice-cold Gewürztraminer to go with the turkey, champagne with the apple pie and some roasted chestnuts
with sparkling apple cider to nibble on while waiting to sit down. This may sound like a huge undertaking to some, however, with a few little tricks, this meal can be accomplished stress-free. I start two days in advance to get the grocery shopping done. Then I peel the chestnuts, and make the cranberries.
“A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow.”
― Kathy Mattea
On Saturday, June 28, 2014 Anthony Road Wine Company had their 12th annual Martini-Reinhardt Winemaker’s Selection Dinner. The idea is to pair wines by renowned head winemaker, Peter Becraft and consulting winemaker, Johannes Reinhardt with delicious food prepared by Finger Lakes chef Samantha Buyskes.
The winery is owned by Ann and John Martini. Perched high on a hill overlooking beautiful Seneca Lake and surrounded by flowers, gardens, and wild life. It was somewhat of a surreal experience standing in the midst of all this beauty with a glass of 2013 dry rose in one hand and a zucchini, feta & mint fritter in the other. Some of the other captivating hors d’oeuvres were: artichoke & caper deviled eggs, kale dip with crudité and asian lettuce wraps.
Dining was on the terrace overlooking the lake and vineyards with live music by quartet 442.
We started with a smoked trout & scallop napoleon layered with Yukon gold potatoes, and paired with a 2008 semi dry Riesling – the Governor’s Cup winner, excellent! (my favorite of the night)….and the presentation……. astounding!
Next came buccatini with white bean, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, lovage & Parmigiano Reggiano. For those who have not heard of lovage, this is a trendy new herb that chefs are using. It has a celery-like flavor – perfect with the 2013 dry Riesling which had lemony notes and other citrus aromas. Try this recipe. It’s easy and delicious.
The grilled flatbread with goat cheese, broccoli rabe, mozzarella and red pepper oil was superb. With just the right amount of char on the crust this pizza went beautifully with the 2013 pinot gris. The Pinot gris was light and delicate with lingering notes of mango balancing out the richness of the cheese.
Chef Buyskes’ grilled lamb loin chops with lamb sausage, lentils and artichokes were over the top. The 2012 Merlot with heady blackberry and dark cherry aromas and flavors of cherry and vanilla was a match made in heaven.
A simple but fabulous, ginger ice cream with blueberry compote and lavender shortbread, garnished with candied ginger was the grand finale. The sweet ice cream melts on the tongue, while the heavenly blueberry compote adds a surprisingly lively note which is balanced by the lavender shortbread. The Anthony Road 2012 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling paired beautifully with it.
After each bite of food and each sip of wine, it was clear to me that the artisans making these delicacies, do so with a passion rarely seen. By the end of the evening I felt nothing but blessed for having had such an overwhelmingly inspirational feast.
“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck
“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” Julia Childs
The convergence of Spring, Easter, family and friends resulted in one really spectacular meal. This past weekend we celebrated Easter with tender grass-fed Colorado leg of lamb, cheesy potatoes dauphinoise, asparagus with lemony butter, puree of carrot – light as a feather and spiked with cream, and that quintessential dessert, strawberry tart, with sweet pastry cream that melts on the tongue , and heavenly strawberries spiked with orange liquor adding a surprisingly peppy note that balanced the richness of the cream.
It was finally time to taste that leg of lamb which had been roasting in rosemary and garlic with its heady aromas for over an hour. At the table we relished the sight of all the colorful dishes. I had been looking forward to this meal and the company of friends and family all week. Both elegant and colorful with flavors that pop ….. this meal is a memory maker!
I tried to find a local butcher that had grass-fed lamb but that was like trying to whip cream with a toothpick. I ended up ordering the lamb on-line from an organic Colorado farmer. For the best looking presentation, I trimmed about an inch of flesh from the shank bone. The fell is a thin outer layer of fat that you find if you buy an untrimmed leg from a butcher. It’s very tough so it’s important to remove all of it. Trim the excess fat that lies beneath the fell as well, leaving enough to enrich the meat and gravy.
I purchased two legs so, with any luck, I would have leftovers to make shepherds pie.
The potatoes dauphinoise are classic. They need to “rest” for 12 hours while under a press, so they make a great “do ahead” party dish. In the unlikely event that there are leftover potatoes, heat up a stack for breakfast with a poached egg on top.
Check out the beautiful spring-like feel to this dish of asparagus. Line up cooked asparagus spears and drizzle with lemony butter (lemon zest and butter) for an unforgettable presentation. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I didn’t think I would have room for the Strawberry Tart, but I managed to squeeze it in!
Happy Spring! Happy Easter!
Last night we had our annual “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” party to benefit The Opera Society for Florida Grand Opera. Yogi, our little 12 pound Doxi-Poo, was the official greeter. The first guest to arrive was Roy Simmons. Yogi greeted poor Roy with so much gusto that I thought Roy was going to have a heart attack! Yogi’s enthusiasm continued when Nancy and Wes Fetzer arrived with their little Australian Labradoodle named Schatzi. The two of them get along famously. Hanna and Jay Zukowski joined the party with arms opened as Yogi rushed to greet them. Tony and Mary Ann Stefanelli also joined us along with Michael Asser.
The theme of the meal was “A Trip to La Scala”. There is a restaurant in Milan named La Scala that is famous for their smoked tuna so I decided to prepare that for the first course. The preparation got a little tricky since I didn’t have a smoker and needed to jerry-rig one. On top of that, I live in a condo and the rules are, NO FLAMES ON THE BALCONY. I decided to smoke the tuna at my office. (I have plenty of outdoor space there) I used a small, table-top, Weber grill and put just enough charcoal in the bottom that it would fit one half of the grill. I wrapped the smoking chips in foil, leaving both ends open to let the smoke out. Then I filled a half-sheet foil pan with water and molded another half-sheet foil pan to fit criss-cross at one end on top of the pan with the water. The sushi-quality tuna went into that pan drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. When the coals were ready, I moved them all over to one side at the bottom of the grill, then added the smoking chips, then the my concoction of water and tuna with the tuna on the opposite side of grill away from the heat source. Voila, it worked, I got a really good smoke in a short amount of time with little heat resulting in a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, mouth feel with a hint of smoky flavor. This dish was garnished with lemon and served with a crostini, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and a 20-year-old V.S.O.P balsamic vinegar aged in wood and reduced by half. I paired this velvety smooth dish with Whispering Angel rose from Cotes’ De Provence, a light, dry and crisp wine that cut through the smokiness of the tuna and gave it great balance.
The second course was creamy pappardelle with leeks, bacon, tarragon and pernod. Preparing it is easy, finding that shape was yet another challenge. I finally found it in a local Italian specialty store. My original recipe did not call for tarragon or pernod, but since I had the tarragon on hand, I decided to go for it. This dish really has a lot of zing to it because you have the pernod and tarragon kind of playing off each other on the palate. It is the best pasta I’ve ever had. I served it with Orvieto Classico, a delicate, fruit and floral white wine, accented with hints of pears.
To cleanse the palate, I prepared a basil-mint-lemon sorbet. It’s a delicious, well balanced flavor combination that is rarely thought of. The sorbet stole the show. Everyone raved about it and I even had a few requests for seconds!
Veal Milanese with arugula, tomato, shaved red onion and lemon vinaigrette came next. This has always been one of my favorite entrees. When I go to Italy, it’s the one dish that I lean toward 4 out of 7 nights a week. For me, it’s one of those dishes that I just can’t get enough of……and soooo easy to make. My secret is in the breading, I always add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and fresh basil to my bread crumbs. It not only gives it a flavor lift, but it also provides a really crisp texture. I served a Chianti Classico with the veal from Tuscany. It had a distinctive red berry aroma with a hint of licorice and spice.
An icy cold frozen Limoncello was served next. Limoncello is a digestive and considered to be the national drink of Italy. It is made by steeping lemon zest in grain alcohol then adding simply syrup.
Last but not least, we arrived at the dessert course. When I think of Italian desserts, only one comes to mind, Tiramisu. This wonderful, creamy, coffee-flavored sweet makes everything right with the world! I have tried many Tiramisu recipes, but this one, is by far the best. And there you have it…….a meal fit for an Italian Prince or Princess. Buon appetito!
ONE THOUGHT ON “GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER”
A loved ones birthday is always a special day. Have you ever thought about what makes birthdays so special? When you think about it, they’re a great opportunity for friends and family to get together and celebrate the birth of those people who are near and dear to our hearts. Add to that, a great meal to share with each other and you have a worthwhile gathering. Growing up, my Mother would ask me and my sisters every year what we wanted for our birthday dinner. We would always request something that we relished, like lobster or steak. Year after year she made us feel overwhelmingly special on our birthdays by carrying out this practice.
This week a good friend had a birthday. Keeping with the tradition, I asked her what her favorite meal is. “Steak” was her enthusiastic reply. That is how this birthday meal began. One by one, menu items were added to complete the perfect meal designed just for her.
We got the party started with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon and a birthday toast. For dinner, we started with the classic steak-house wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon. Filet Mignon was the main attraction. It was wrapped in bacon and cooked to a medium-rare temperature then topped with a gremolata (garlic, parsley and lemon) compound butter.
The steak was paired with asparagus and creamy hollandaise sauce and a big bold 2004 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert, the cake was brought out, we sang “Happy Birthday” and a wish was made. The cake was a rich, dark chocolate sachertorte with raspberry filling and whipped almond cream flowers.