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Celebration Of Spring
Dinner Menu for Six

Endive/Watercress/Papaya Salad
Crown Roast of Lamb with
Herbed Cornbread Stuffing
Roasted Asparagus, Red Peppers & Mushrooms
Tiramisł

The starter salad recipe for this menu uses papaya or mango which are two delicious tropical fruits usually found in major supermarket produce sections and in the many "fancy food" stores nationwide.  These fruits are imported from Mexico but you can bet that my favorite mango and papaya are those grown in Hawai'i!  There are some mango and papaya coming in from the Caribbean islands as well.  If papaya and mango are not available where you live, substitute sweet, ripe cubes of cantaloupe.

The "main event" in this menu is a very impressive Crown Roast of Lamb consisting of two racks of lamb that have been tied into a crown shape and secured with butchers twine. It is best to order this cut from your butcher and let them do the work, rather than my explaining the method here.  In fact, I've been seeing more and more meat departments in major supermarkets having Crown Roasts of Lamb formed and packaged for sale just before major holidays as it is such a festive cut of meat to serve on special occasions.

Two racks of lamb will have seven or sometimes eight chops per rack - to serve six guests, three chops per person makes a nice serving. If you'd like to have leftover lamb, or you just want to have additional chops for any really hungry guests, buy six additional individual rib lamb chops to roast along side of the crown roast.

The center of the Crown Roast can be stuffed (or left empty if you prefer) but in either case, you should double the recipe for the side dish of cornbread stuffing. If you do choose to stuff the cavity of the crown roast, bake the remainder of the stuffing in a buttered baking dish for 30 - 45 minutes at 350F.

Asparagus is available almost year round with imports in the U.S. northeastern  winter months from Chile and Peru. Although those imports have travelled a long way to get on your plate, I must admit that they taste okay but having said that, don't even think of buying imported asparagus when locally grown asparagus becomes available where you live!!

With the growth of farmer's markets around the USA consumers can buy locally grown asparagus and it's the only way to go!   Eating locally grown asparagus (or any locally grown foods) with the true flavors of this exotic member of the lily family is something you just have to experience yourself.  Asparagus is also a very versatile vegetable to cook - whether blanched, steamed, pickled, stir fried. grilled or roasted it is delicious.

If a busy schedule doesn't permit you to make the Tiramisł recipe for dessert, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, "there is NO shame in buying dessert" for any occasion!  The only caveat to a store-bought dessert is that the bakery you buy the dessert from, has to be top quality!  No mediocre store bought dessert will do!  But if you do have the time, this Tiramisł recipe is an easy one - there are no eggs in this version as in other Tiramisł recipes. I love eggs, but frankly I don't think they are necessary for this dessert.  The mascarpone and whipped cream are luscious enough. This recipe can be prepared the day before your dinner party, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.  This is one dessert that my husband enjoys assembling so maybe you can convince someone in your family to lend a hand and make it! 

     
   

 Endive, Watercress & Papaya Salad

3 large whole endive, ends trimmed, cut into julienne strips
2 bunches watercress,  tough stems removed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 ripe (but firm) papaya (or mangoes), peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1" cubes
     
     
     
   

Dressing

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
2 Tablespoons shallots, finely minced
2 Tablespoons  parsley, finely minced
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, finely minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the endive, watercress, red onion, and papaya (or mango). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the dressing, add the vinegar, mustard, shallots, parsley, basil, and thyme to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until combined and the dressing is emulsified. 

The dressing can also be made by hand using a wire whisk - secure the bottom of a mixing bowl on the counter with a damp towel wrapped around the base of the bowl - add the vinegar, mustard, shallots, parsley, basil, and thyme to the bowl and drizzle oil into other ingredients with one hand while whisking with the other hand to emulsify the dressing. 

Note:  Taste the dressing before adding salt and pepper.  Adjust to your specific taste - adding more oil or vinegar if needed - then add the salt & pepper and taste again. Sometimes, adding a pinch of sugar to salad dressing will help to balance the flavors.

Dress the salad with a small amount of the dressing and toss. Add more dressing a little at a time (an over-dressed salad is awful!) and immediately arrange equal portions on individual chilled salad plates. Serve with sesame bread sticks, if desired.

     
     
   

Crown Roast of Lamb with Cornbread Stuffing

1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup orange juice
½ cup chopped dried fruit (mixed or single variety)
2 cups packaged dry cornbread stuffing
½ cup sliced Crimini mushrooms
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ t. salt
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
5 leaves fresh sage, chopped
     
     
   

1 Crown Roast of Lamb (approximately 14 - 16 ribs) - trimmed of excess fat

Plus 6 additional single rib lamb chops trimmed of excess fat

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
  salt & freshly ground black pepper
  finely minced rosemary and fresh thyme leaves

Rub the Crown Roast and the single chops with olive oil, salt & pepper and finely minced rosemary and thyme.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

For the stuffing:  In a small mixing bowl, combine sherry and orange juice; soak dried fruit in sherry mixture for 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine cornbread stuffing, mushrooms, pecans, salt, rosemary, sage and thyme. Add fruit mixture. Place a small piece of foil under the center of the crown roast to hold the stuffing in. 

You may wish to double the ingredients for the stuffing. Fill the crown roast with as much as it can hold and bake the remainder in a lightly buttered or oiled oven-proof baking dish to ensure a sufficient serving for each guest.

For the Crown Rack and rib lamb chops: Place the Crown Roast in a shallow roasting pan; fill center of crown roast with stuffing. Cover the rib ends of the lamb and the top of stuffing with foil to prevent burning.  If using a broiler rack pan which sits on top of a shallow roasting pan, fill the pan with 1 cup of water which will help prevent spattering.   Roast at 375 degrees F. for 1 hour or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the meat registers 140 degrees F. for rare, 150-155 degrees F for medium-rare.  Start checking internal temperatures of the meat after 40 minutes of roasting time.

When done, transfer crown roast and single rack to a carving/serving board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  To serve, remove stuffing to a serving bowl and carve through each rib and serve two or three chops for each portion along with some of the stuffing. 

     
   

Roasted Asparagus, Red Peppers & Mushrooms

. Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Baby Red sweet peppers, cored, seeded and cut julienne
3 whole cloves garlic with skin, ends trimmed
30 fresh asparagus spears, 6" long, ends pared
½ pound Shiitake Mushrooms, stems discarded
  *kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
   

Heat oven to 350°F.

This recipe can be prepared several hours before serving. 

Coat pepper strips, asparagus and shiitake with enough extra virgin olive oil so all vegetables are coated and spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Add garlic cloves and sprinkle salt & pepper over all

Roast for 20 - 25 minutes.  Remove pan from oven; cover lightly with foil and reserve - reheat in a hot oven just before serving.

*Kosher salt is used by professional chefs and home cooks as it is easier to grab a pinch of salt to add to foods - slightly coarse, it doesn't stick to your fingertips, unless they are wet of course!. Kosher salt helps meat and poultry fry better as it stays on the surface . It sprinkles on and does not penetrate cooked food the way ordinary table salt does.

     
     
     

TIRAMISŁ

1½ cups cold espresso
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur (or Amaretto)
1lb. tub Mascarpone
4 packets Splenda® (new with fiber)
  OR 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, whipped to medium peaks
1 teaspoon Real Vanilla extract
24 Savoiardi dry ladyfingers
  Giradelli unsweetened (or sweetened) cocoa powder
   
   

Make the espresso and let cool.  Add the Grand Marnier (or Amaretto) and pour into a wide dish about 2-inches deep. 

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the mascarpone, Splenda (or sugar) until smooth.  Fold in the whipped cream and vanilla extract. Taste the mixture and if you'd like more sweetness, add more Splenda or sugar as desired.

You will need an 8-inch square Pyrex dish or other similar size 2-inch deep dish ready to begin assembling the dessert:

1.  Start soaking the lady fingers one at a time in the cold espresso/liqueur mixture.  The dry lady fingers soak up the espresso very quickly so only a few seconds on each side of the lady finger is necessary. 

2. As each lady finger is soaked in espresso, place it in the serving dish - continue placing soaked lady fingers until the bottom of the dish is covered with one layer of lady fingers.  You may have to cut one or two lady fingers in half to fit the dish.

3. Next, add half of the mascarpone/whipped cream mixture and spread evenly over the lady fingers. 

4.  Using a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle an even layer of the cocoa powder over the top of the mascarpone layer.

5.  Continue to soak another batch of lady fingers in the espresso, again, one at a time for only a few seconds each and place these as the second layer. 

6.  Add the remaining mascarpone/whipped cream mixture and spread evenly over the lady fingers.

7.  Using a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle an even layer of the cocoa powder over the top of the mascarpone layer.

Once assembled, cover the dish with plastic wrap - try not to let the plastic wrap touch the top layer of cocoa powder.  Refrigerate the Tiramisł until ready to serve.  Can be made one day ahead. 

 

 

 

 
 
           
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