Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date CouscousOn The Lamb
Growing up, we always had lamb for Easter. There may have been the occasional ham but I always associate lamb (and my grandmother’s purple water goblets) with Easter.

I have a very clear picture in my mind of my grandmother carving the leg of lamb with an electric knife (!) and with each slice she may or may not have encountered a whole garlic clove that she had stuffed into the meat. I also remember the tiny metal containers for the mint jelly. The leg of lamb was always tasty, the mint jelly not so much. Back then, traditional roasted leg of lamb or the occasional broiled lamb chop with rosemary was pretty much the limit of my exposure to lamb. Nowadays though, when I think of eating or cooking lamb my tastes run to the Middle East.

No matter the occasion, if I am cooking with lamb chances are the flavors are going to be North African or Middle Eastern in nature. Easter dinner is no different. Harissa has thankfully replaced the mint jelly on the table and potatoes have made way for the couscous. So, depending on how formal we want to be, dinner can be lamb kebabs with pita and hummus or a roast shoulder with couscous and date stuffing. And there is always this family favorite, Moroccan Lamb Tangine.

I think this year because I feel the need to make an effort, I’m doing the Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous. It’s been a while since I have made Moroccan food and this is the perfect time to dust off a favorite recipe!

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Serves 4 to 5

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Amy’s Roast Chicken

Amy's Roasted ChickenBird Is The Word

Most years I try to make an effort to put together a traditional dinner for Passover since my husband is technically Jewish—I say technically because while he may have been born into the Jewish faith, he does not practice it. I am more into it than he is; mainly because I love the food and the lore. For dinner I make foods that are in keeping with the traditions. We don’t do the whole Seder.

This year it’s going to be a struggle to do anything, but for a good reason. We’re heading on vacation for spring break. I like a keeping in touch with your roots as much as the next guy but frankly, sand, sun, and pool-side cocktails will trump that every time…so will the amount of laundry I have to get done in order to get everyone packed and ready.

This year’s Passover celebration will be simple. Very simple. I’m going with a roasted chicken. Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest things you can do for dinner, and you can roast multiple chickens on a basic sheet pan. (I always do two. One for dinner, and the other for sandwiches, tacos etc,) Of all the things I have taught my kids about cooking, this recipe is the most important one. As long as they can roast a chicken, they will be able to feed themselves.

I like to rub my chicken with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, but you can do whatever you want. Rubbing your favorite spice blend all over the chicken is a no-brainer. Sometimes I put a lemon with the ends cut off into the cavity, other times I do the same with a head of garlic that has had the top cut off. The possibilities are limitless. Feel free to experiment as you see fit.

Amy’s Roast Chicken
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Flourless Chocolate Cake with Toasted Hazelnuts and Brandied Cherries

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Toasted Hazelnuts and Brandied CherriesGrowing up, Passover was a mystery to me ’cause, well, I’m not Jewish. Over the years, I have had many Jewish friends, but I was clueless about the holiday’s meaning and traditions. I did know that if the calendar said we were getting close to Passover, it was a pretty good bet that I would stumble upon Charlton Heston in a toga while flipping through the channels.

It wasn’t until adulthood that I got to experience my first Seder. As a history major and enthusiast, I found it fascinating (although a bit tedious). But the food was amazing. (Rumors of gelatinous Gefelte fish abound, and I had been a little concerned. All right, really concerned. I was pleasantly surprised.) What I experienced was a delicious, deeply meaningful, and moving meal steeped in tradition and lessons for life.

We dined on Matzo ball soup and brisket. The haroseth was a favorite. How can anyone go wrong with apples, raisins and honey? The best was saved for last: a flourless chocolate cake with fresh berries. It was a perfect ending to a poignant evening.

The recipe below is similar, although just as delicious. You can purchase brandied cherries if you are short on time, or purée fresh raspberries or strawberries to use as a sauce.

Passover begins Monday March 25 at sundown. To all my Jewish friends past, present and future…Next Year in Jerusalem!

L’Chaim!   Read more…