Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta

Peas, Pasta, and PancettaSpring Forward
Over the weekend we moved nine cubic yards (I may have over-ordered.) of vegetable potting soil into my raised beds in anticipation of having an actual vegetable garden for the first time in about 10 years. The arrival of the dirt is one of the last steps before the real magic starts.

All of the family has been involved in this project. And, surprisingly without a lot of moaning and groaning from the younger crowd. In fact, I think they are excited to have something to devote their attention to outside. The three of them even built a compost bin. Because of that, compost has been a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table. My how times have changed!

I started seeds weeks ago and already have a thriving variety in my husband-built DIY greenhouse. There are plenty of tomatoes in a wide variety of options—from cherry to giant-sized. There are peppers both hot and sweet in regular and snack-sized. I have a large number of strawberries in anticipation of some good jam. And, the herbs are coming along nicely.

Some of my favorites are already in the ground. The carrots and potatoes have popped up in my experimental grow bags. I’ve never grown anything this way so I am cautiously optimistic. My green beans are in the ground too.

But, what I am most excited about are the peas.

I love peas but I almost never grow them because they like the cold and you have to start them early in your garden. I was on it this year because, well, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of other things going on. They’ve started growing up the trellis and every day I go out there to see how much more they have grown. There are three varieties: English, Purple, and Snow Peas for my daughter. I admit to being a bit impatient for them to start producing. But, I know we’ll get there and at that point I’ll have more than I can handle.

In the meantime I daydream about all the different ways we’re going to eat them. Three of my favorite recipes from our archives are Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto, Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp, and Spring Pea Soup with Burrata. And, then there is this gem for an easy weeknight dinner.

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta
Yields 4 servings

This quick and easy dish makes for a great weeknight dinner. Just get some help shelling the peas. When purchasing fresh peas, remember that 1 pound of peas in their pods yields about 6 ounces. So, you will need a little over a pound and a half for this recipe. Read more…

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Tart of the Matter
When you think of mascarpone cheese what comes to mind? OK, wait. I’m being presumptuous. Does anyone else actually ponder mascarpone cheese? Or is that just me? On second thought, don’t answer that. Let me just live in my happy little bubble where everyone spends significant time considering the wonders of spreadable Italian cheeses…

I love mascarpone cheese. It’s essentially Italy’s cream cheese and I actually like it better than the tried and true Philly cream cheese because it’s got a fresher more mild flavor than the American version. Don’t get me wrong I’m still here for a good cream cheese frosting and you don’t get that with mascarpone. You do however get fantastic things like tiramisu with mascarpone and you can swap out your whipped cream for a dollop of mascarpone next time you find yourself with a bowl of fresh summer berries.

To quote Forest Gump, “Fresh fruits and mascarpone go together like peas and carrots.”

For your tart you can use peaches or plums with raspberries or blueberries. Any combination will work. Strawberries are always insanely good when paired with a little mascarpone. Even better if they come together in a tart. Lately I have enjoyed a mix of all of ‘em.

This recipe for a Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart below is what I call a good start. It’s a basic recipe that can be adapted to suit your own taste. You can play with the crust. Personally, I like to make it with a graham cracker crust or r you could go this route with a rye crust. Our recipe uses a traditional Pâté Sucrée (French sweet pastry) crust.

This is definitely a dessert best prepared and served on the weekend as it doesn’t hold up too well overnight.

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring GremolataHoled Up for the Holiday
Easter is going to be different this weekend. To be fair, we’ll still do most of the same things we would normally do. There will be Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies (though they may be a bit smaller). There won’t be any fancy clothes, which frankly, won’t upset too many of us. We’ll just put on our “good” pair of sweats. There will be Easter dinner but there will not be the traditional purple goblets that my grandmother always used. Well, at least not at my house. My sister will probably use them while also wearing her “good” sweats.

But what to cook?

During the first full week of the shelter-in-place order, I was thrilled to know that HoneyBaked Ham was still up and running. So I walked up the street and bought a bigger ham than I needed and a couple of their soup and chili mixes. We ate ham for dinner and had sandwiches for days. I used the bone to make a fantastic soup and put the rest of the ham in the freezer for later use. We happily devoured that ham but it left me with a problem for Easter. We normally do ham on Easter but at this point, my family can’t even look at it. And, I agree which means we’re going with door number two…leg of lamb.

Lamb for Easter is a no-brainer. It’s springtime—and few things are more synonymous with springtime than lamb. There are a number of ways you could choose to prepare your lamb. I’m opting for a butterflied leg, to make it easier to slice. Growing up my grandmother would do a full, on the bone, very traditional leg of lamb that she studded with garlic cloves and then roasted in the oven. (Yes, there was mint jelly.) It was fantastic. But, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m bored, maybe I’m rebellious. But, I want something with brighter bolder flavors so I’m throwing mine on the grill.

This recipe has a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor with Aleppo pepper and lemon. Feel free to substitute what you don’t have. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately. Every meal has been a bit of an adventure. The pepper can be swapped for hot paprika or even straight-up red chili flakes. I would encourage you to use as many of the fresh herbs as possible though I get it. They may be hard to come by. If you can find them rejoice. That bright, happy, fresh flavor is something that everyone could use a little of right now!

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata
Yields 12 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…

Mom’s Lamb Chops

Mom's Lamb ChopsMom Knows Best
You’ve stocked your freezer to the best of your ability. So now what? This has actually been one of my biggest challenges because this is totally different than how I normally cook. Generally, I stock up on things like cereal, lunch meat, snacks, etc. on the weekends. And then during the week, I make dinner according to what I feel like bringing home that day. I don’t store a whole lot of stuff in my freezer. Now that people are sheltering in place, food supply is good in some areas but bad in others, and despite the fact that I am still coming in to work, I can’t operate in the same way.

So, dinners have been pretty basic and ingredients have been limited to what I have on hand. I have noticed that I have subconsciously reverted back to my childhood and what my Mom used to make for weeknight dinners. Mom didn’t shop for food every day so what was in the fridge and pantry was what we had for dinner. Cream of mushroom soup was turned into a chicken and rice casserole. (Very old school…but total comfort food.) Pork chops with Shake & Bake on them and applesauce on the side appeared regularly. (I still make this. Though, I admit I have swapped the Shake & Bake for seasoned Panko.) But if there was one recipe that reminds me the most of my Mom, it would be her lamb chops.

I have posted this recipe before and I felt compelled to post it again after I made them for dinner the other night. Making this dish made me feel better. It was the very definition of comfort food. Which was probably why I had lamb chops in the freezer to begin with. These couldn’t be simpler and the recipe calls for three pantry staples: soy sauce, garlic powder, and rosemary (fresh or dried, though fresh is better). For me, they have to be served alongside mashed potatoes and peas or it’s just not right but feel free to do what you want.

They say, food is memories and my suggestion for everyone as we shelter in place to protect our physical selves, don’t forget to protect our mental selves. If that means making grandma’s special cake or Dad’s killer chili, I say go for it…I’ll be over here with my lamb chops and chicken casserole.

Mom’s Lamb Chops
Yields 4 servings

The amount of marinade Mom made depended on how many chops she had. You can use whatever lamb chops you can find: sirloin chops, loin chops—whatever works.

Mom always used loin chops and we always got exactly two on our plate. And, always with mashed potatoes and peas. Read more…