April 14, 2009

Roast Lamb & Green Beans {Naptime Entertaining}

My family holidays can be divided into two categories: 1) holidays I will always remember, or 2) holidays I can’t wait to forget. Of course, I can only place a holiday experience into the appropriate category after it is over, since it is only on rare occasions that I can anticipate what the holiday will be like before it takes place. Usually it is upon the first sign of good news – a college acceptance letter, a pregnancy announcement, a new family pet – that I am able to breathe a sigh of relief and put a notch in the “holiday to remember” column. Or, sometimes holidays head straight downhill from the moment they begin, like when I got the flu on Christmas Eve, or my grandmother broke her hip on Thanksgiving morning. This is when I chalk up the occasion to be a total loss and vow to start suppressing the memories as soon as possible. However, despite the fact that sometimes I really do want to forget a holiday, I always come back for more. After all, holidays occur yearly, thus, each new year is a chance for redemption.


Easter 2008 was a holiday to forget. My daughter, who was so young she could barely sit up, came down with her first, teeny tiny cold. Little did I know that a tiny cold meant I would lose entire nights worth of sleep, bringing on such strong sleep deprivation that I actually considered buying my first ever six-pack of Red Bull. All in all the holiday wasn’t much fun and passed quickly in a blur of saline nose drops, humidifiers and dirty burp clothes. I think I took one photo and put the camera away for the remainder of Easter Sunday, not wanting to document the unfortunate scene taking place in our household. Yet, despite this terrible memory, I was excited for Easter this year. My daughter is a whole year older and beginning to appreciate holiday celebrations, especially when there are presents and sweets involved. This year’s Easter began with a fun family morning, watching her open her plastic eggs to find graham cracker bunnies tucked inside, followed by the consumption of far too many sweet treats before lunchtime. Then, when she finally went down for her afternoon nap, it was my turn to have some holiday fun.


For me, of course, holiday fun means cooking up a storm in the kitchen. For the past few weeks I have spent several hours pouring over cookbooks, perusing the offerings at the local gourmet stores, and writing new recipes to serve my family for Easter dinner. After several iterations over the course of two weeks I finally settled on the menu:

Greek Lamb with Mint Yogurt Dipping Sauce
Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Walnut Oil
Herb Roasted Potatoes
Warm Rolls with Butter
Easter Chocolate Cake with Sweet Vanilla Whipped Cream

We centered our Easter menu around the main course, lamb. For some reason my family has always eaten lamb for Easter, I remember even my grandmother serving it to us, with a big dollop of mint jelly on the side. This year, while I was creating a new recipe, I was inspired by the flavors of Greece. Maybe it was because I had recently eaten out at a local Greek restaurant with friends, the taste was on my tongue and I wanted more. After consulting several cookbooks my husband and I settled on a basic, yet flavorful preparation involving several Greek influences. We began by marinating the lamb in red wine, always the best meat tenderizer, and a mixture of Greek herbs. After letting it marinate for several hours we removed the lamb, covered it in a mixture of bread crumbs, more Greek herbs and fresh thyme. Then we roasted the meat for about twenty minutes, and let it rest for about five minutes before serving. When we bit into it we were delighted with the delicious, juicy cut of meat, which was tender to the bite and bursting with flavor. To accompany the meat we whipped up a smooth mint yogurt sauce which was easily made by combining a few basic ingredients. The dip was cool and minty with a slight lemon aftertaste, perfect for dipping the lamb. I also think it would be wonderful for dipping vegetables, breads and even other cuts of meat.


The strong flavor and crisp texture of green beans were the perfect accompaniment to the dark, flavorful lamb. When making green beans I feel that it is helpful if they are jazzed up a bit, preferably by throwing in an unexpected ingredient, so I am always searching for ideas of what to add. For this particular preparation I was inspired by a recipe in one of my all-time favorite books, Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser. I loved the idea of adding a warm nutty flavor to the green beans through the addition of walnuts and walnut oil. The recipe did not disappoint, as we ate my husband and I agreed that the dish yielded excellent flavor along with a satisfying crunch. The dessert that followed our meal was a showstopper, which is why I plan to devote an entire post to it on Thursday, sorry for the wait. Until then I will leave you with the following two recipes, surefire winners in our book. I will definitely be making these for future holiday meals, and, as long as these are on our table, I am sure they will become holidays to remember, as well.

Recipe

Naptime Easter Lamb with Mint Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

6 lamb chops
Red Wine
Greek herb mixture (found at most grocery stores)
1 T. bread crumbs
3 t. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 t. Kosher salt

1 t. fresh black pepper1 cup plain, full fat, yogurt
½ c. fresh mint, finely chopped
1 T. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt to taste

Olive Oil

Instructions

1. Place lamb chops in a glass bowl or rectangular dish. Pour in red wine until the meat is just covered. Add 2 T. of Greek herbs to the mixture, swirl them around so the herbs and wine are fully incorporated. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix fresh thyme, bread crumbs, salt and black pepper. Add a splash of olive oil to form a paste. Do not add too much olive oil.
3. Preheat the oven to 400.
4. Remove lamb from red wine, place it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Rub with bread crumb mixture.
5. Place lamb in the oven roast for 20-22 minutes.
6. For the Sauce: Put yogurt, lemon juice and garlic into a food processor. Puree until smooth. Slowly add mint, while pulsing the food processor, and a dash of salt to taste.

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Walnut Oil
adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
1 lb. green beans (or haricot vert)
1 c. walnuts, freshly toasted and coarsley chopped
4 t. walnut oil, or good olive oil
1 t. sea salt
1 t. black pepper

1. Cook green beans in boiling water until just tender. Test with a fork, when the fork pierces through the bean, but the bean is still firm, it is finished. Drain green beans and dunk them immediately in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking.
2. In a separate bowl combine toasted, chopped walnuts, walnut oil, salt and black pepper. Mix so that the walnuts are coated completely in the oil mixture.
3. Add the green beans to the oil and nuts, mix until fully incorporated and the oil coats the beans.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

These are both excellent, timeless recipes that would be delicious and welcome at any holiday table. Additionally, both dishes are “flexible” in terms of the ingredients, feel free to add or omit seasonings to your taste. For example, some people prefer lime juice instead of lemon in their yogurt dipping sauce, or, if you have fresh rosemary available add it to the bread crumb mixture for the lamb. The point is to have fun and enjoy making it.

Naptime Stopwatch

This is a part of the Sunday Dinner series because it takes a little longer than naptime to make them. However, a lot of the prep work can be done during naptime, saving you time later in the day. I recommend putting the lamb in the marinade during naptime, also, use this time to trim the green beans so they can just be tossed in the pot when you are ready to prepare them.

Naptime Reviews

The lamb was too tough for my daughter, but she enjoyed dipped her green beans into the yogurt sauce. She ate the green beans like they were french fries, enjoying the crunch and flavor of the walnuts.

More Naptime Recipes

  • Danielle

    Those green beans do look good – I love that your daughter ate them like french fries!

  • Danielle

    Those green beans do look good – I love that your daughter ate them like french fries!

  • SteamyKitchen

    YES! love beans + nutty. And I've got walnut oil too!

  • SteamyKitchen

    YES! love beans + nutty. And I've got walnut oil too!