Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's a Great Day to be Alive

Those words were spoken to me a week ago today by a woman in my apartment building. Her admission echoed the exact thing I'd been thinking at that very same time. I had just been to the farmer's market and to the bookstore, the weather was cool, crisp and sunny, the sky a blue you could get lost in... I was absolutely in love with life. And for that woman, a woman I didn't know, to utter those words at that time... it was cosmic.

I've also decided that if I were to ever run away from home, it would happen on a Sunday morning. There is something so soul satisfying about the farmer's market... I feel on top of the world and capable of anything. And it isn't limited to the market itself. The drive itself to market excites me. If my car could skip, we'd be skipping to market. The vibrant colors of the fruits and vegetables, their scents... their potential... I love it! My husband will come along on the odd weekend, but only for the ham-and-cheese croissants! I make sure to bring some home with me if I go alone, though. Win-win. :)

If you're thinking, "Yah, thats great, but what about dinner???" then this is where it gets good. Last Sunday, my wonderful girlfriend Liane came over for the afternoon and we put this together for our families! Sure, she may have questioned everything I did, but I'll keep her! ;)

I'd picked up the lovely leg of lamb from my favorite butcher a few weeks ago and I'd been itching to make it. I'd picked out this recipe from my 86 Recipes New York box, and we got started!

The lamb was easy-peasy... just a matter of mixing the herbs and letting them soak for a while and then grilling.

The salsa was the same way... roast and blend. Ta-daa! It was spicy but not in a mean way. Even Liane liked it (and she doesn't like hot-hot)!

The polenta had a few extra steps, but they were well worth it. WELL worth it. I plan on making it again this week (just the polenta) and maybe even double the recipe! Liane and I decided that next time, we need to let the polenta cool in a thicker layer... the wee skinny little triangles were impossible to flip in one piece (which is why they are so mangled in the photo). Delicious, yes, pretty, no. :)

And lastly, the salad... this recipe makes a lot of salad. A lot. Seriously a lot. Only make the full batch if you're feeding more than 10 people. Honest. The salad itself was fresh and dainty - a nice foil for the spicy salsa and polenta.

This was one of those meals that melds beautifully together, and you're going to want to get a little of everything onto your fork for each bite. Everyone seemed to like it, and I definitely want to try it all again. And again.

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Ancho-Tomato-Tamarind Salsa
From: Village Restaurant
c/o 86 Recipes, New York

¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp dried oregano
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 ½ Tbsp whole cumin seed
Ground black pepper
1 (4- to 5-lb) leg of lamb, boned, butterflied, trimmed of almost all fat

4 large beefsteak tomatoes, whole with stem removed
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
6 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 dried ancho chilies, soaked till soft in hot water, seeded
3 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp smoked sweet paprika
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, or more to taste

Fresh Corn-Basil Polenta, recipe follows
Jicama-Orange Salad, recipe follows

For lamb:
Blend together ingredients of marinade and rub over lamb, especially on the inside. Cover, chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

Heat grill (medium-high). Remove lamb from marinade. Sprinkle both sides of lamb generously with salt and more pepper. Grill lamb until brown and crusty on outside and thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 125°F for medium-rare, turning occasionally, about 20-30 minutes.

Transfer to platter and tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut on diagonal, across grain, into thin slices.

Roast first 3 ingredients dressed with olive oil on baking tray in 425F oven till soft (approx. 20 minutes). (Can also be cooked in a roasting pan over the charcoal, with grill lid on).

Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth in food processor.

To serve, reheat gently, add a little water if too thick. Adjust seasoning.

Serve with Fresh Corn-Basil Polenta and Jicama-Orange Salad.

Fresh Corn-Basil Polenta
From: Village Restaurant
c/o 86 Recipes, New York

2 cups milk
1 Tbsp chopped garlic, sautéed in a little olive oil
3 ½ cups fresh raw corn kernels
2 sprigs basil
1 scant cup cornmeal
1 roasted poblano pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup butter
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper

Boil milk, with garlic, 2 cups corn and basil. Remove basil and blend.

Strain through a coarse chinoise. Bring to a boil and whisk in cornmeal, pouring it in a shower.

Return to heat till mixture thickens and continue cooking for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add extra kernels, poblano peppers, butter, cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Place onto foil-lined tray, 1 inch thick. Refrigerate.

To serve, slice into triangles and remove with flexible spatula. Dredge in cornmeal and brown in nonstick pan on both sides (can be fragile).

Jicama-Orange Salad
From: Village Restaurant
c/o 86 Recipes, New York

4 small jicamas, peeled and cut into a large julienne
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced not too thin
5 oranges, peeled and cut into segments
½ small red onion, sliced thinly

¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ cup each tightly packed mint and cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Toss the salad ingredients together and top with the dressing.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Wow - this looks like quite a spread!!