Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb with Minted Garlicky Tzatziki, EVOO Tomatoes, and Honey Broiled Feta

DSCN5258Cooler weather means hotter food in the Fountain household, and something that roasts low and slow and fills a Sunday afternoon with the smell of savory cooking meat makes the cold and rainy all that much better. It’s been a while since I’ve made lamb, and the lovely rolled boneless legs they had on sale at Whole Foods convinced me it was high time I muttoned it up.   Not wanting to go too crazy, I opted for a fairly traditional approach: lots of fresh herbs and garlic, a tzatziki sauce, some pita, and some feta.  But, wanted to at least leave my mark on the meal, I also roasted off some fresh tomatoes and broiled the feta with honey, to impart some complexity and sweetness to the plate.  Gamey, tender, cooling, fragrant, and filling; it tasted good enough to *almost* make up for the Patriot’s loss to Cincinnati.  Almost.

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Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb with Minted Garlicky Tzatziki, EVOO Tomatoes, and Honey Broiled Feta

2lb rolled and tied boneless lamb leg
1 head garlic
1/2 cup fresh rosemary
1/2 cup fresh oregano
fresh mint
sea salt, cracked black pepper
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium white onions
2 fresh tomatoes on the vine
1 large cucumber
1 cup Greek yogurt
4-6 oz wedge of feta cheese
EVOO
3 tbs clover honey

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I start with my aromatics.  The oregano and rosemary are from my own garden, so I basically cut off a few handfuls of twigs and destemmed them, then I peeled all the skins from my garlic cloves.

DSCN5240I don’t have a food processor, so I just chopped everything up real fine the old-fashioned way; with my chef’s knives.  Once I had a nice mince, I added some salt, pepper, and EVOO to form a paste – which I then packed all over my roast, reserving a tablespoon to the side.

DSCN5241I peeled my carrots, then cut them into big chunks along with my celery and onions.  These I threw into a large stovetop-to-oven roasting pan with a few glugs of EVOO over medium heat to wilt slightly.

DSCN5243I then halved my tomatoes, leaving the stems on – ‘cuz it would be prettier to serve them that way later.

DSCN5245After making a bit of a nest of the cooking veggies, I placed my roast on top, then pushed the tomatoes cut side down around the perimeter of the pot.   I scatter the remaining herb mix over the tomatoes.   After pre-heating the oven to 325°, I set the already simmering pot inside on the middle rack and shut the door.  I let this whole thing cook for 3 hours, basting every once in a while with the juices accumulating at the bottom of the pan.

DSCN5246While the roast roasted, I peeled and de-seeded my cucumber.

DSCN5247After salting and peppering the chopped cucumber well, I set it into a colander placed over a large bowl to drain as much water from it as possible.

DSCN5248Squishing down on the pieces will release a little more liquid.  Sometimes you get a lot, sometimes just a little – but watery tzatziki isn’t much fun, so this step is usually necessary.

DSCN5249Although Greek yogurt is usually already strained, this container had a few ounces of whey floating at the top when I opened it, so I decided to squeeze it through a cheesecloth to get as much liquid out as possible.  Using two pieces, I formed a cross of cheesecloth over my colander…

DSCN5250… then, by gathering up the corners, I was able to squeeze a few more ounces of whey out of the mix.

DSCN5251Now that the cucumbers and yogurt are drained, it’s time to make the sauce.  I mince up about 2 tbs mint, throw in a few tbs of minced onion, a little bit of minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.  This gets added to the cream and cuke, and mixed well.

DSCN5253One can cook a lamb roast to medium rare and serve it bloody, which is delicious, or it can be cooked until it is fully roasted through and falling apart – which was our choice for this meal.  The carrots are tender and sweet, and the tomatoes are deeply roasted, their flavors perfectly concentrated.

sous-vide-duck-breast-with-warm-lentils-feta-and-mushroom-honey-cream_18I actually forgot to take a picture of my feta, but here’s one from an older recipe (a nice one I’d forgotten about, actually) to show you how it’s done.  First, the cheese goes into a nice, oven-proof shallow dish, where it is doused with EVOO and studded with some cracked pepper and a few leaves of oregano.  Into a 400° oven for about 10 minutes it goes, or until the cheese has begun to brown on top.  I then cover it with honey, turn the heat up to broil, and cook the cheese for another 5 minutes or until it is bubbling and gooey and luscious.

DSCN5257A little EVOO dressed arugula, some warm pita, and a drizzle of pan sauce compliments my unctuous herbaceous mutton, my minty cucumber cream, and my richly roasted vegetables.  Clayton and I make little sandwiches by taking shreds of meat, dollops of yogurt, bits of steaming tomatoes, and scoops of quivering honey’d feta and stuffing them into pita before stuffing them into our salivating maws.  As the wind whips outside and the rain beats against the skylight, we enjoy the warmth spreading through our tummies with each delicious bite.  Now that winter’s almost here, the days of salads and seafood a waning, but I’m not minding that one bit if my dinners get to be this good for the next few months.  I’ll just have to make sure I keep ‘em coming.

Weeknight Wondermeal: Ginger Honey Glazed Salmon and Scallops, with Pear, Avocado, and Walnut Salad

This dinner is dedicated to some very special friends, for whom – to protect the innocent (and to avoid prosecution by FERPA) – I shall use a delightfully Victorian convention of referring to them by initials only (in no particular order – to avoid any implication of favoritism): AC, TP, KN, MS, CG, TD, CH, AL, SC, and SV. They not only invited me into their summer homes to enjoy lovely dinners prepared by them with affection and good humor, but they inspire me daily with their grace, wit, intelligence, youthful vigor, and general wonderfulness.  However, I am also spurred by a particular comment made by two of the above listed group —  a pair of ladies who suggested that my Weeknight Wondermeals, recipes I tout as super-simple and très-cheap, were “so fancy, and way too complicated!” What the what?  Dear girls, these offerings are the most basic of basics! If you can execute a successful Western blot, or re-engineer the severed limbs of an army of axolotl, you can TOTALLY make any Weeknight Wondermeal, if you have the right stuff in the kitchen.  To wit: tonight’s delectable dinner.  A tender, succulent, juicy salmon filet encrusted with honey and ginger oil, plus a similarly prepared but-also-soy-sauced scallop, served with a super-food salad.  I dare you, young friends, to make this dinner (note to TP: 86  the walnuts!): the effort is simple, but the reward is sublime!

Ginger Honey Glazed Salmon and Scallops, with Pear, Avocado, and Walnut Salad

.75-1lb filet of salmon
2 very large scallops (these equalled .3lb)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup ginger oil (or fresh grated ginger blended with EVOO)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 avocado
1 fresh pear
1 small white onion
fresh arugula
baby tomatoes
parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, fresh snipped chives (for garnish)

Since I keep honey, ginger oil, and soy sauce in my pantry, my shopping list was pretty slim.  The most expensive items were these specimens of seafood: two huge, fresh sea scallops, and a lovely bright pink wedge of king salmon.  I want them to marinate a bit before I cook them, but they need to do so in separate bags.  Let me explain…

The salmon gets 3/4 cup of honey, 3 oz of ginger oil — a product I purchased at a nearby Asian supermarket, for about $2.49 — and lots of fresh cracked pepper.

I remove the adductor muscles from my scallops (here’s a pic), and then they get the rest of the honey and ginger oil, with the addition of the soy sauce – which is going to add just the right umame to the experience.  I seal both bags up nice and tightly, after removing as much air from them as I could, then I chuck ‘em in the fridge to marinate for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, we plug in Little Red and get him all hot and bothered.  Clayton fashions a simple tray out of some foil paper, since we want to catch and cook the marinade as well as the proteins.  You’ll see what I mean a couple steps from now.

I brush a little EVOO onto the portion of the foil that will cook the scallops, but I want to skin of the salmon to stick to the foil (it will make it easier to remove the fish-flesh (and nothing but) later), so I leave that side clean.

The salmon goes on first, and I pour the marinade carefully over it’s pink yumminess to coat it.  It doesn’t matter if it spills onto the foil — in fact, it’s good for some of it to do just that.  As it cooks, the honey will thicken and brown, making a nice glaze.  Again, you’ll see what I mean soon.

The scallops go on next, but they’re doused in less of their marinade, since the soy will have already permeated the meat.  I do save both marinades, in case I want to add more a the halfway point.  For now, though, I lower the lid and walk away for 10 minutes.

My salad tonight was inspired by the similarity between the shape of a pear, and the shape of an avocado.  I surmised that if they had the same figure, perhaps they would go well together…  Yes,  yes – there are all sorts of things wrong with that supposition, but in this case it worked.  I removed the pit out of my avocado, and removed the seeds from my pear, before slicing each half into an equal number of thin wedges.

After fanning the pear slices onto my plates, then layering a fan of avocado over that, I toss some arugula with thin slices of white onion, some shavings of parmigiano reggiano, salt, pepper, and EVOO.

After 10 minutes, my seafood is halfway done, and – as you can see – the honey in the marinade has started to caramelize.  Using a basting brush, I get as much of that honey off the foil and onto the exposed flesh of my fish – top and sides.  It’s slickery — meaning it doesn’t stick to the fish very well unless you sort of scoop it onto the brush and dab it onto the pink.  Be patient, and get as much honey to stick to the fish as you can — it will be SO worth it.

Instead of basting the scallops, I rub them into the marinade darkening on the foil before flipping them.  It’s just like basting, but this time I’m going bottom up instead of top down.

See?  Even through the foil, the scallops are taking on lovely grill marks.  I close the lid for 10 more minutes, and watch the sun sink lower on the horizon over this hot summer day.

When I lift the lid again, my scallops are done (so I remove them to a warm plate to hold), and the honey/ginger marinade for the fish has turned a deep, dark brown.  Never fear!  This is what we wanted!  Using my basting brush one more time, I transfer as much of that black honey to the fish as I can.

Like so!  I lower the lid for another 5 minutes, go indoors, plate my salad, then come back out to fetch supper.  The good thing about using the foil is I only have to pick that up and bring the whole thing inside – no muss, no fuss!  Using a long, narrow spatula, I divide the filet into two equal portions, lifting the fish right off the skin which is stuck to the foil paper.  The flesh slides right off.

After finishing my salad with a couple home-grown cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of crushed walnuts (for crunch), and garnishing the seafood with snipped chives, we’re ready to dig in.  The whole dinner has taken about 30 minutes of activity, and it cost only about $20 (plus pantry items, like the honey, soy, and ginger oil).  But what deliciosity!

The salmon is sweetly encrusted, with tender, moist flesh and a wee snap from the black pepper; the scallops are succulent and sweet, with the additional amped up savor of rich soy; and the salad is inspired: the fragrant, firm pear is perfectly complimented by the soft, nutty avocado, and the peppery arugula, salty cheese, and crunchy nuts fill the palate with delectable complexity, richness, and freshness.  Each bite was sheer enjoyment!

As the sun sets over Hamilton Street, setting the sky on salmon fire, Clayton and I dig into our salmon dinners with gusto.  So, dear friends — and you know who you are — are you up for trying this yourselves? I promise you’ll enjoy it!

Sweet ‘N Soy Seared Tuna with Broiled Cana de Cabra and Ginger Dressed Greens

It has been some couple of weeks – as in, chock full o’ unfamiliar happenings.  Since Clayton and I are nothing if not creatures of habit, said happenings have really thrown us into disarray.  But my arm has healed and is fully functional again, the particular challenges of study card week (my Harvard peeps feel me)  are over, and Clayton is home from his knee surgery – convalescing on the couch, but home, and happy, and hungry for my cooking.  A proper shout out to the folks at New England Baptist Hospital is due: thanks for taking such excellent care of my man!  He has done nothing but rave about your care, your kindness, and your customer service, and he’s an easier patient now as a result.  Danke, dear friends, danke…

But while Clayton is strapped to the sofa and drugged up on dilaudid, my dinners are going to need to be lighter to compensate for his inactivity and loss of appetite.  So it’s salads or soups, one bowl meals or single skillet suppers, tinier portions and fatter-freer flavors.  Hence tonight’s supper: tiles of tender tuna steeped in classic Asian flavors like soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame, all sweetened with honey and reduced to a rich glaze, atop a bed of gingered greens, and accompanied with a seared slice of gamey goat cheese.  Punchy and piquant; the perfect balance of raw and roasted; a harmony of salad and sea and cream.

Sweet ‘N Soy Seared Tuna with Broiled Cana de Cabra and Ginger Dressed Greens

3/4 fresh yellowfin tuna, at least 1″ thick
soy sauce
honey
sesame oil
water
1 1″ knob ginger, peeled and grated – about 2 tbs
2 gloves garlic, peeled and grated – about 2 tbs
1 stalk lemongrass, tenderized and chopped finely – about 1 tbs
5-6 leaves fresh mint
1 small bunch scallions, chopped
1 Meyer lemon, juiced
fresh spring lettuce mix
1 bunch radishes
2 1″ thick slices of cana de cabra
sea salt, cracked black pepper, EVOO, white vinegar

I start with my marinade, which has equal amounts honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, and water, along with 1/2 of each of my grated ginger and garlic.

This I whisk together, making sure all the honey is dissolved.

I should really work with lemongrass more often – it’s yummy.   But its tough fibers and woody stalks are a little intimidating, until I beat the crap out of it with the flat edge of my chef’s knife to separate the sweet pith from the spitting pffflat! A quick, vigorous chop up the length of the spine and the gentle flavor of this hard grass is deposited on the surface of my board like the shorn shreddings of an already short beard.

I’ve trimmed my lovely loin of tuna into one perfect rectangle, and one sort of weird shaped piece.  The first I’ll use for my main presentation – since presentation is half the enjoyment – the scrap for filler. I place my fishes into my marinade, spoon the deliciousness over every surface, then toss everything in 1/2 of my lemongrass before setting the bowl aside so it can all soak in.  I let this stew for 15-20 minutes, while I prepare everything else.

I love radishes.  Clayton didn’t like them when we first met, but when I first prepared this perfect simple radish salad for him, he was converted.  I slice them very very thinly, using my mandoline, then toss them in 1/2 EVOO, 1/2 super-cold water, 1 tsp white vinegar, a *very*generous* serving of sea salt and a hearty pinch or two of cracked black pepper. As this marinates – the radishes will soften and mellow, while the dressing absorbs the sharp from the radish, and the salt peppers it all up right.  8-10 minutes sitting in the fridge and this sliced beautiful is ready to enjoy.

At this point, I also chop up my scallions, throwing a bunch into my radishes, a bunch into my fish bowl (which I toss again, for good measure), reserving a few tablespoons for garnish.

In a large bowl, I toss my spring greens with a handful of washed, rinsed, and roughly torn mint leaves.  With the rest of my soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass  - plus a few splashes of water and the juice from 1/2 my lemon, I whisk together the salad dressing, which I then toss with my greans.

This nubbin’ of lovin’ is cana de cabra, a goat (“cabra”) milk cheese log (“cana”) with a striated bloomy ring ripening inwards through two more textures of cream.  It’s all the best of a chevre, a double creme brie, and a weird cheese wafer, in one cylindrical package.

Lolita’s crappy oven doesn’t have a bottom broiler, so getting what I want to sear close enough to the top coils to truly broil requires some jerry-rigging.  I’ve learned that turning over a typical Pyrex loaf pan (or any other 2″ deep pan) allows me to raise my cook surface high enough off my top rack to transform it into the salamander I want it to be.  I line my pan with foil, which I sort of fold upwards around the edge to make a bit of a catch pan (since my cheese might melt and slump), and set it with my oven, set to broil.

At the same moment, I throw my fish into my pre-superheated non-stick pan.  I sear it for about 1 minute…

… on each side, including the narrow edges — all the way ’round.  I want a cold, raw center, but perfectly seared edges cooked to at least 1/4 way in.  The marinade on the tuna caramelizes and crisps — this is good.  It’s flavah, baby!

After my tuna is cooked to my whims and desires (about 8 minutes all together), I remove it to my cutting board to settle for a few minutes, while I add the marinade to my hot pan to reduce.  With a swirl every every few moments, it does so quite nicely, making the perfect glaze to finish my plate.

Oh, and after about 6-8 minutes, my cheese is SO READY to be plated.  Look at how perfectly caramelized it is!


A full-flavored nest of ginger-soy dressed tender greens, a tight mound of mellowed radish, red-bellied, totally tanned savory seared tuna, and a creamy, melty, goaty puck of cheese, drizzled with a rich glaze.  Light–fresh–sweet–nutty–milky–and straight from the sea.  With his leg outstretched on the couch, and his plate on his lap, Clayton dove into this delight with more gusto than a man 72 hours after surgery should have – which makes me happy.  Now he’s happy inside, and healing outside, and I got to enjoy a damn delicious dinner, too!  Lolita’s lighter side is gets to enjoy the sun for a few weeks.  While my husband gets better, so shall I.