"Just a little sheep dip. Panacea for all stomach ailments." Mae West

2010-05-07-sheep_dip_on_grill.jpgIf you say you don't like lamb, you probably really mean you don't like the preparation of lamb you were served. If you have never savored the rich, tender, beefy (never gamey) flavor of a lamb loin chop, you are missing what I consider to be the best nugget of red meat in the world. Period. Really. No cow.

Loin chops are the porterhouse steaks of the lamb, with a T-bone separating the strip steak on one side and the filet mignon on the other. But they are a lot smaller than beef porterhouses. The best, cut 1.5 to 2" thick, are no bigger than a child's fist.

Lamb is a traditional spring dish, and this recipe uses an extremely quick and easy marinade and cooking technique. The marinade, I call it my Sheep Dip, is great on all cuts of lamb including rack, leg, and kabobs. If you don't think you like lamb, try this and you may swear off beef for life. The output is amazingly flavorful and tender and juicy and succulent and...

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fiddleheadsalardThese curlicue-shaped fiddlehead greens are a specialty of the forest. They are actually fern fronds. Fiddleheads have such a short season since they're picked before the ferns have a chance to unfurl their fronds. They're definitely a specialty that you'll only see sold in farmers' markets and served in restaurants as a special dish of the evening. Rather expensive, fiddleheads are still worth buying, because a little does go a long way. Just a handful can add interest to salads or side dishes.

Fiddleheads are just plain fun to look at. Their flavor is like that of asparagus or green beans, very fresh and crisp if cooked just right. It is recommended that fiddleheads be cooked for about 10 to 15 minutes to kill any toxins, but I've never had a problem with them cooked for a shorter amount of time. Before cooking, I like to trim any brown area from the stem and soak the fiddleheads in a few changes of water. Then just boil or steam them until tender. Shock in ice water to preserve the bright green color. The fronds can then be used in salads or sauteed with onions or garlic for simple side dish.

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heartsofromaineGoing out to eat has many pleasures, not the least of which is learning a new trick to add to your own repertoire at home.

Recently at Il Fornaio, during the Lazio Regionale, we had Lattuga Romana alla Griglia or lightly grilled hearts of romaine topped with shaved pecorino pepato and Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing.

The rest of the menu was terrific, but the real stand out was the deceptively simple grilled hearts of romaine.

The dish is easy to make at home. So easy, in fact, you can serve it on the spur of the moment because it takes barely fifteen minutes to prepare.

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pastasalad.jpg Who doesn't love a good tangy pasta salad?  I have tried many, many recipes over the years and I have to say I like the idea of antipasto meets pasta salad.

Every bite is something different, I love that; crunchy cucumbers, salami, artichoke hearts, kalmata olives and especially the smoked mozzarella.  It's quite the yum factor.

This salad is best when made and dressed a day ahead so the flavors can marinate.  If you don't have the time to do that, adding a generous splash of red wine vinegar just before serving gives the salad the same bright, tangy flavor.

Make it now or for an upcoming picnic. You will love it.

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asparagustomsThings we didn’t know about asparagus:

  • That is has male and female flowers on separate plants, although occasionally hermaphrodite flowers bloom.
  • That South Korean scientists claim it’s an excellent hangover cure.
  • That it’s long been thought of as a safeguard against gout.
  • That warm water from asparagus cooking may help heal blemishes on the face.
  • That it’s a source of energy.
  • That it may be beneficial as a laxative.

That according to The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight by Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Nafzawi published in the 15th Century in Arabic and first translated to English from the French edition by Sir Richard Francis Burton, it has aphrodisiac effects.

And giving credit where credit is due, all of these facts were learned from Wikipedia and (official disclaimer) in some instances, there’s a peg that says “citation needed”. Having said that, we love asparagus. Back in the day when it was always served with Hollandaise Sauce to it’s more modern versions – asparagus soup; served cold with a balsamic vinaigrette; served warm with butter and lemon. It’s elegant and festive and since it’s spring, it’s also in season.

Spring Asparagus Soup | Asparagus Cheese Puffs | Spring Salad with Asparagus and Snow Peas

Grilled Asparagus Salad with POM Vinaigrette | Shaved Asparagus Salad | Cold Poached Asparagus with Basil Mayonnaise | Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes with Crumbled Feta | Roasted Asparagus with Sage Infused Brown Butter | Sauteed Asparagus with Hazelnut Crumble

Italian Asparagus, Mushroom, and Parmesan Frittata | Asparagus, Bacon, and Cheese Quiche