In the last few years I have really come to like lamb, specifically rack of lamb for its tenderness and mild flavor. Instead of using the entire rack whole, I prefer to cut the rack into double "chops" and simply roast or grill them.
Best of all, lamb shines beautifully when marinated with pesto. On a recent trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, Fellow Foodie and I had the opportunity to not only dine but work at Riccabona's, one of the best restaurants in town. One dish on the menu was pesto-marinated rack of lamb, where the chef cut the rack into double chops and grilled the lamb to perfection.
We had to try it out when we got home. Instead of using the traditional basil/pine nut combo for pesto, we opted for kale and walnuts which add a wonderful extra bite and nutty flavor to the lamb (plus the fact they are both healthy and good for you too). The pesto can be made ahead and frozen for up to 6 months and is great as a substitute for traditional pesto with pastas and sauces.
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* 1 lamb rack, frenched, cut into 4 portions (see below)
* 1/3 - 1/2 C walnuts, toasted
* 5 stalks (about 1 bunch) Tuscan kale, rinsed
* 1/4 C parmesan cheese
* 1 clove garlic
* 1 - 1 1/2 C olive oil
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* sea salt and fresh ground pepper
It is very important to toast the walnuts. If they are raw they are slightly bitter - toasting them brings out their natural oils and gives them a deeper, nuttier flavor and texture. Toast until light brown.
Next up, attacking the kale.
To remove the leaves from the rib, pull the leaves away in a downward motion running your hands against the rib. (The rib is extremely bitter so make sure to remove)
Bring a pot to a boil with some lightly salted water and add the kale leaves to the pot to blanch, about 1 minute, until slightly wilted. Drain and cool under running cold water.
pat the kale dry on paper towels.
Add the walnuts, kale, parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a food processor and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until the pesto forms into a paste. Season with salt and pepper.
Now, up for the lamb...
Start by slicing the lamb into double chops by carefully cutting between the bones.
With a normal rack with 8 bones, you will have 4 double chops.
Coat the lamb with the pesto and place in a plastic bag or dish for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
When ready, preheat oven to 350F. Heat up a grill or saute pan (or a barbeque) over medium-high and add some olive oil to the pan; place lamb chops skin-side down in pan to begin to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes.
Place in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until medium rare. This night we paired the lamb simply with amazing roasted baby fingerling potatoes and asparagus.
The nuttiness from the pesto when caramelized with the lamb is fantastic. This really screams Spring with the bright flavors of kale paired with the lamb and the crisp asparagus spears from a quick roast in the oven. Cheers and enjoy!
Asparagus is one of my absolute favorite spring vegetables. I love them grilled and roasted as a side dish as well as chopped in salads, pureed in soups, and simply sliced as an addition to a simple pasta.
As with this creation I made from leftovers in my fridge last week. I had plenty of asparagus left over from an event along with some shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms - I decided to make a light Spring pasta that turned out to be such a simple hit we had it again the next night for a planned dinner.
With asparagus at its peak during the latter part of April through about the beginning of July, I know I will be making this dish over and over again. You can substitute any type of mushroom, but I happen to favor shiitakes and chanterelles for their meaty texture. Only a dash of cream is used to make this a pasta dish you may find a bit indulging, but worth every bite.
Ingredients (2 servings)
* 8 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced about 1/4" thick
* 6-8 large chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned of dirt and sliced about 1/4" thick
* 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
* 8 asparagus spears, sliced into 1/4" coins
* 1/4C dry white wine (or vegetable or chicken stock)
* 1/2 C heavy cream
* 3-4 oz dried pasta, cooked and drained
* sea salt and fresh ground pepper
First, heat up a skillet with the olive oil over medium high heat; add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper; saute until mushrooms are soft and have a little bit of color on them.
Add the white wine to the mushrooms and cook until there is no liquid left in the pan.
Add the asparagus to the mushroom mixture.
Add the cream to the pan and bring to a slight boil then reduce to low.
With the heat on low, cover the pan to "steam" the asparagus in the liquid, about 5-7 minutes, until asparagus is tender and the cream reduces to thicken.
Add the cooked pasta to the mushroom and asparagus sauce.
The cream should lightly coat the pasta and the vegetables, creating a wonderful harmony of flavors. A little shaved parmesan cheese on top would be a great addition. I hope you enjoy this simple yet delicious Spring pasta, as we are again having it for dinner tonight - cheers and enjoy!
I have to admit, I am not the biggest pancake fan.
I know there are pancake "purists" out there scoffing at me right now, but I prefer a breakfast of "bacon and eggs" (for those who know me well, you may quote me).
But, upon a visit to True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach, CA, the simple pancake was transformed into "Quinoa Johnny Cakes" - a heavenly mound of essentially pancakes, mixed with quinoa, and topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and drizzled with honey.
Untraditional Deliciousness. And good for you too. Quinoa is considered a superfood because it contains more protein than any other grain.
These are not your standard pancakes. These are over-the-top-filled-with-goodness-that-even-a-picky-eater-who-likes-pancakes-would-scream-WOW. The addition of quinoa is a different twist, but the quinoa adds a lot of moisture and texture, making these pancakes one of a kind.
I set out to recreate them for a Sunday Brunch, and they were scarfed down in seconds. What is great too with this recipe is you can make the batter the night before - leave it covered in the fridge and you have one easy and yummy breakfast waiting for you the next day.
Ingredients: (yields about 20 4"-5" round pancakes)
1 1/2 C flour
3 tbsp sugar
6 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 C milk
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 C cooked quinoa
(cooking spray for pan)
Begin by mixing the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl to combine ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together milk, canola oil, vanilla, and eggs and add to dry ingredients. Whisk well together so there are no lumps.
Add quinoa to pancake batter and whisk to combine thoroughly.
Heat a non-stick skillet to medium heat and coat with some cooking spray to prevent sticking. Begin by pouring desired amount of batter into the pan, allow bubbles to form around the edges of pancakes, the "tell-tale" sign that they are ready to flip.
And serve. I love these fluffy pancakes with butter and a little clover honey instead of traditional syrup.
Of course, for Sunday Brunch, a little "bubbly" must be poured. These pancakes are so satisfying. The quinoa adds so much flavor and texture you may never go back to plain pancakes. Since quinoa is slightly nutty, the addition of honey in place of syrup is a great flavor combo. Cheers and enjoy.
MMM, chimichurri. How I love this aromatic, vibrant green sauce. Made with explosively flavorful ingredients – garlic, chili flakes, fresh oregano, shallots, sherry wine vinegar, olive oil – combined together and your taste buds are in for a one-two punch. It is extremely easy to make - all you need is a food processor - and best yet, it freezes well! Use as a fantastic dipping sauce for a simple chunk of bread that soaks up all of the goodness; but better yet, use as a wonderful marinade for chicken, seafood, and best yet – steak.
Any steak gets better from just a mere hour marinade in chimichurri. My favorite way is to marinate flank steak with chimichurri overnight and allow the flavors brighten as they infuse the meat. Simply throw on the grill until medium rare, slice it up, and you are left with one heavenly bite after another. Or, simply use the chimichurri sauce as a quick condiment to liven up your favorite protein.
* roughly 1 C Italian parsley
* 2-3 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
* 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed
* 1/2 - 1 tsp red chili flakes
* 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
* 1/4 C sherry wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
* 2 tbsp lemon juice
* 2/3 C olive oil
* sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a food processor, add the parsley, oregano, garlic, red chili flakes, and shallot. Process until almost a smooth paste.
Add sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil, and process until mixture is smooth and completely combined.
Season chimichurri with salt and pepper.
Now for the meat.
Place the meat in a large plastic bag or baking dish and cover entirely with the chimichurri sauce.
Marinate the meat for at least 1-2 hours or preferrably overnight. I would suggest NOT to marinate more than 24 hours as the acid from the vinegar and lemon may change the texture of the meat and may become mushy.
When you are ready, heat up the grill, take that amazingly flavored meat and get it cooking!
After about 5-7 minutes a side (for medium rare-medium flank steak), remove from the grill and allow it to rest covered with foil for about 10 minutes. Slice thinly, about 1/4" thick.
And serve with some extra chimichurri sauce on the side. I love to make mini tacos with the steak and drizzle the sauce on top.
Honestly, the bold flavors in this chimichurri are fantastic and deliciously simple to make and really pairs well with the meatiness flank steak. Sometimes I whisk a little into sour cream or Greek yogurt for a kicked up dipping sauce or salad dressing, or I drizzle a bit on goat cheese to add a zip to a yummy cheese platter. Use it in place of pesto for pasta or spread it on some bread rounds for crostini. Best advice: keep this sauce around as a staple.