Posts Tagged ‘best lamb recipes’

1Well, the wedding is behind us. Always filled with emotion, weddings have a way of going left when supposed to be going right and tears often flow like wine from the open bar.

On our way out we left our SUV in economy parking taking the tram to the airport. Rick complained that the one bag he asked me to limit myself to was giving him a hernia. Checking our thankfully underweight bag we headed toward the security area to get that behind us.  Going through security we showed our boarding passes and ID.  As instructed we placed any carry on items on the conveyor belt to be xrayed. Rick turned to me and said, “see you in a ten minutes”. By this he meant I would, as usual, be pulled to the side for carrying something I wasn’t supposed to on board the plane. This time I had thoroughly read what could and couldn’t go and thought I did very well, thank you. Unfortunately, the TSA agents were all wearing Rick’s jerseys and did not share the my sentiment. Sure enough I stood while they went through my carry on bag, “hmmmmming” here and “oh-ohing” there. Darn. Moments later all my items were sitting on the table with my $14.00 shampoo peeking out of the pile in the trash can next to the agent. Perhaps I look like a mad shampooer who when irritated yanks shampoo from my bag and in a screaming rage begins soaping up other passenger’s hair. Anyhow, that behind us we went to the gate to wait to be called to board.

Southwest asks that you go on-line to confirm your flight 24 hours prior to takeoff. Not 24 hours and 1 minute but exactly 24 hours. I know this because I tried it. At any rate, how quickly you type in your confirmation information determines where you stand in line for boarding the plane. Perched over the send button when the clock turned to exactly 24 hours prior I hit send. Yea for me. There was no way to do this any faster. Looking at our boarding passes we were B11. This sounded close to the front. At the gate they called up all those people having “A” numbers. Where did all these people come from? They must have some seriously fast trigger fingers on the mouse. Perhaps I’m missing something here?

Finally our numbers were asked to line up and we boarded the plane taking a seat towards the back of the plane. Rick is claustrophobic when flying so he has to be seated on the aisle. Apparently the logic of this is that he feels he can escape if seated there. Where he goes after he takes off running up the aisle is still open to question. I sat like the creme center of the Oreo in the middle seat waiting for someone to ask us to get up again to fill the seat by the window. In short order a lady I would guess to be in her late forties stuffed a huge bag in the overhead compartment and sat down.

There were two legs to our flight. Sacramento to Ontario, then Ontario to Phoenix. A total of 3 hours and 55 minutes as the crow flies. Actually if the crow was plotting this route he’d go directly to Phoenix but the only flight we could get had one stop.

Anticipating falling asleep, I retrieved my book from my carry on bag to help me on my way. There was plenty of room for it now my shampoo was relegated to the recycling bin. Sigh. The lady next to me introduced herself, and I in turn introduced myself and Rick. On her way to Palm Springs to pick up her daughter, I learned they lived on an island in Washington state. Actually, in the hour plus to Ontario I picked up such a massive volume of information about her life I felt I could effectively pen her autobiography without missing any of the pertinent facts. All kidding aside, she helped me pleasantly pass the time and I found her a lovely and interesting person. However, I have to say if she got paid for every word she uttered the woman would be a multi-millionaire several times over. Rick went to sleep, the coward, miraculously reviving when the drinks were being served. So excited was I to be handed a bag of pretzels with my beverage by the flight attendant. I haven’t had this experience in years on a plane. Not much later they passed by with peanuts as well and I nearly fell to my knees.

Both the landing in Ontario and Phoenix were memorable. In Phoenix we came down, bounced a few times, braked to such an extent that my spine relocated up through the back of my head most probably protruding from my skull. Passengers, I believe a little nervous with all the mishaps on airlines in the news were buzzing a bit as they left the plane. Rick and I and one other soul were the only ones left from the original flight going on the Phoenix. The flight attendants busied themselves wiping down chairs and policing the cabin. Catching one looking at me while holding up a cloth, I was hoping the airlines didn’t include dusting in the price of the steerage seats. Never have I flown in such tight quarters. Any less room and you would literally be standing up. If you bring the tray table down it makes it impossible to move.

As the passengers booked from Ontario to Phoenix came on board, the three seats behind us were occupied with a family including Mom, Dad and a chubby faced baby with a springy patch of hair on his head and rosy cheeks. Later I was to learn they were in the States visiting from Japan. The baby was secured to his mother facing forward in an apparatus not unlike a backpack. Maybe this should be called a frontpack? The woman, probably weighing in at under 100 pounds, looked exhausted. Their other son, a stocky nine-year old, took the window seat next to me.

It was hot in the cabin and noisy. Soon the baby, freed from his carrier began to gurgle and fuss. Rick just looked at me. What? I didn’t pick these seats. Once the plane began its assent the baby went into full voice. Oh Lordy. His brother seated to my left inserted his earphones (apparently this wasn’t his first rodeo) and began playing a video game. Thankfully the little one settled down once we’d reached our altitude and straightened out and was quiet for the remainder of the flight.

The boy removed his headsets once the beverage service started. We talked conversationally while he ate his pretzels. Little blue men, sheep, and other animals bounced up and down on the screen of his device. I asked if they were Smurfs. This produced a look as if to say, “What’s a Smurf?” and “boy are you out of date”. Ah yes, I suppose I am. I was informed somewhat impatiently of the characters correct name which I immediately forgot and wished I had some headphones to put on.

Phoenix airport is a madhouse. Sacramento looks nearly empty in comparison.

Nice to be back.

This lamb is just finger licking good. The only real work involved is shelling the pistachios but from there on it’s smooth sailing.

Fabulous Pistachio Encrusted Rack of Lamb

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. Fines Herbes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix together tarragon and fines herbes. Rub all over the meaty part of the rack. Salt and pepper both sides. Heat oil over high heat in large skillet. Brown lamb on both sides, about 4 mins. per side.

Remove from heat. Place lamb on prepared baking sheet. Slather fatty side of rack with mustard. Mix together remaining ingredients until they form fine crumbs. Rub on fatty part of lamb on top of mustard. Sprinkle with lightly with salt and pepper as desired.

Bake for 30-40 mins. depending on desired doneness.

Serves 2

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

My birthday is coming up the first of November. Rick has been the recipient of some helpful emails of late from the birthday fairy pointing him in the direction of a couple of items which may have caught my eye. Birthdays aren’t my favorite, mine I mean. They should be, I suppose. Celebrating the passing of another year with the prospect of a glorious new year unfolding before you. A slate not written on with all the pitfalls and possibilities yet to be revealed. On the other side of the coin, you’re another year older. Sigh. Is it just me or do the years seem to accelerate as you log more of them on the calendar?? This year went by so quickly it hardly seems possible I’m eying the boxes marked “xmas” in the garage and trying to figure out how to drag them down from the rafters.

As I kid I always got a box with new pajamas included in my birthday goodies. Not necessarily the highlight of my day.  At Christmas it was new underwear and socks. Perhaps that’s why I lean toward the practical gifts, if asked for suggestions.  There’s nothing much I need, to be honest. Buckingham Palace’s invite to the Queen’s latest gala event obviously has gotten lost in the mail, and I don’t believe my name is included in the guest list for the Obama’s next function so no urgent need to go shopping for a lavish gown. I’ve owned some lovely clothes over the years, but nothing I’d ever deem “lavish” as I remember.  Once I had a gorgeous red dress, rather pricey, for a memorable New Year’s Eve. In the end it was the company and the evening itself which proved memorable, and the dress only the icing on the cake. I have wondered a time or two what it might be like to warm a front row seat on the runway of a Paris clothing designer’s season premier. When I look at some of those clothes, however, I feel I’d look more like I was planning an upcoming trip to Jupiter than attending an elite party. Not to mention, I can’t fathom placing a check mark next to an outfit costing more than an average family’s annual income.  Even if I had such a dress where would I wear it? Standing in the “pick up” line at the pharmacy with my box of chardonnay and ear wax removal kit wearing a $40,000 courtier gown, might be perceived by some as odd, and by others at the very least a bit showy.  What about shoes?  You can’t wear a $40,000 gown with shoes you bought on sale at Nordstrom’s Rack.  And the accessories!  The closest I’ve ever come to Tiffany’s was peering in the window on my one and only visit to New York City.

Gowns for special occasions in general are getting pricier.  Recently I read the cost of sending your junior or senior to the prom could run parents upwards of $1,000.  What?  I went to two proms.  Guaranteed if I’d suggested to my parents I needed $1,000 for one dress I wouldn’t have attended either.  Every dress I bought, the clerk always assured my mother I could wear again.  Right.  That’s happening.  Where exactly does one wear a sequined peacock blue dress and dyed to match shoes once the band has packed up their instruments and and the glittered cardboard stars returned to their boxes?  Once married, I donated all my dresses from high school dances to a local charity.  Soon afterwards I started amassing an array of bridesmaids dresses to fill the hole left in the closet.  Do designers purposely make these dresses as hideous as possible in order to keep all the focus on the bride?  There was perhaps one out of the ten I’d consider wearing again and that only if there was a gun pressed against my temple.

I paid $500 for my wedding dress. This for my first, the only formal affair of the four ceremonies.  I saved for this gown out of my paycheck from my first job.  It was a lovely dress but designers didn’t run out to make knock offs after my picture appeared in the paper.  Once put into action, it was packed in a box by a local dry cleaner. Eventually, after surviving the first half of the thirty seven moves I’ve made over my lifetime, it threw up the white flag. Sustaining irreparable flood damage in a storage unit in Alabama my lovely dress ended up with the leftovers from Sunday’s dinner in the back of a truck on the way to the local landfill.  Ah well.

Couples now spend thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands on their big day.  Going to extravagant extremes to make their day the most unique. Doves released on cue, ice fountains spewing expensive champagne. It’s gone crazy.  If done correctly you hire a wedding planner.  A venue is researched and chosen, a date set, and a deposit made.  Choosing a cake can take days, requiring numerous visits to all the best bakeries to sample red velvet, chocolate decadence, sinful strawberry and vanilla bean. A cake selected, it’s on to the fillings. Will it be butter cream, pastry cream, berry, citrus, genache, mocha or cream cheese?  The choices are dizzying .  Cakes are larger and far more grand, some bearing lifelike images of the happy couple, their dogs, or their hobbies.  Great creativity and time goes into making some of this edible art, and the cost can be prohibitive.  Flowers are another large draw on the pocketbook.  Each attendant, usher, flower girl, significant family member as well as the bride and groom needs to be florally accessorized.  The altar in the church requires opulent bouquets. If outside, the arbor will be resplendent with blooms, as well as the ends of each aisle.  All this, before you tie the knot and head to the reception which is an entirely different area of revenue reduction.

Once the I do’s are behind you, it’s on to the big party.  Having owned a restaurant I understand first hand how expensive catering can be.  Unless you’re planning on serving PB&J’s and Pringles, appetizers alone can run to $30-$70 a person and a sit down dinner can start the ball rolling at $125.  There is a room fee often, and a gratuity naturally. Do you want an open bar? If so, you’d better do a tequila shot and take note an open bar for 100 people will run around $3,500. Unless you’re willing to settle for Uncle Milo’s stirring rendition of The Power of Love on his spoons, entertainment will tag on another healthy chunk of change on the bill. All this before you step into the limo as man and wife and head off to Fiji or another exotic port of call for an extravagant honeymoon, your newly acquired trousseau in tow.  When you consider 49% of all marriages end in divorce, you’d better be pretty darned sure about the whole thing before you pull that ring case out of your pocket, another item potentially running into the thousands.

Looking back, I think I’d rather take that money and put a down payment on a house, perhaps a family car, or even a vacation home, and choose instead an intimate family wedding on the beach in bare feet with gulls flying overhead rather than doves.  From what I understand gulls don’t have handlers and are literally willing to work for peanuts.

I love the spices in this recipe, and lamb makes it perfectly delicious.

Mediterranean Lamb Cabbage Rolls

1 large cabbage
1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice
1 lb. ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. dried mint
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place rice in mixing bowl and cover with water. Allow to sit for 1/2 hour. Rinse and drain.

Bring a large deep pot of water to boil. Take a knife and cut around the core of the cabbage. Drop with tongs into boiling water. As leaves begin to release pull them off with a pair of tongs and place on a flat surface for use later. When you get to smaller center leaves remove head from water and reserve. When cooled, take a sharp knife and shave the large vein on the back of each leaf to make it easier to handle.

Tomato Sauce

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 6 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix together all ingredients and set aside.

In large mixing bowl mix together lamb, rice, egg, onion, and spices.


Spray 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray. Chop 1/2 cup of cabbage off reserved head. Ladle one spoonful of sauce on bottom of pan and sprinkle with chopped cabbage.


In center of each leaf place 1/3 cup of meat and rice mixture. Tuck in ends and roll leaf around meat. Place on top of sauce in pan lining rolls up in single layer.


Cover with remaining sauce. Seal tightly with tin foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.


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