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Posts Tagged ‘great lamb recipes’

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As I mentioned in my last post, I recently spent a couple of weeks at my mother’s home in San Jose. Thankfully, she recently replaced the inflatable mattress on the hide-a-bed in the spare room so I wasn’t up at 3:30 as in previous visits refilling it. As with most things my mom buys, the mattress was “top of the line”. However, years of bearing company “top of the line” or not it simply couldn’t bear the load anymore. Air or no air the newer auto inflate units are infinitely better than the original hide-a-bed mattresses. For those of you who have ever slept on the old ones you may still have the scars where the metal springs poked into your body as you slept.

While living in a small one-bedroom beach apartment in Redondo Beach my ex and I had such an animal in our living room. It was rare we slept on it, but occasionally when someone special came to visit we gave up the master bedroom and we unfolded the couch. Once I recall folding it up after a restless night of combat with the mattress only to notice a small furry paw tentatively reaching out between the pillows. Thankfully, the old cat belonging to the paw wasn’t annihilated when I applied the usual sumo wrestler torque it took to maneuver the mattress back under the bed of the couch. A rescue ensued, but Kitty viewed the couch with a jaundiced eye long afterwards.

There were times when I would have been glad to see that lumpy old hide-a-bed as I reflect. For one year when my children were small their dad and I traveled across the U.S. by car. The only bed we had five nights out of seven was a mattress in the back of our station wagon where the kids slept. Rainy nights necessitated sharing that space with my two little ones often resulting in sleepless night with small hands across your face or worse yet a wet spot on your back by the time morning arrived. Our money allotment for the year allowed for two nights a week at a motel along our route. We split the nights up most weeks so that the hot baths came in the middle and at the end. In between we bathed in lakes and streams, rest stops, and even on occasion soaped up in a gas station restroom.

We put the nomad in nomadic that year. If not curled up with our babies, or snug in a motel bed, bed was wherever our sleeping bags hit the ground once we packed it in for the day. For me, one eye perpetually remained open scanning for predators during those star filled nights. Most probably I would have died of a heart attack had a reptile slithered in next to me to get warm. God knows how many small creatures shared space with me over that year, or how many spiders and gnats marched their way down my throat. What an interesting year it was for me, bugs and all. One I will never forget. Was I young and ridiculously idealistic, I would do it again without hesitation. There is something so freeing about turning the wheel in whatever direction you please, with no one to answer to or no place to be. I shall always remember that time as the freest of my life and never for a moment be sorry we set out on our journey.

Beds are such a personal choice. Some people like them hard as cement, with others preferring a mattress they can sink into. I believe I fall in between. Several years ago with stayed with our best friends in the Bay Area. They had recently remodeled a small home in Contra Costa county. Having turned the two spare rooms into a den and an office, there wasn’t a lot of room for guests to camp out. Luckily they had a queen sized inflatable mattress in the garage we thought would work just fine. Not having seen each other for a while my friend and I stayed up well into the night catching up and reminiscing. Rick, tired from driving most of the day, decided to turn in before me. We blew up the “bed” and sent him on his way. Needing my purse from our room I opened the door just in time to see Rick turn over and catapult off the overfilled mattress into the potted plant. To be honest I had no idea he could still maneuver a back flip, so after I stopped laughing I found myself suitably impressed. In the end he slept on one end of their sectional, with me dangling off the other.

Beds are on my mind as we have discussed getting a new mattress recently. Ours is reaching its longevity point, and though turned often is starting to lose its original comfort level. Our pillows also need replacing. For some reason I cannot find good pillows. I’ve tried expensive designer pillows guaranteed to offer a peaceful night’s sleep only to find them either too hard or within months having the filling wad up like a bowl of wet cotton balls. I’ve considered the ones you see on TV, but have a friend who bought two. After trying them out for a month or two she tells me she doesn’t see anything amazing about them other than the price. Hmmmmm.

I am one of those people who likes a lot of pillows. I have three behind me plus one I wrap an arm over. Rick says when he comes to bed (most nights hours after I have) usually only the tip of my pointed head is showing in a sea of cotton and foam.

I don’t know what the answer is. Not looking forward to mattress shopping down the road. Rick is fond of firm mattresses where I like a little give. Maybe we need one of those you can dial “your number” for either side. Things to think about on a Thursday.

These lamb meatballs were so good as a change from beef. Be sure to get a fine mince, or have the butcher do it for you to get the desired result.

Lamb Meatballs with Wine Tomato Sauce

1 lb. lamb mince
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. dried mint leaves
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce plus 1 can water
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2-1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of cinnamon

Mix minced lamb with all ingredients through garlic powder. Form into meatballs.

Heat butter and oil over high heat in large skillet. Add meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Deglaze skillet with red wine. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and add meatballs. Spoon sauce over top. Cover and cook on low for 30 mins. uncovering several times to spoon additional sauce over top.

Serve with rice or herbed noodles.

Serves 4

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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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