I love it when the Spring holidays fall in April, if for no other reason that chances are the weather is going to be better. Well, that and the fact that I celebrate the birth date of two of my four children; it really feels like a month long celebration. If those weren’t reasons enough to celebrate, I have the added joy of fresh ramps making their debut in the green grocers, baby artichokes peeking their tiny heads in to say, “Hey!” and asparagus, baby peas, morels and shad roe vying for pride of place in all the specialty markets. Take all of those things, and add to it the newspaper ads for the Macy’s Flower Show, and the television commercials for Barnum and Bailey’s Circus coming to town, and I know that I can pretty much say “goodbye” to the long winter. Birthday dinners have always been a big deal at our house! Of all of things that I anticipate with the coming of Spring, nothing titillates me more than Spring lamb! Lamb is something I get very excited about, because I learned to love it not as a child, but as an adult. Up until the time when I went to culinary school, I would readily pass over any lamb on the dinner table. I’ve since learned that this was because the lamb I had eaten, had an almost unpleasant, “gamey” flavor, that I could not get my teeth around. So negative were my food memories of lamb (and this is not a capricious feeling, as I love to eat strong tasting meat like liver) that I would not venture to revisit it at all. During my “lamb rotation” at culinary school, I learned how to correctly prepare lamb, and since then I have been one of its biggest fans.
Celebrating Marc’s birthday at The Fish House, in Key Largo.
They brought out a huge fish with a candle on it for Marc.
He didn’t know if it was his birthday we were celebrating, or April Fools!
Lamb features prominently in Mediterranean cuisine, and so Spain pays tribute to gently roasted lamb with garnishes of herbs, served with sides of delicate young Spring vegetables. In South America, lamb is revered in its roasted form, but is further worshipped in its estofado form, or stewed, and that is how I am going to feature this month’s lamb recipe. We can enjoy the anticipation of Spring, yet prepare it in a matter that is cozy enough to ward off any lingering chill that might be in the air. To further pay homage to the season, our exclusive recipe will be Stuffed Artichoke Hearts with Spring vegetables (see a step by step tutorial here), which will serve as a lovely, elegant first course with your lamb stew, or, as a stylish side dish served with a lamb roast. During a conversation with a close friend recently, we discussed the Sephardic table, and how beautifully Jewish/Mediterranean cuisine reflects a period of history when culture and cuisine showcase that period. No cuisine does that better, in my humble opinion, than Sephardic cuisine which mirrors the presence of the Jewish population in the Iberian Peninsula during the time of the inquisition, when Jews (mostly conversos ) masked their religious diets and recipes to avoid persecution and death. After some research (and a fine dinner at a Spanish/Portuguese restaurant) I came up with this recipe for a bean salad that is delicious served on its own, chilled, or warm, served with grilled sardines, as a main course. Either way, I urge you to try it…it is nothing short of miraculous. Whatever your Spring celebration may entail, I pray that it is a happy, healthy one, enjoyed in the company of family and friends. Make sure you all visit Boriqua Blog, leave comments, share your stories and your recipes, and make yourselves at home. You are all family now!