April Dinner Club

Given the fact that today is the last day in May, I think its time I fill you all in on April’s Dinner club. April was a difficult theme to choose. We wanted something that was seasonal and reflective of Spring. Early Spring can be a weird time seasonally because all the Winter produce is no longer as good and no one wants to eat heavy meals anymore yet the Summer produce isn’t ready to be eaten yet. Perhaps that’s why Easter candy  is one of the first things I think of when trying to come up with a Spring theme ingredient! We did all finally agree on the theme ingredient mint.

We were chosen to cook the main course this month and mint is not an herb that I find myself using very often; I loved being forced to use it in a recipe that  was not a salad or a dessert. Immediately, lamb came to mind as a good protein to go with mint however I’ll admit lamb intimidates me. I made braised lamb for Christmas this year and I killed it; it was so dry that I think it resembled jerky more than the braised lamb I was going for. After that incident, I haven’t attempted lamb again. I tried to look up other recipes involving mint but kept coming back to lamb.

After finally giving in to the lamb I needed to find a recipe that cooked the lamb in a relatively short period of time, due to the fact that dinner club in progressive, I’d only have about 30 minutes to get everything together. I came upon a recipe for lamb that was marinated and grilled. It got excellent reviews online and seemed very simple, sold. The bonus was that dinner club was scheduled for the week following Easter and I scored a nice cut of lamb on super sale!

This recipe turned out better than I ever could have imagined. Not only was the lamb perfectly medium rare but the marinade had made the meat incredibly tender and flavorful. We devoured the entire thing and all agreed that, it had been the best dinner club to date. The marinade contained some Asian flavors which I’m convinced made the dish especially good. This is the first recipe I made from my new Jacques Pepin cookbook that Eric bought me for Christmas and it was the perfect choice.

Like I said, this dish was beyond easy but be sure to marinate it the day before. Prep all the ingredients including cutting the string mesh from the lamb roast. I had double the amount of meat so I doubled the marinade. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and then pour it over the lamb in a large freezer bag.

Turn the bag a few times in the fridge.

The following day, sear the lamb on a hot grill for about 7 minutes per side and then bring it inside to finish in the oven. The recipe calls for the oven to be 170 degrees. I was skeptical at first thinking it was not hot enough, but as I do with all first time recipes, I followed it. I was right, 170 is not hot enough to get the meat cooking more and I ended up turning the oven up to 250 degrees and cooking it another 15 minutes. By then, the lamb was perfectly medium rare.

**Do not cook lamb more than medium, ideally you want it rare to medium rare otherwise the flavor gets weird and its incredibly dry. The exception to this is of course when braising lamb, that can be cooked longer and is delicious but grilling the lamb or lamb chops you want to cook rare-medium rare.**

Here it is in its glory:

While the lamb was cooking, I cooked down the marinade in a small saucepan and poured it over the lamb when it went into the oven. It was SO GOOD!

We all wanted to lick our plates. I served two sides, green beans with crispy shallots and fresh mint.

I also braised carrots and brussel sprouts and tossed them with balsamic vinegar.

These were also a hit. The only thing I had leftovers of was the green beans. The mint was fresh and light in all the dishes, a great theme ingredient.

I won’t leave out the other courses! However, we forgot to take any pictures of those at all this month, sorry! The first course was an amazing Asian spring roll with shrimp and stuffed with rice noodles and mint. They were beautiful, fresh and light; a perfect starter. They were accompanied by strawberry mojitos.

The third course was a chocolate and mint trifle with chocolate shavings on top. It was cool and sweet, not to mention pretty. Chocolate is always a great way to end a meal.

So there you have it, the quick overview of April’s Dinner Club! Now, on to May and hopefully some warmer weather again.

Spring Flowers

We’ve had an extremely mild Winter. It started out crazy with snow on Halloween which gave me high hopes for another blizzard and free day or two off work but alas we have gotten no more than that little snow and in fact have gotten warmer temperatures to the point that my daffodils began appearing in February instead of late March! I’ve finally buried my sadness about no snow and am looking forward to an early Spring. Along with Spring, comes beautiful flowers and fresh grass, sunshine and longer days not to mention grilling outside and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the last year or so, I’ve begun buying flowers at the grocery store. I realized a while back that I really enjoy having something pretty and blooming in my house. It also must be noted that I’m not good with live and growing plants. I do not have one houseplant and I never have; they don’t live in my house it would just be mean to bring a plant in knowing full well that was the beginning of its slow death. (I was even given 3 plants at my desk at work and all have died while my cubicle partner has a forest growing on her desk.) In conclusion, cut flowers with a short shelf life are just my style!

Lately, I’ve been making the effort to display the flowers with other things I can find around the house to create more of a table vignette. Not only is this extremely fun for me (it doesn’t take much!) but it also makes me feel like I live in a West Elm or Crate and Barrel catalogue. These catalogues and Pinterest is where I get most of my inspiration.

I found some nicely discounted blooms a few days after Valentines day and quickly put together this little vignette on my dining room table.

I found these pretty purple flowers:

I placed them into a beautiful purple vase that used to be Eric’s great aunt’s. I placed them onto an espresso colored wooden tray and arranged some light blue cloth napkins we have and an antique bowl filled with a few wine corks.

I also added two rustic wine glasses that we have.

And then as luck would have it, I noticed we had a wine bottle in our rack with a purple label! Onto the tray it went.

The whole displays makes me think of a rustic table in the middle of a winery in Southern France or something. Each time I walk by it, it makes me smile.

These blooms are making me think Spring, how about you guys? Do you like buying flowers at the grocery store? Or have you put together some house decorations using mostly things you already have on hand?