This week’s litany of complaints begins with the fact that I had to visit FOUR stores to find fresh mint. Obviously, this is not Martha’s fault, but one that falls directly into the laps of the buyers at the local grocery store chains, along with the blame for the fact that navy beans are nearly impossible to find, and Longhorn cheese is actually impossible to find. I digress with the beans, which I needed for some Emeril’s Bam BBQ slow cooked beans that are currently in the oven, and Longhorn, which I actually don’t need at the moment, but have in the past, for Tex-Mex goodies and a macaroni and cheese recipe. The local stores carry Shiner Bock beer, so it’s not like all things Texan are shunned. So, why the cheese hate?
The next Martha Menu in the book was to be some ridiculously un-spring-like meal of roast beef with horseradish sauce, cabbage and leeks, currant scones and baked apples. !!!! I get that this was likely supposed to be a St. Patrick’s Day menu, but in order for the menu and dates to line up, I would have had to start cooking my Spring section in mid-February, when rhubarb is but a dream. This menu did not appeal to me at all at this point in the season; the azaleas are in bloom and it was 90 degrees yesterday, so baking apples seemed far from a good idea. Are the apples in the stores even good at this point? I think not. Therefore, I have made an executive decision to move this recipe to the fall, or some rainy cold spring day in the future.
That leaves us with this:
No. 17: Crudites with Dill Butter; Herbed Lamb and Pita; Artichokes and Olives in White Wine; Greek Yogurt with Clementines and Pistachios
Crudites with Dill Butter:
Am I off base by thinking that setting out a plate of carrots and radishes for your guests or family to dip into butter is weird?
The “recipe” involved mixing up some unsalted butter (an ENTIRE stick! For four people!), sea salt, and fresh dill into a compound butter. (Note that this is the second compound butter in a row). And then dipping radishes and carrots into it! Whew, that was exhausting. Or would have been if I had bothered to make it. It may surprise you, but I hate dill. Hate! Well, I like dill pickles, but that doesn’t count. So, I wasn’t going to waste money on fresh dill to mix into some butter so I can have a coronary. Then I realized when I got home that because I loathe dill so much we don’t have any dried dill, either. So, I sprinkled some parsley into a half tablespoon of butter, dipped a carrot into it, and decided it was a stupid idea.
Mr. Squeaky Peanut, however, finds it perfect reasonable to serve guests seasoned butter and raw vegetables. He thought the radishes were ridiculous with the butter, but liked the carrots. Traitor!
Herbed Lamb and Pita:
The recipe calls for a lamb steak. I don’t eat lamb, as we established previously, so I had no idea what a lamb steak was, and there was nothing labeled as such at the store, so I bought a boneless, butterflied lamb leg and cut it into cubes. The meat is marinated in a mixture of mint, fresh thyme, shallots, allspice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. She says to marinate them for 10 minutes at room temperature, or up to an hour in the refrigerator. Any fool knows you need to marinate more than 10 minutes if it’s going to work (and doesn’t contain lemon juice, which will cook some meats and fish), so I kept it in the frig for an hour or maybe 90 minutes, while The Husband made the rounds to the local record stores on his bicycle. After an hour, it appeared as if the meat might have some flavor, but I was hesitant to get too excited. The cubes were then skewered and grilled.
Part of the marinade mixture was spread onto pita breads, which were supposed to bake for 5 minutes at 375. The aforementioned baked beans were in the oven at 300, so I plopped the pitas on the grill to heat.
Well, it’s too bad that I don’t eat lamb, because the bite that I had for reporting purposes was really quite good! Well-seasoned and very tender. The pita was very tasty, too!
Here’s the recipe (I made a half batch, here is the full recipe), adapted from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home:
1/4 c + 2 T finely chopped mint
2 T finely chopped fresh thyme
2 shallots, minced
1/2 t allspice
1/4 c + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 lamb steaks, each 7 oz and 1″ thick, cut from leg or top round
4 pita bread rounds
Preheat oven to 375. Stir together mint, thyme, shallots, allspice, and oil in a bowl. Add 1 T salt and season with pepper. Reserve 1/3 of mixture for the pitas.
Cut lamb into 2″ pieces. Add to bowl and toss with herb mixture. Marinate at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Spread mixture onto pita breads and bake for 5 minutes (Or toss on grill). Remove from oven and tent with foil and parchment to keep warm.
Heat grill pan (or use actual grill, and put the meat onto skewers) over medium high heat. Sear on the first side, then turn until all sides are brown, about 4 minutes. Serve with pitas.
Artichokes and Olives in White Wine:
I have never dealt with fresh artichokes before today. They are intimidating and stabby. And the insides are terrifying. Martha warned that there would be sharp leaves inside, and a core. But the core was furry! It was as if a celery root and a Westie had mated on Mars and given birth to …this. They also turned brown immediately upon peeling, as Martha had warned, even in the lemon water bath she had me prepare ahead of time. It’s like they were dying and turning poisonous right in front of my very eyes. If I were a cavewoman and came across them in the wild I would consider them inedible, so kudos to whomever decided they were worth trimming and eating. I will certainly never do it again. I was lucky I didn’t lose a thumb hacking those things up!
Once I managed to de-leaf them and get down to the edible parts, they were simmered in a skillet with white wine, lemon juice, water, thyme sprigs, and green olives. I used garlic stuffed olives to delicious effect. These were amazing! Very lemony. Almost worth all the trouble hacking them up.
Here is the recipe, also adapted from Dinner at Home, natch:
2 lemons, halved
4 medium artichokes
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 c dry white wine
3/4 c water
1/2 c green olives (use the ones with garlic!)
6 thyme sprigs
1 t coarse salt
Squeeze lemon halves into bowl full of water, then drop in halves. Working with one artichoke at a time, remove outer leaves until pale green leaves are exposed. Cut off top third of leaves, where the darker part begins. Trim away dark green layer of base and the stalk. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and remove inner leaves and Westie fur, aka choke. Drop halves into lemon water immediately. (She is not kidding!)
Squeeze juice from the other lemon and combine with other ingredients in a medium, deep skillet. Add artichokes, cut side down. Cover and bring to a rapid simmer for two minutes; reduce heat to medium and simmer until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15- 20 minutes. Divide amongst plates and drizzle with sauce.
Greek Yogurt with Clementines and Yogurt:
Here is the recipe: Spoon yogurt into dessert bowls and top each with 3-4 fruit segments. Sprinkle with unsalted pistachios and serve extra segments on the side.
Anything I can make in the kitchen at work for an afternoon snack with nothing but a spoon does not qualify as a “recipe.” Assembly instructions is kind of even pushing it. That said, it tasted fine, and the creaminess was appreciated after the acidity of the artichokes and olives. The Husband turned his into an ambrosia type salad by adding coconut and green apple slices.
OVERALL: Aside from the weird butter/carrot incident, this meal was really good. I appreciate that the fresh thyme was used twice, to make it more cost effective ( I also needed it for the beans, but Martha didn’t know I’d be making them, or did she?)
Crudites w/Dill Butter: C (I gave it a D, but The Huband gave it a B, inexplicably)
Herbed Pita and Lamb: A- for the lamb, A for the pita. Maybe it could have marinated a bit longer to get more flavor.
Dessert: I am torn, because while it tastes fine, should it really be counted as a recipe? B, I guess.