Grilled Artichokes with Bagna Cauda + Roasted Rack of Lamb with Basil Goat Cheese Sauce

This past Saturday was quite delicious!  We were graced with not having ANYTHING on our calendar so we spent most of the afternoon at the pool before heading home to feast on an amazing dinner.

artichokes

I’ve never tackled grilled artichokes at home and while they take a little bit of time, they really are quite easy to make.  I had watched Giada make them on a recent episode of “Giada in Italy” (I wanna go!) and that is the recipe I used.  Big Guy and I also watched a YouTube video on cleaning artichokes that was very helpful – I had no idea how hairy and spiky they are inside.  And I also have a whole new appreciation for jarred artichoke hearts and completely understand the cost now.

To make the artichokes, you combine white wine, water, lemon juice + the lemon halves, thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf, and salt in a large pot.  Add the artichokes (after cleaning!) cut-side down and bring the water to a simmer with a top on the pot.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until tender.

Remove the artichokes and drain.  Drizzle with EVOO and a sprinkle of salt and grill about 4 minutes on side.  The artichokes are then dipped into a luscious mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt and butter.

grilledartichokes

I simply love cooking new things in the kitchen with Big Guy.

For dinner, we made a roasted rack of lamb with an incredible goat cheese sauce.  I prepped the lamb and the carrots before we even left for the pool.  Simply process EVOO, garlic, oregano, basil, ground cumin, lemon zest and crushed red peppers in a food processor.  Season the lamb liberally with salt and pepper then rub the marinade over the top.  Arrange the carrots around the lamb on the baking sheet.  Cover and let chill in the refrigerator.

The lamb is roasted at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then flipped and roasted for 5-10 more minutes.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting.

And with the lamb the most delicious goat cheese sauce.  Simply combine room temperature goat cheese, 2% Greek Yogurt, honey, basil, lemon zest plus salt and pepper.

lamb

Those carrots were better than I ever expected and the lamb was cooked to perfection.  Please don’t leave off the goat cheese sauce – it’s TOTALLY necessary.

I am forever grateful for our little date nights at home.  A time to just relax and enjoy one another.

Weekend Review

Happy Monday!  I hope y’all had a wonderful weekend.  My parents came into town and we had a blast.  But honestly, time flew by and I feel like the weekend was over in a flash.  On Friday we met my parents in Raleigh for lunch at Tazza Kitchen. Big Guy and I have dined at Tazza Kitchen on a couple of occasions and we’re impressed each and every time.  We shared some guacamole to start and the chips were addictive.  They also brought some salsa to the table with the guacamole and it was fantastic.  A little sweet and not too spicy.  I ordered the arugula and goat cheese salad for lunch and added shrimp to the salad.  It was amazing.  Post-lunch we made a quick stop at Fresh Market to grab a few items we needed for the weekend.

One we all arrived back to our house we helped my parents unload the car and my Mom and I started crafting!  I’m helping host a baby shower for my sister-in-law in a couple of weeks and my Mom and I had several projects to get done while they were here. For dinner we cooked up a feast!  My parents enjoy lamb but they don’t cook it all that often (neither do we) so we thought it was the perfect meal for their visit.  On the menu:  pistachio crusted rack of lamb, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and roasted broccolini.

lamb

Everything turned out delicious.  And I have to say, those mashed potatoes might be the best ever.  Definitely not a “light” recipe but they are amazing.

After dinner we all watched “Criminal Minds” before calling it a night and heading to bed. Saturday started with a quick workout for me before getting back to the house and crafting with my Mom.  The guys left to run some errands and just drive around and then we met them for lunch at the Country Club.  This is when time started flying.  When we got home we played dominos (I did not win) and then made homemade pasta and bolognese for dinner.

pasta

The dough was a little more finicky this time around but the end result was nothing short of perfection.  We enjoyed this plate of pasta with an incredible 2010 Pride Sangiovese.

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out and watching t.v. before calling it quits for the day.

On Sunday I prepared one last meal before they hit the road back home.  (I’ll share breakfast tomorrow!)  I was sad to see them leave but I know I’ll see them in a couple of weeks when I head to Charlotte for the baby shower.

Such a treat to have them visit and I’m looking forward to planning another weekend soon!

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb

Worthy of a 91-point (Wine Spectator) wine, this spiced up Spring dinner is the perfect excuse to splurge on a rack of lamb and pull out the cast iron skillet.

We had ham with my family for Easter dinner so we decided to have lamb on Sunday night for our little at-home Easter meal.  The lamb is seasoned with an exotic blend of spices including cayenne pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger, salt and pepper.  The rack of lamb is seared whole in a little oil and then finished in the oven along with carrots (homegrown) and green onions.  Once the lamb is finished cooking and allowed to rest, it is served with a Harissa yogurt sauce.

easterlamb

Charred green onions are one of my favorite things!

We opened a 2013 Portalupi Old Vine Zinfandel and toasted to another lovely weekend.

easterdinner

The lamb was cooked to perfection and I adored the crust on the outside from the quick sear in the cast iron.  The flavors were perfect with a little bit of kick.  Harissa is something I’ve never cooked with in my own kitchen but it really jazzed up the Greek yogurt for a lovely sauce.

“Wine is meant to be enjoyed everyday.” – M. Portalupi

Lamb Kofta Lettuce Wraps

I love it when a recipe surprises me.  When I planned our Friday night dinner last week, I wasn’t expecting anything over-the-top.  But the end result was absolutely incredibly and quite possibly one of the best things we ate all weekend long.

I was also pleasantly surprised by a bottle of French wine that was really delicious.  I typically don’t love French wines but this wine (for the label click on over to yesterday’s post) paired perfectly with a low-key Friday night and even better with the lamb wraps.  

I sipped a glass of wine while we prepped food for the tailgate on Saturday.  Big Guy and I shared the rest of the bottle while sharing a platter of lettuce wraps.

lamb

I made a few changes to the recipe – but nothing too crazy.

Instead of using a mixture of lamb and sirloin – I used local lamb that came to us through SoCo Farm to Door delivery.  I also went a little heavy on the cinnamon and allspice because I love those flavors with lamb.  I also used an ounce of gluten-free bread crumbs to save me from having to pull out the food processor (trust me – there was enough going on in the kitchen).  I cooked my own rice but the addition of the olive oil and paprika was magical.  The rice was absolutely amazing – and rice isn’t something that typically impresses me.  And my favorite part of this meal – we were able to use home grown lettuce for the wraps.  The sauce is a mixture of 2% Greek Yogurt (so thick and creamy!), cucumber, red onion plus some salt and pepper.

These lettuce wraps were fantastic.  There was so much flavor in the lamb koftas (meatballs!).

Savory, a little sweet, tangy and herbaceous.

And perfect with a glass of red.

Lamb Chops with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

If you’re in a weeknight dinner rut, this recipe is for you.  And while lamb chops may seem super fancy and daunting, they’re not!  Lamb Chops with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette are ready in under 30 minutes and require only a few ingredients.

The key to delicious lamb chops is the same as most proteins:  quality ingredients.  If the lamb is high quality it’s near impossible to ruin the recipe.

I pulled the chops out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I was ready to begin cooking.  Before I even started on the chops, though, I cooked up 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of chicken broth.  No, the recipe did not call for quinoa but I chose that instead of farro (or brown rice).  Use what you have!  While the quinoa cooked, I prepared the vinaigrette – this is where the flavor is at!

Lemon zest
Lemon juice
Dijon Mustard
Honey
EVOO
Thyme
Salt and Pepper

Once everything is prepped, it’s time to give the chops some attention. Season with salt and pepper (I was a little heavy handed with the pepper) and sear over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side.

While the chops rest, toss the cooked quinoa with your greens and about half of the vinaigrette.  Serve the chops on top of the mixture and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

Incredibly delicious and a gorgeous plate of food that’s perfect for any night of the week.

 

Mini Greek-Style Meat Loaves

Lamb is something you either love or you hate.  I love it.  And in the past when I’ve picked out a lamb recipe I always get disappointed because our local grocery store just happens to be out of lamb that day.  I decided last Friday night that we were going to have  “Greek-inspired” dinner.  But I went to the store with my list in hand with two lists.  One list had the ingredients (including lamb) for Mini Greek-Style Meat Loaves and the other list was my back-up.  I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Thankfully, lamb was in stock!  The lamb came in a 16 ounce package so I actually chose to make these mini meat loves using just lamb (I didn’t add sirloin to the mix).  And to make it gluten-free, I made my own breadcrumbs out of stale gluten-free bagel chips.  The meat loaves are made mini by using a muffin tin to bake.  Not only is this awesome for making healthy portion sizes but it ensures that the loaves are the same size for even cooking.  The smell of all the herbs was amazing!  I especially loved that they came from our garden.

Greek-Inspired Dinner

Greek-Inspired Dinner

To top the mini Greek-style meat loaves, I made a super simple feta sauce that combined Greek yogurt, feta, herbs and lemon juice.  It really brightened up the lamb.  And on the side, a simple salad with cucumbers and tomatoes.

outside dining at it's finest

outside dining at it’s finest

I enjoyed this dinner outside with a nice glass of bubbly.  The weather was amazing for eating outside.

Oh, and that’s just paprika sprinkled on top of the feta-yogurt sauce to add a little color.  The lamb meat loaves took a little longer to cook than the recipe stated and I’m not sure if that’s because they were slightly larger (we made one less) or if it’s because they were 100% lamb.  Either way, they turned out perfect.

Who knew mini-loaves could pack so much flavor?

 

Greek Lamb Chops with Mint Yogurt Sauce

I have an incredible date night meal to share with you.  And ribeyes weren’t involved.  This meal followed my delicious grapefruit mojito.  

First up, a ridiculously easy appetizer that I will recreating very, very soon for my wine book club.  (by the way, we’re starting to read “Fifty Shades of Grey”)  Simply take goat cheese and mix with a tablespoon of milk to make it creamy and dreamy.  Lay out a few dried apricots, top with a dollop of goat cheese and then place a cute little roasted almond on top.  A delightful drizzle of sweet honey completes the appetizer.

So good!  Sweet, tangy, crunchy and chewy – all in one bite.  Perfection.

Following the appetizers, with a glass of wine in hand, we got started on our Greek-inspired lamb chops.  The ingredient list is simple.  First combine lemon juice, oregano and garlic (I used fresh lemon juice and garlic, dried oregano) in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the chops with salt and then rub the oregano/garlic mixture all over each lamb chop.  Cook over high heat for about 3 minutes on each side – let the chops rest for 5 minutes before serving.

While the lamb chops are resting, make the mint yogurt sauce.  Greek yogurt, fresh mint, lemon, juice and salt come together to make the most refreshing sauce you’ve ever tasted with lamb.  A perfect pairing, I tell ya.

On the side, a light tomato and mixed greens salad.  The recipe called for parsley, but mixed greens worked just as well.  To the mixed greens, add halved tomatoes, diced red onion and diced bell pepper (I used yellow).  Dressed simply with a mixture of lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey and EVOO.  Light and bright!

A perfect date night indeed.