Friends, Food, and Festive Festooning

table7Easter has arrived, replacing the deprivations of Lent with a new season of celebration and plenty and/or leaving us all with a sugar-hangover and a bunch of empty plastic eggs scattered around the house. Whichever experience most closely mirrors your own, I think we can all say it’s a fun holiday. The religious origins of Easter are well-known – we’re told Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later, a miracle Christians celebrate on the first Sunday after the full post-Equinox moon – and it’s closely tied to the Jewish festival of Passover. It has, of course, now developed as a hybrid of spiritual practices and modern, secular traditions (the latter bearing the much-derided stain of commercial manipulation), but the essential message remains the same: you now have license to party. And party we did.

With the launch of our friends’ event-planning blog, we decided to put on a joint event–full meal, printed menus, signature mixed drink–to properly commemorate the holiday. The beautiful tablescape, seen below, elevated our usual dinner party atmosphere to Pinterest-worthy heights. Studies have shown that the presentation of food affects the perceived flavor, a finding that I’m sure is borne out by the experience of this meal. While the fruits of our culinary efforts are usually delicious, there was something about this dinner which provided more pleasure than even we are accustomed to.

While the lovely ladies of Company Co. toiled away at party favors and lush flower arrangements, we prepared a traditional Easter meal of lamb. We chose it to honor the sacrificial lamb associated with Passover and subsequently with the Christian celebration, but also because it’s delicious and neither of us normally has an excuse to prepare it. The distinct flavor of lamb went well with the gloriously fragrant rosemary marinade and complemented the side dishes perfectly. Lentils, inspired by the memory of a dinner in France many years ago, were gently simmered with tender onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms and served at room temperature. These were served with green beans, blanched and tossed with a heavenly mix of garlic and fresh lemon zest. We served the lamb with a hugely popular fig and caramelized onion confit. Plates loaded with juicy leg of lamb, warm lentil salad, and lemony green beans, we sat back for a moment to savor a rare confluence: good food, friendship, and splendid decorations.

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Leg of Lamb (First We Eat)
Serves 8-10

  • 5 lbs Boneless Leg of Lamb, trussed
  • 2 Cups Rosemary (taken off the stems)
  • 12 Cloves Garlic
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the rosemary , garlic, olive oil, and salt to a food processor and blend until you have a thick marinade. Rub all over your trussed leg of lamb and let sit for about 30 minutes. Put lamb onto a rack in your roasting pan and roast for approximately 20 minutes per pound or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 150 Fahrenheit for a medium-rare roast. If you like your meat more or less well done, adjust the cooking time slightly. Take your roast out of the oven and cover with tinfoil. Let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Red Onion & Fig Confit (Adapted from Tasty Palettes)
Serve with your leg of lamb 

  • 2 Red Onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 6 Tbsp Fig Preserves
  • 6 Tbsp Thick, Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper as needed

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. In a bowl, combine sliced red onion, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the onion to the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure nothing sticks. Once onions are nicely caramelized, add the fig preserves and balsamic vinegar (we incorporated these two ingredients in a small bowl before adding to the onions). Once onions are completely coated, take off heat and let cool completely before serving. This was a big hit at the party and everyone loved the flavors with the roast lamb.

Green Beans with Lemon & Garlic (First We Eat)
Serves 8-10

  • 2 lbs French Green Beans
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop the green beans in for a little under 2 minutes (the beans should turn bright green and retain their crisp). Empty beans into a colander and run cool water over them to stop the cooking process.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, stirring for a few minutes. Toss the beans in with the garlic just until well coated. Put beans and garlic into a serving dish and sprinkle lemon zest all over the top. Serve warm.

Braised Umbrian Lentils with Country Vegetables (First We Eat)
Serves 10-12

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 2 Yellow Onions, chopped
  • 2 Small Leeks, chopped
  • 10 Medium Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 Small Celery Stalks, chopped
  • 3 Cups Crimini Mushrooms, diced
  • 8 oz Cubed Pancetta (we bought ours pre-diced from Trader Joes)
  • 1- 17.6oz package Umbrian Lentils
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 8 Sprigs Thyme, leaves taken off the stalk
  • 1 Tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 – 1 1/2 Cup Water

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy bottom pot (we used a large Le Creuset). Add the onion, leak, pancetta and butter and cook until soft. Add the carrots, celery, salt, thyme, and herbs de provence. Cook for about 5 minutes or until carrots are slightly softened. Add bag of lentils, mushrooms and chicken stalk to the pot and bring to a boil. Umbrian lentils take about 20 minutes to become fully cooked. Once the chicken broth has become incorporated into your lentils, continue to add water 1/4 cup at a time and cook until the lentils are tender. It’s important to add the liquids slowly in the cooking process because you want the lentils to cook but you don’t want to end up with a soup in the end. Once the lentils are done cooking, take off the heat and serve. This dish is great hot or warm.

 

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