Sunday, December 13, 2009



I truly love it when friends come for dinner and Richard’s in a cooking “frame of mind.”  The other night we had a ‘sit-down’ for six (well, two of the six were us) and the house smelled like heaven for two days.

On the first day – the day before the dinner party – he made a creamy mushroom and roasted onion soup and I just wanted to drown in it after I tasted it. It was that good!   It was adapted from a Gary Daniel recipe of the Cave food and wine bar at the Ventura Wine Co. (a retail shop).

On the second day – the day of the dinner party – Richard started early by baking Cat Cora’s Olive Oil cake: Ladi Tourta (with orange liqueur), a recipe he found on-line at the Food Network website. Don’t tell Julia, but this is truly an olive oil cake. No butter! We have a small, cottage-y, style house which holds food aromas. Sometimes that’s NOT a good thing – especially when cooking fish, but not that day… our house smelled deliciously of baking till it was time to make the entrée that evening. This cake not only smells delicious, but is an orange flavored delight.

We put out an array of appetizers including a Boucheron goat cheese, a concoction of roasted beets, blue castello cheese and walnuts with a balsamic dressing scooped into endive ‘boats’

(this picture was taken when he made these endive 'boats' as
a salad.  It looks the same on an appetizer platter)

 and an eggplant appetizer Richard also found on-line. I liked the eggplant, but he thought it was bland. The next time he’s definitely making my cousin’s eggplant “poor man’s caviar,” but that’s for another blog.

The entrée, however, was far from bland. Mustard crusted rack of lamb with a separate sour cream mustard sauce.

I love lamb. But like most of my peers, I grew up with leg of lamb, lamb shank or the occasional (special ‘occasional’) lamb chops. I never even heard of a rack of lamb. Well, not until my first trip to Paris when I was in my twenties. Sadly, that’s almost too long ago to remember, but I do remember that first time culinary experience – the time I lost my rack of lamb virginity. I couldn’t believe how tender and delicious this dish was and wondered why my mother, who also loved lamb, never made it. Of course, when I was back home in the States and saw how much a rack of lamb cost, I got it. It’s expensive and doesn’t go far when you’re feeding a family of four.

Fast-forward to the Trader Joe’s and Costco era of pricing and importing food from around the world. Rack of lamb is now affordable. It’s still not something you feed a crowd and we did have to buy three (yeh, 3) racks to feed the six of us, but it was a dinner party for good friends and a slight splurge was warranted. So, Richard made his trek to Costco and found three beautiful racks from New Zealand and did them proud.

This recipe is a “Dinner for Two” from Good Housekeeping Magazine, so double or triple it, depending on your number of guests:



1 New Zealand lamb rib roast (rack of lamb), 8 ribs, flap trimmed (1 lb), bones ‘frenched’

salt & pepper
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard w/ seeds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or basil leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots (2 med)
¼ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
3 sm. Red potatoes (9 oz), each cut into 4 wedges
2 Tbsp. water
½ bunch broccoli rabe (8 oz), tough stem ends trimmed
1 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. reduced-fat sour cream


1. Preheat over to 425 F. Place lamb, meat side up, in a small roasting pan. Sprinkle lamb w/ ¼ teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper. In small bowl, stir together mustard, mint (or basil) and 2 tablespoons shallots. Reserve 2 tablespoons mustard mixture for sauce; spread remainder on lamb. Pat on panko to coat.

2 Roast lamb in oven 25-30 minutes for medium-rare (140 F on meat thermometer) or until desired doneness.

3 Meanwhile, heat 4-quart saucepan of water to boiling on high. In microwave-safe medium bowl, combine potatoes and 2 tablespoons cold water. Cover w/ vented plastic wrap and microwave on High 4 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain; toss w/ 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm.

Richard did not microwave his potatoes. He pre-boiled them, then sautéed them in butter and added freshly chopped rosemary.

As you can see from the pictures, Richard has substituted carrots for the potatoes on occasion (didn’t have time to take a pic the other nite).

4 Add broccoli rabe to boiling water in saucepan, and cook 3 minutes. Drain well; wipe pan dry. In same saucepan, heat oil and remaining 2 tablespoons shallots on medium high; add broccoli rabe and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Toss w/ 1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm.

5 Stir sour cream into reserved mustard mixture. Cut lamb into 2-rib portions, and place on 2 dinner plates with potatoes and broccoli rabe.

6 Serve lamb w/ sour cream mustard sauce.

Each serving is about 420 calories, 28 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 15 g total fat (5 g saturated), 5 g fiber, 73 mg cholesterol, 823 mg sodium.

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