Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb

Mom is joining me for today’s Easter dinner and for the last week I was on the fence about what I’d fix. Mom is easy as she loves everything I cook – and tells me I should be on Chopped (home chef edition), with my inevitable win launching my own Food Network show but I digress.

A few days ago I saw rack of lamb and the decision was made.  Mom and I both love lamb chops and I’ve made those many times. I’ve cooked rack of lamb only once and grilled it. It was delicious though my friend Terry had to start my grill as the one time prior that I’d lit it, I blew the lid back and lost all my arm hair. Spence was always my grill master and though Mom would (and could) light my grill I had decided to go a different way.

After scanning cookbooks and Pinterest for ideas I quickly realized that I hadn’t picked up fresh herbs – never a problem from May-October when my herb garden provides more than I need. What’s a girl to do? It was noon, my homemade croutons were done and cooling, our favorite Rhubarb Custard pie is in its final 20 minutes of cook time, sweet potatoes poked and ready for baking, my dijon vinaigrette prepared.  I’m still in my jammies and not enough time to shower and run out for fresh herbs before mom arrives. Though dried herbs might work, I knew I could do better.

Then it hit me – make a crust using pesto with its lovely green color and fresh herb flavors mixed with Panko breadcrumbs, both of which were in my gourmet pantry! Brilliant kitchen hack if I don’t say so.

Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb – serves 2-4

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 T pesto
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Several hours before dinner mix together the breadcrumbs and pesto. Score the fat side of the rack, salt and pepper to taste.  Wrap the bones in foil to prevent burning. Cover all sides of the rack with the breadcrumb mixture using more on the fat side which will be face up when cooking.  Pat it down to make the crust. Refrigerate for several hours.

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Two hours before you’d like to serve dinner, remove the rack from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and place the rack into the pan.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack.

Cook time will depend on how rare you like your chops – check at 15-18 minutes for rare to medium rare (my preference) by inserting a meat thermometer look for the internal temp of 120 degrees. Remove from oven and tent, the temperature will increase to 125-130 degrees; allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil. To preserve the crust for serving and presentation, I cut them 2 bones per chop. I served these with a nice bottle of red wine, spinach salad with homemade croutons and Dijon vinaigrette, the aforementioned baked sweet potatoes with butter and fresh grated nutmeg – and of course the pie.

 

 

 

Prosciutto, Fig & Spinach Pizza

Some nights I imagine I’m on Chopped (perhaps my favorite of all shows on The Food Network) and decide to challenge myself based on featuring four random ingredients and transforming them into something that would delight the Chopped judges – or in this case me.  Okay guys, work with me here……

In my Chopped fantasy, Ted Allen asks me to open the basket and announces my four mystery ingredients:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Prosciutto
  • Dried Black Mission Figs
  • Hazelnuts

If you regularly watch Chopped, you’re likely thinking I got lucky – no gummy worms, eel or headcheese in my basket.  Keep in mind, if I were on Chopped (seriously on my bucket list) it would be a home-chef episode. For those shows they typically don’t give the contestants something that would send them running from the studio in tears.

Here’s what I decided to make with my basket ingredients:

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees, place your baking stone in the oven. Mix together a pizza crust mix (add water, olive oil, knead, cover rest for 10 minutes)  Place dried figs into boiling water to hydrate – set aside. Prepare the toppings – prosciutto,  chopped shallots, spinach, slice the figs in half. Using a cutting board with a dusting of corn meal and garlic powder, manipulate the pizza dough into the desired shape and thickness. Place the prosciutto, spinach, shallots, figs onto the unbaked crust, add red pepper flakes and top with shredded mozzarella and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Pull the heated baking stone from the oven and slide the pizza onto the stone.  Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.  Remove from oven, top with chopped hazelnuts and cool for five minutes.  Slice and enjoy.

And yes, in my Chopped fantasy – the judges not only rave about my culinary skills but I’m offered my own show on The Food Network on the spot.  Of course, I humbly accept their accolades and realize I’m going to have to come out of retirement to do my show but this is a tradeoff I must make to follow my passion….

 

Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie

I’m currently in Portland visiting my cousin Kristin and her husband Dick. When I had booked my flight I mentioned that I’d love to cook for them while I was their guest. To my delight their neighbor had given them rhubarb from his magnificent garden and I offered to make my favorite Rhubarb Custard pie. They had beautiful strawberries and Dick asked if we could add those as well, absolutely!  

Using my Mom’s Piecrust Recipe, Kristin and I made two 10 inch pie crusts. Twice, though that was not the plan. Chatting too much I botched one tiny step in the first batch and it was impossible to roll out. The second batch was perfect. Then onto the pie recipe: 

Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie – recipe for one pie

  • 1 10 inch pie crust (unbaked)
  • 3 c Rhubarb – 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 c sliced strawberries 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 T milk
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/4 fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 T cold butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the rhubarb and strawberries, spread over the pie crust. 




Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, milk and nutmeg, pour over filling. 



Place the pie on a cookie sheet, then into the oven on the lowest rack (this helps to cook the crust on the bottom).  Bake for 35 minutes, remove and sprinkle sugar over the top of the pie. Place back in the oven, turning the pan 180 degrees to get even browning on the crust. Bake another 30 minutes watching for the crust to brown and remove to cool, the center of the pie will still be a bit jiggly. Cool at least 2 hours and then enjoy it! 

Fontina & Prosciutto Flatbread with Figs & Balsamic Reduction

This is the second post in my new series, Cooking for One.  Since losing Spence almost three months ago, it’s taken time to regain my appetite and rediscover my passion for cooking.  Thankfully the desire to create and savor delicious meals has slowly returned.  In sharing these ideas, I hope that even when it’s just you, you’ll feel inspired to make something special – you’re worth it!

Fontina & Prosciutto Flatbread with Figs & Balsamic Reduction

  • 1 piece of Naan
  • olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • sliced Fontina cheese
  • thin sliced prosciutto, torn into smaller pieces
  • chopped or sliced figs
  • thin sliced red onion
  • chopped pistachios
  • fresh baby spinach
  • balsamic reduction

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a cast iron skillet (or baking stone) with olive oil and place into the oven for five minutes. While the skillet heats, brush the top of the Naan with olive oil, add cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes, then add slices of fontina covering the top. Next add the proscuitto, figs, red onion and chopped pistachios. Place the flatbread into the skillet and return to the oven for ten minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and immediately top with a handful of spinach then a good drizzle of balsamic reduction.  I enjoyed this with a lovely glass of Prosecco.

Note:  Naan is such a quick and delicious product to use for a quick flatbread or pizza – try any combination of fun toppings – there’s simply no limit! 

Super Easy Breakfast Soft Taco

 

Breakfast of Champions

This took all of 5 minutes to make and less than a minute to eat.

Warm a flour tortilla – I put it right on the burner, flipping it one time. Top with shredded cheese, lower the heat. Prepare one soft scrambled egg – add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. While it finishes, slice 1/2 avocado, placing it onto the cheese. Add the egg and a splash of hot sauce (I used Slap ya Mama). Fold over soft taco style and enjoy.

This is the first post in my new series, Cooking for One

 

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

I’ve made versions of this salad over time, always with broccoli.  Today knowing that I had both broccoli and cauliflower on hand, I decided to do a twist on my go-to recipe and share it with you.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

  • 2 c broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries – add to 1/2 c very hot water for 1o minutes, drain
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar, cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 c chopped red onion
  • 1/2 c pecans – chopped and lightly toasted
  • 4-5 slices crisp bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 t coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 t dijon mustard
  • red pepper flake to taste (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cauliflower, cranberries, cheddar and red onion.  Make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, honey, vinegar, pepper, dijon and red pepper flakes.  Dress the salad with the desired amount of dressing – you can always add more.  Add the bacon and pecans, stir to blend. Chill for one hour and serve.

Salsa Red Snapper with White Beans & Gremolata Topping

Not shown: green pepper

Last night I invited Mom to join me for dinner.  I surprised her by making a recipe she’d discovered a few years back.  It’s a showy dish that’s perfect for easy entertaining and chock full of flavor.  Loaded with healthy ingredients, this is only 4 1/2 Weight Watchers points per serving. I sent Mom home with a to-go box and have an ample serving left for myself.  I tweaked the original recipe ever so slightly, using only one can of beans, a bit more salsa and made more gremolata because it’s that topping that makes this dish over- the-top delicious.  If you have gremolata left it would be great with chicken, salmon or even tossed in with pasta, couscous or rice!

Salsa Red Snapper with White Beans & Gremolata Topping             serves 4

4 1/2 Weight Watchers points per serving

  • 18 oz salsa
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained
  • 1 small green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 lb red snapper
  • 1/4 c green onions

Gremolata topping:

  • 1/2 c chopped flat leaf parsley
  •  1 1/2 t orange zest
  • 1 1/2 t lime zest
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine 12 oz of the salsa with the beans and green pepper and place in a casserole dish.

  Cut the red snapper into several servings and place over the salsa mixture.


Top the fish with the remaining 6 oz of salsa, followed by the green onions. Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Mix together the ingredients for the gremolata and set aside.


Remove the casserole from oven and allow to rest uncovered for five minutes before serving.  Top each serving with gremolata and prepare to fall in love with this flavorful, healthy dish.

I served this with roasted garlic crostini, a fresh spinach salad with dijon vinaigrette with a lovely bottle of wine and lemon bars for dessert.

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