A Reflective Pause Before Leaping Into Spring

Even though the temperature in the Northeast doesn’t feel much like it, spring is here.  The snow has melted to reveal the first signs of tulips and daffodils popping through the earth.  A reminder that no matter how cold and endless the winter may seem, warmer days are coming.

This is the time of year when I start planning.  Where can I find whale sharks to see on my next vacation?  Which hikes are good for weekends?  What herbs will I grow?  Do I need to order seeds? What new ingredients can I cook with?  Is there a new recipe I can try?  What aromatics should I use when I make my own gin?  Should I move somewhere that doesn’t have such a cold winter?

Whether it’s a small question or a major life decision, if you’re in a position to embark on a new adventure, it can be overwhelming to decide what’s next, especially if there are so many options.  Sometimes you end up doing nothing because playing it safe is the easiest choice.  And that might also be the best one.  To figure it out, it helps to take a breath.  Give life time to unfold.  Maybe the path will become clearer.  Maybe not.  But it doesn’t hurt to have a glass of red and reflect on past decisions before moving forward.

And then get the input of others – preferably over a roast leg of lamb.  There’s something about the succulent meat, garlicky greens and salty cheese that brings everything into focus and makes anything seem possible.  After all, brilliant ideas can emerge over a great meal and bottle of wine with family or friends.  And if not, at least you’ve had an excellent meal to put a spring in your step.

IMG_0365Roast Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Feta and Greens
Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

1/2 cup of finely chopped shallots or onions
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of dry white wine
10 oz of greens (any of spinach, dandelion, collards, turnip, kale, arugula)
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh mint, finely chopped
3/4 cup of feta
1/4 cup of parmigiana
1 egg
4-5 lb boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil (lemon or basil oil would work well, if available)
Additional fresh herbs

Directions

First make the stuffing.  Saute the shallots or onions and 3 large cloves of minced garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 2 minutes over medium low heat or until softened.   Add in the wine and cook for another minute.

IMG_0360Then add the greens and saute until wilted, about another 3 minutes.

IMG_0361Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.  When finished add in the herbs and cheeses.  (You can also add in some sundried tomatoes and/or artichokes if you would like.)  Mix thoroughly.  Add in the egg to hold everything together.  If too wet, add more parm.  If too dry, add a bit of water.

This was a little too wet, so I had my "assistant" add more parm for me.Prep the lamb.  [Mine was not de-boned.  This added a new dimension to my skill set.  I sliced through the middle, took out the leg leaving as little meat as possible butterflied it as best I could.  Try not to cut through it all the way.  Then you have to pound it down.  Check out the video on the FB site to see my struggles and for a few chuckles.]

IMG_3276Cut slits in the meat and insert slivers of garlic from the remaining cloves, both inside and out.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper on the inside and squeeze with some lemon.
IMG_3291IMG_3295Then spread the stuffing inside.

IMG_3301Fold the lamb back up (you can try to roll it, but it will be very messy).

IMG_3307Tie it if you can or use toothpicks to hold it together.

IMG_3309Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Place some additional fresh herbs on top, if you have them (I used some parsley on the bottom and topped with rosemary and mint).

IMG_0362It should then sit for at least half an hour and ideally overnight in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roast on a rack for about 1.5 to 2 hours.  The meat should reach 135 degrees for medium-rare (which is how I prefer it).  [Use a digital probe inserted into the thickest part of the center of the meat if possible.]  When it reaches the desired temperature, remove from the oven and let stand covered loosely with foil for 15-20 minutes.

IMG_0364Slice it thickly, and plate some greens on top of the meat if it falls apart (and it may).  [NB: I didn’t make a sauce with this because there were few drippings, and the meat is well-seasoned anyway.]

IMG_0366Serve it with some minted pea puree if you want more greens, a lemon-herb spaetzle, creamy polenta, cauliflower puree or mashed potatoes (anything that leaves the oven free).

To drink: a Nero d’Avola or Primitivo would be lovely.  Or the citrus from a simple gimlet nicely balances the garlic and enhances the spring feeling.

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