Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On the Lamb

(Yeah, it's a pun, folks.... I'm not actually on the lam.)

So there are three things my dad asks me practically every time we speak:

  1. Are you okay financially? Yes, dad. (Did you just slip a $20 in my handbag??)
  2. Are you seeing anyone? *Sigh* No, dad.
  3. Are you eating meat? You're looking too thin! Actually...
While traveling through Ireland and Scotland for a month this summer, I must say that I ate probably an Ibti-year's worth of meat. How can you resist ordering a steak or a lamb shank after seeing field upon lush, open field of Scottish Highland steers and fluffy sheep cavorting around? I couldn't. I came home exactly 7 pounds heavier -- which, admittedly, may just as well be attributed to the omnipresence of Guinness and potatoes as to the lack of vegetables -- and with a craving for Irish food. Maybe with a bit more wine and veggies mixed in.

Conveniently, I had some Irish friends who were in need of a thank-you dinner from me: the perfect chance to test out an Irish stew recipe in the gorgeous My Irish Table cookbook. The result was roundly lauded by my dinner guests, who all demanded seconds on both the stew and its corresponding homemade piccalilli. (No, that's not a typo, it's a condiment.)

One day, if I either win the lottery or date a sugar daddy, I want to get myself to Restaurant Eve to try out the real thing, but for now I can definitely recommend the cookbook's version of this simple country dish...with a few minor modifications I made: wine and stock in place of water, double the carrots and potatoes and garlic, and a different cut of meat.

Irish Stew (serves 6)


  • 3 meaty lamb necks, split in half length-wise (recommended by my friend Bev of Eco-Friendly Foods for it's flavorful meat, thickening marrow, and low price point -- hey, free-range stuff gets expensive, and Cathal was calling for shoulder chops...for stew!)
  • olive oil
  • 3 onions, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups potatoes, cut into 1" chunks
  • 3 cups veggie stock
  • 1 cup red wine (I think a small bottle of Guinness would also work well here. I'm just sayin'.)
  • 1 small handful fresh thyme sprigs
  • salt and pepper


Pour a few glugs of oil into a large, cast-iron pot and heat to medium.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the lamb necks, then brown in the pot. Move the browned lamb to a plate.

Add onions, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf to the pot. Top this with the lamb, and then layer on the potatoes. Pour in the stock and wine, and bring the pot to a boil.

Turn down the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours.

Stir in the thyme and serve immediately or, if you have a full day of work before a Monday night dinner party, say, make the stew the night before, keep it in the fridge overnight, and then rewarm it with the fresh thyme stirred in (in the oven for 30 minutes at 300F).

Serve alongside homemade piccallili. (Oh, you want that recipe, too? Drop me an email.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lemon lover

So my family, and frankly anyone who has ever been to a restaurant with me and/or dated me, knows that I love fresh lemon in my water. But recently my love of lemons has expanded...

On my last day kicking around Edinburgh this summer, I stopped for lunch at The Scran and Scallie -- a fabulous gastropub suggested by my local hostess. I got a little carried away with the ordering, and after filling my belly with a sizable Sunday roast, mound of seasonal veggies, and hunks of bread to mop everything up, I waddled to the bar with the remainder of my flight of Scottish beers. As I chatted with the friendly barkeeper, he began to wax lyrical about some of the homemade cocktail concoctions he'd been experimenting with lately, mainly featuring local ingredients. Among them, limoncello.

"Er, that's not really Scottish, sir," I volunteered.

"No. But it is mighty good, miss, and we make it right here," he responded. And then poured me a glass of it. Then he raved about how simple it was to make. It only took four days, some vodka, and a few lemons. Easy peasy.

Well, after a couple of weeks of being home and missing the nightly cocktails of my traveling month, I decided to make a batch. I looked up a number of recipes, finally settling on one from Imbibe magazine. Admittedly, this recipe took more than 3 weeks from start to finish, with daily shaking of the vodka-zest solution, but based on the reviews from my friends at a recent dinner party, who each requested a second digestif, I'd say it's worth it. In fact, I am starting another batch right now....

Homemade Limoncello


  • 2 (750ml) bottles vodka
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 12-15 lemons


Rinse and then plunge lemons into boiling water for a couple of seconds. (This removes the wax on most store-bought lemons.)

Gently rinse the lemons in cool water and pat dry.

Zest the lemons,* taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. (I use a microplane. Mostly because I love any excuse to use a microplane.)

Place the zest in the glass jar and add one bottle of vodka.

Seal tightly and let the mixture steep. Shake it daily, until the liquid turns bright yellow. I'd say shaking daily for two weeks should do it. This is best accomplished by leaving the jar on your countertop, near the coffee maker, for instance, so you see and shake it each morning. (You can taste it now and again. Just for quality testing. No, not in the morning with your coffee. Geez', some of us have jobs....)

Strain the infused vodka through a double layer of moistened cheesecloth into a clean jar or bottle, being sure to squeeze the last drops of intensely flavored liquid from the peel. (Use spoonfuls of the vodka-spiked zest in a few vodka tonics -- delish!)

Add the second bottle of vodka.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup just comes to a boil. This should only take a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add the syrup to the infused vodka.

Pour your limoncello back into your two empty vodka bottles.

Seal bottles and let rest at least one week. Additional aging will result in a smoother limoncello. (Seriously, it's worth it to wait at least another week.)

*I know, you will find yourself with at least a dozen zested lemons here. Might I recommend making a batch of lemon sorbet? It's tasty on its own, or stirred into a vodka tonic. I'm just sayin'....

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Melon mania

Thanks to the Crossroads team for having me at their market yesterday and letting me play with such delicious, fresh ingredients during the Farmers Market Week celebration! In case folks would like the recipe for the mixed melon salad I was handing out....

Best of Summer Mixed Melon Salad


  • 1/2 red watermelon, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 yellow watermelon, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1-2 peaches or a pint of berries, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 handful fresh basil and mint leaves, chopped into thin ribbons
  • 1 block feta cheese, crumbled or chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • zest and juice from 1 lime
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • fresh pepper, to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients together, then toss with salad. Enjoy!

Now, this recipe is just meant to offer some basic guidelines. I should confess that a few peaches made their way into the salad as well. Berries would have been a nice addition, too, if they were around. Same with honeydew.

What's that? Why, yes, this marked my third farmers market visit in five days. I can't help myself in this time of bounty, and I had some catching up to do with farmers, and eating to do after the general lack of fresh fruits and veggies represented in the otherwise amazing food I devoured during my month-long trip around Ireland and Scotland. I'd better have lots of friends over for dinners soon: my fridge and countertops are exploding with fresh produce....