Lemons and Lamb

Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere – or so the calendar says, for those who seem to be experiencing extended winter weather this season. Here is a favorite menu I like to serve for friends and family, that uses some of the wonderful fresh produce appearing in the markets and gives an excuse to dust off the barbeque from its winter sleep.

Thursday Asparagus

Asparagus with Lemon and Olive Oil:

A simple and elegant way to serve either green or white asparagus.  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough outer skin away from the white asparagus. Serves 6.

2 pounds asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Steam asparagus or cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender.
Drain; transfer to a large serving dish.  Cut lemon in half.  Squeeze juice from one half lemon over.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt.
Cut remaining lemon half in slices and arrange over asparagus as garnish.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic:

Ask your butcher to bone and butterfly the lamb. Serves 6 – 8

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 5-6 lb. (3 kg.) leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

Place lamb in a wide bowl or dish.  Combine olive oil, mustard and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over lamb and distribute evenly with hands. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Allow to sit and marinate at room temperature for one hour.  (Can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before grilling.)
Prepare barbeque. Grill lamb, turning, until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of meat registers 130 F. for medium-rare, about 25 minutes.  Alternatively, roast in a pre-heated 425 F. oven approx. 30 minutes. Transfer meat to cutting board, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest 10 minutes.
Cut lamb in slices and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Steamed New Potatoes with Italian Parsley:
Fresh, fast and deliciously simple – it doesn’t get easier than this.

3 pounds new potatoes, washed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed

Steam the new potatoes until tender. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (or toss with butter, if you prefer.) Sprinkle with sea salt.
Toss with parsley and serve.

Lemon Cheesecake

Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberries
An easy version of a timeless classic.  Prepare this cake one day before serving.

Serves 10 – 12

For the crust:
8 ounces graham crackers or digestive biscuits, in pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
20 oz. (1 1/4 lb.) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz. (1/2 lb.) Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 tblsp. fresh lemon juice

For the strawberries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap a 9 inch springform with foil.
Combine graham crackers and brown sugar in bowl of food processor and finely grind.  Add butter and blend using on/off turns until crumbs are moist.  Press crumbs onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of springform pan.  Chill while preparing filling.

Make filling:
In a bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add Mascarpone cheese; beat until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each.  Mix in lemon zest and juice.

Pour filling into crust.  Bake until cake is puffed at edges and center moves slightly when shaken, about one hour.  Transfer to rack and cool completely.  Cover and chill overnight.

Make strawberries:
In a bowl toss strawberries with sugar and lemon juice.  Allow to sit one hour before serving.  (Can be prepared 3 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.  Serve at room temperature.)

To serve cake, run knife around sides of pan to loosen.  Release pan sides.  Place cake on plate and cut in slices.  Serve with strawberries.