*We’re falling into spring with our friends at Chateau St. Jean. This is the first in a series of three springy date night recipes. We’re starting with a Grilled Lamb Salad that is both hearty and light – just what is needed as we slowly move away from long gray days of winter and into light, breezy and nearly warm spring. We’ve paired this recipe with their Cabernet Sauvignon. With aromas of berries and spice it holds up to the lamb quite nicely.
I hate to admit it but it is true what they say about Seattle – it rains, a lot. This year in particular has proven that point beyond what I feel it needs to. We’ve broken many sodden records and recently a headline read “Never-ending gloom? Seattle has had just 3 sunny, mild days since the start of October” That’s right, we have had a collective 30 hours and 51 minutes of sunshine since the beginning of October.
I’ve reached the point in the season where I am desperately ready for the next. I’m ready to feel a bit of sun on my face, get my hands dirty in the garden, wander the beach (without four layers on) and pluck sun-warmed berries off the vines. The roaring fire in the fireplace was once cozy but now I curse it for its necessity.
This morning, Roman was ready for school well before it was time to leave. He put on his hooded rain jacket and favorite baseball hat, grabbed his wooden bat and went outside to practice his swing. I held my coffee cup in tight as I watched him take swing after swing while the rain trickled off the brim of his cap. He turned to the window and saw me watching him with a big grin across my face. His lips curled into a smile, matching mine, before returning to swinging position never once letting the rain slow him down.
Our marriage has weathered its fair share of seasons. In fact it was in the midst of a season that felt much like our gray, wet late winter days when Gabe and I started dating at home. I had resigned to settle into the season of raising young children while pushing aside our marriage. There will be time for us when they’ve grown I would say to myself but just like Roman out in the rain practicing for sunny days on the ball field, I decided that I couldn’t simply wait for this season to pass and expect that our relationship would be okay at the end of it. We needed to continue to live and invest in one another even – or especially – during the gray. Had we waited for the proper conditions – kids in school, sleeping through the night or even waited until they were out of the house – we would have missed so many beautiful moments together in the midst of children wailing, sharpie sketches on the wall and long sleepless nights. Because we made us a priority even when we felt we had nothing more to give at the end of the day, our relationship thrived in a season where it could have easily shriveled and suffered immensely.
In the kitchen I’m willing spring to come regardless of what it looks like outside. I won’t allow myself to sit around and simply watch the rain streak down my windows while there are delicious things to be enjoyed right now. This hearty yet healthful salad is a tip toe into spring as it’s laced with fragrant herbs and peppery greens. It is indeed decidedly green, which to me is the color of spring with fresh, bright and pungent herbs leading the charge.
If Israeli couscous is tricky to find you could easily substitute it for chickpeas, rice, lentils, quinoa or simply leave it out and serve as a more traditional salad. The same goes for the lamb. I love the gentle gaminess here but chicken, beef, fish or even grilled peppers and zucchini would all be lovely in its place.
This salad pairs beautifully with a glass of Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon
1 pound lamb shoulder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Israeli couscous, cooked until just tender
4 cups assorted spring greens (mustard, arugula, watercress, friseé)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup basil and mint leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Chef 1: Salt and pepper the lamb. Grill or roast until medium-rare, 145°F.
Chef 2: Prepare the dressing by whisking together the herbs, cumin, vinegar, honey, dijon and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt then taste and adjust the seasoning to your tastes.
Chef 1: On a serving platter arrange the greens, then the couscous, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and onion. Drizzle on some of the dressing then top with the lamb and add more dressing. Top with more fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime.
What are you going to do when four 1st grade girls are about to take over your house for an epic play date? You want to give them a fun snack to eat in between Beanie Boo sharing and giggling but you don’t want it to be coated in sugar – perhaps only mildly sugar-laden.
Our solution for such a sweet dilemma: S’mores Popcorn.
It’s sweet, but not too much so, salty and delightfully reminiscent of that campfire favorite. In fact if you happen you have smoked salt on hand use that here. I wish I would have thought of that during one the many times I’ve made this popcorn. Next time.
I use a bit of restraint here but if you prefer I don’t see why you couldn’t double the quantity of butter and marshmallows – making it teeter more towards dessert than play date snack. Feel free to adjust any of the quantities to your taste. This recipe is very forgiving particularly where the chocolate and salt are involved.
Simmer the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the color changes and it smells nutty. Turn off the heat then stir in the marshmallows. Turn the heat back on if the marshmallows need a bit more of a nudge to melt and blend with the butter.
Carefully pour the butter mixture over the popcorn and then add the graham crumbs. Stir this mixture (carefully as the butter is extremely hot) add a couple of good pinches of sea salt as you stir. Finally grate the chocolate over top. Taste and add more salt if needed.