I wish I had taken a picture – the meal we made last night was attractive and really colourful – but more importantly, it was freakin’ delicious!! Whether or not you subscribe to the low-carb trend of this decade, this dinner was spectacular! My superstar girlfriend gave us a wonderful cookbook for as a gift, The Low-Carb Gourmet: Recipes for the new Lifestyle by Brigit Binns. Two stellar recipes, plus comments, below….
Seared Lamb Noisettes with Pea, Feta and Mint Salad
Minced or grated zest of 1 scrubbed lemon
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 noisettes of lamb, 1 to 1 ¼ inches thick, trimmed and tied (about 1 pound)
2 cups shelled fresh peas (or use thawed frozen petits pois)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Pinch of ground allspice
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
3 ounces mild French feta cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes
In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, whisk the lemon zest and juice, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the lamb and turn once, then cover with plastic srap and let stand for 15 minutes. Turn over again and let stand for 15 minutes more.
Prepare an ice bath, and blanch the fresh peas for 1 to 2 minutes in lightly salted boiling water, until not quite tender. Immediately drain and then plunge into the ice bath. Drain well and spread on a layer of paper towels. (If using thawed frozen peitis pois, simply roll them around gently on paper towels to dry.)
In a bowl, combine the peas, ½ tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, pepper and mint. Toss together gently and spread into a thin, even layer on a flat serving platter. Pat the noisettes dry with paper towels (reserve the marninade) and season both sides generously with salt, pepper and a tiny pinch of allspice.
Place a large, heavy sauté pan or skillet over high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter (use 2 pans if necessary to avoid crowding). When the butter is starting to brown, add and sear the noisettes for 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 2 minutes more, for medium-rare. Transfer the noisettes to the platter, placing them on top of the peas. Add the remaining marinade and 1 tablespoon of water to the pan and deglaze over high heat for a minute, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Drizzle the juices over the lamb and the peas, scatter the feta around the lamb, and serve.
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagnas
2 large globe eggplants, preferably long and thin
¼ cup coarse sea salt
Olive oil, for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper
Best-quality dried oregano, for sprinkling
3 ounces soft, mile goat cheese, such as Montrachet
1/3 cup freshly grated imported pecorino, grana padano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 ounces slivered fontina cheese
8 leaves fresh basil, cut into julienne
1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch julienne
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Trim off the stems of the eggplants and peel them, leaving four 1/2-inch-wide, lengthwise strips of peel around each one. Slice them crosswise about 5/8 inch thick (you should have 12 nice slices). Gently combine the eggplant slices with the salt in a colander, distributing the salt with your fingers. Let drain for 20 minutes, then rinse briefly and pat dry thoroughly with kitchen towels.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the slices in a single layer on the parchment, and brush them lightly with olive oil. Season generously with pepper and oregano and bake for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove from the oven, leaving it on if you plan to finish the dish immediately (the slices can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours).
Cut the goat cheese into 4 equal pieces. On the same baking sheet, choose the 4 largest eggplant slices as the bases. Place a piece of goat cheese in the center of each and top with a pinch of pecorino. Top each with a medium-sized slice of eggplant, and top this slice with one fourth of the slivered fontina, one fourth of the basil, and another pinch of pecorino. Top each with another eggplant slice and press the top layer gently but firmly with a flat spatula to compact the stack a little. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino and cover the pan with foil.
Bake the lasagnes for 20 to 25 minutes, until warmed through wit the cheese bubbling slightly around the edges. Remove the foil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, if necessary, until soft enough to cut with a fork (the peel will be a little tough, but it looks far more interesting than completely peeled eggplant). To serve, place a small jumble of red pepper julienne on top of each lasagne and scatter with a little parsley.
We modified the lamb recipe by quite a bit, so I’ll give you the “tried and true” version from last night. The first recipe calls for noisettes, but we used
I confess that, even with a bit of background in the culinary arts, I was an eggplant-cookin’-virgin until last night (to be honest, it’s never held that much interest for me). This recipe was straightforward and speedy, prep-wise. The three cheeses (on hand I had peppered chèvre, Danish havarti and Parmigiano Reggiano) made the end effect completely decadent and delicious. Use bamboo skewers to hold the stacked eggplant together and to avoid having the foil stick to the cheese. The stylin’ presentation, along with the splash of colour, really made the plate.
These three components created extraordinary eye appeal and the combination of flavours was extremely complimentary. My husband and I have more of an affinity for Asian dishes, so this dinner was an uncommon foray into Mediterranean flavours and a really special treat. We decided after about three bites that we would definitely serve this meal to guests and are now planning our next dinner party!
As for the book, it has so, so many wonderful looking and sounding dishes, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, especially given how this meal turned out. With amazing recipes from each of the predictable categories, plus sections on Breakfast and Brunch and The Cheese Course, this book will be a serious addition to your collection. Of special note is her collection of Stellar Sides which, if you are of the carb-avoiding crew, offers unique dishes that avoid high-carb components, but are absolutely mouth-watering. If you don’t consider carbs to be the devil’s work, you’ll just be treated to innovative, flavourful offerings that will compliment your current repertoire. I am super-impressed by this book!
~ One of Seven