We are officially in the middle. The boring, difficult, non-glamorous, middle. The season where the project is too old to be new, and too new to be old.
The middle is the pits, particularly when I am beginning to see interesting things on the horizon. Ideas are taking shape, new directions emerging, dreams beginning to form in my head, and yet…I am still here. Feet firmly rooted in the middle.
I think the middle is the hardest phase of any project, whether it’s building a house, raising a child, working towards accomplishing a goal, or cooking your way through 963 recipes. The middle requires the stamina to keep going even though the finish line is still a ways off and the pace feels sluggish.
Will I ever get there? Does this road ever end? It does. I know it does. I know I will wake up one day and the finish line will be so close I will begin to pick up momentum and the adrenaline will kick back in, and I will get excited and fired up about all the miles behind me and sprint to the end.
But that is not today. Today, I am making the best of it in the middle.
WHAT I COOKED
Grilled Leg of Lamb, Parties!
Hummus, Barefoot Contessa
Oven Roasted Fruit, Parties!
Jam Thumbprint Cookies, Family Style
Lemon Bars, Parties!
Lime Curd, Parties!
Shortbread Hearts, Barefoot Contessa
Garlic Sautéed Spinach, Family Style
Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas, Barefoot Contessa
Rack of Lamb Persillade, Barefoot in Paris
White Bean & Arugula Salad, Barefoot Contessa
Eton Mess, How Easy is That?
Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons, Barefoot Contessa
Frozen Key Lime Pie, Family Style
WHAT I LEARNED
RACK OF LAMB PERSILLADE.
If I’m going to spend $100 on lamb (which, at my grocery store equals two racks), then I want it to turn out like the photo next to the recipe. Please hear me. This recipe yielded a flavorful result. In fact, Timm commented that these were the best lamb chops he had ever tasted. The breadcrumb topping is out of this world. And yet, the presentation was a huge disappointment. The crust in no way stuck to the lamb. It fell right off and collected in the bottom of the pan. I also had to stick the lamb back in the oven for more time because it was still so raw in the center. Once we got it to the correct temperature and on the plate, it was delicious. But I was not impressed with the process and I felt led astray by the photograph.
This dessert was beautiful, breathtaking even. Eton Mess is a layered dessert of crushed up meringues, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream. It is basically a deconstructed pavlova. The best part of this recipe was that Ina called for store bought meringues, which I honestly did not even realize were a thing. But they are! And they make this whole dish a breeze.
EASY TOMATO SOUP WITH GRILLED CHEESE CROUTONS.
The thing I love about most tomato soup recipes is how quick and easy they are. But the downside to these renditions is that they can some times feel a little bit lacking. You like the taste, but you kind of want or need something else to go with it. Do you know what I’m talking about? Well, this version of tomato soup solves that problem. A bit of orzo is stirred into the soup adding heft and body to an otherwise simple soup. Then, to take it up a notch, you get to make grilled cheese croutons! These are a creative addition and an homage to the natural pairing for this soup. I was in a hurry when I made the croutons, and in no way did a good job. The grilled cheese sandwiches were sort of sad looking. BUT, when you slice them up, they yield perfectly outstanding croutons! My rushed version delivered great results, which makes me love this recipe even more.
BIBB SALAD WITH BASIL GREEN GODDESS.
If you make one thing from this project, make this. This is THE salad dressing to end all salad dressings. We serve it at Hurley House, and it is a fan favorite for good reason. Do not leave anything out. Every ingredient (including the anchovy paste) is mandatory. You will be forever changed by this dressing.
Usually tabbouleh is very very herb heavy, almost like you’re eating a mouth full of weeds. But this one is different. Yes, there are fresh chopped herbs. But they are balanced by the addition of bulgar wheat and lots of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. The herbs are not the mainstay of this side dish. I enjoyed this immensely and even ate it for lunch several days in a row. It keeps beautifully and is a perfect spring or summer side dish.
I served this as a first course at the Ina Brunch. I will be honest, I didn’t think it would be anything special. But it is. Everyone commented on the flavor of this smoothie. Ina has compiled flavors in a way only she can, and this smoothie delivers a refreshing pop of flavor. Yes, there is in fact raspberry sorbet in this smoothie, but let’s all get over it. This is a special occasion drink, not a health drink. The spears of watermelon garnish really take it over the top.