Friday, October 8, 2010

Game Changer

Autumn. Time to stock up on root vegetables, make heaping pots of broth. Time for ragu.

Time to spice up the kitchen. And so I gathered lentils, onions, carrots, fennel, sausage and prepared for a myriad of stews and soups. The kind of food that that makes you feel loved and warm and in need of a roaring fire and a good book. The type of food that is an embrace.

And then Mother Nature shook her head and said, "Never assume, my dear. Never assume." And the temps soared to 80 degrees.
It played havoc with my plans. It was a game-changer. I am used to game-changers. They peek up professionally. "Your life will change after this production/award/publication." In truth, I came home from every award ceremony and opening to, "Congrats, Mom. What's for dinner?" They are my real "life-game-changers."
So when the weather turned my mealtime-game-plan around, I could scoff at Mother Nature and retort, "I can retreat back to the summer-game. What do you think I've been doing the last 3 months?" And then I cooked a whole bunch of dishes I hadn't made all summer.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Ladolemono

Sometimes I am too traditional. I buy lamb, marinate it with rosemary, garlic and olive oil and call it a day. Because it's always good. Always works, always satisfies. Makes me crank up an Italian CD and "Finicula" around the house. But the Italian cook dishing up Greek food? Pure serendipity. I still have an oregano bush and a mint bush begging for use.

The Ladolemono sauce is simple. It has just enough spice to complement the lamb but doesn't overpower. A mixture of lemon juice, mustard, oregano and olive oil - I marinated the chops in it. Initially was unsure about the mustard - I use mustard sauces for mild meats and fish - but lamb has a distinct taste and you don't want to cover it. But this brightened the flavor. I dressed the salad with it and when no one was looking - drank it. If I had the foresight to make a cocktail out of it, I would have.

Ladolemono Sauce (I doubled it for the many uses)
(Adapted from Food & Wine - I increased the olive oil because I thought it was creamier and didn't want as much citrusy bite for the lamb. I increased the herbs because I could. This sauce can accompany fish, chicken, roasted vegetables , pasta, risotto - I think I'm in love)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (almost the juice of 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh oregano leaves (can subsitute dried - about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all until emulsified. I also threw in Italian parsley and garnished the salad and lamb chops with mint. Actually, I didn't so much garnish as pour a truckload of the stuff on top.
The Greek Salad was basic: kalamata olives, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, nicoise olives, feta and capers.
I marinated the lamb chops in a bit of the sauce for one hour at room temperature. Grilled them over high heat 3-4 minutes per side (adjust to thickness of chops). You want them a bit charred on the outside but still red deep inside.
Calorie Alert: Copious amounts of calories ahead - the decadent, fat-laden, heart-winning Vichysoisse!
I make this soup once a year. Walking through Farmers Market among freshly dug potatoes and sweetly-matured leeks, I was reminded by my children that my annual Vichysoisse soup was never made. And so it was. October may seem an odd time to make a cold soup - but when the ingredients can go from the ground to your pot in less than 72 hours, it's a temptation I cannot resist. Once a year. When there are lots of people around to feed.
There's a fair amount of chopping which I do by hand - you can use a processor. Everything will be pureed so you really don't need to worry about mincing or making nice, even chops. We are a chive family - as you can see it's more than a garnish for us - it's a way of life.

Vichysoisse (adapted from my 25 year old NY Times Cookbook)
(I double the leeks and and do not puree the soup twice)
  • 1/4 cup favorite butter (I used Earth Balance - heaven knows why - it's sort of like having a Diet Cola with a huge fast food meal)
  • 6 leeks - cleaned, chooped - use white and light green parts (I like this soup very leeky)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 5 medium potaotoes, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cups homemade or low-salt purchased chicken broth (Swanson's organic is not bad for store bought)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half and half for a thinner soup)
  • chopped chives for garnish
  • white pepper
  1. Melt butter in large stockpot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add chopped leeks and onions and saute until vegetables soften - about ten minutes. Do not brown. You want the soup white!
  3. Add stock and chopped potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes till all is soft. Remove from heat.
  4. Add milk and stir till combined.
  5. When cooled, puree in blender or food processor. Work in small batches (1-1/2 cups at a time). Put in new stockpot or return to old pot, add cream and bring to a simmer.
  6. Season with white pepper and chill it.
  7. Put in fridge and let it sit for a good 4-6 hours. I let it sit overnight. You can serve this hot - but it really sings of the countryside when cold. When cold, the soup coats the spoon in an ice-creamy way that begs for several licks.
"Garnish" with chives. And share. A brief return to warm-weather cooking. The ragu can wait.


Antonietta said...

Two delightful recipes!! Can't wait to try both!



The Lamb Chops look amazing! Our weather has been a little crazy as well, but I've got two little game-changers of my own, so no sweat!

Unknown said...

I've never heard of ladelemono sounds simple and delish. I will have to try! I love the Greek salad on the side. This is definitely my kind of meal. And vichysoisse never fails to please. I totally agree on doubling the leeks. I love the smell of leeks in butter!!

fromBAtoParis said...

I had never heard the word ' Ladolemono" ..yes Vichysoisse for obvious reasons...It sounds like a great combination...I love "Funicula" by Pavarotti !!!!

chow and chatter said...

this looks great a new sauce to me, and your not wrong about the crazy warm weather have a great weekend Claudia

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

I haven't had lamb in a while! I must admit to doing it the same old way too, but this is worth trying. Good call to change it up. The soup looks so good too.

Mister Meatball said...

We're all friends here. No "calorie alert" necessary.

Kim said...

Claudia - My Grandpa used to always say that the key to life was adjusting. When you mentioned the ever changing weather in your post, you reminded me of that. You did a great job of adjusting your menu to suit the warmer weather. I adore lamb and I can see why you are so fond of the Ladolemono sauce. It sounds excellent!

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

One of my favorites is Lamb, there is no doubt I will be trying this as I am book marking this for my next lamb dinner! I just made a new recipe for shank which will be up soon. But the sauce here is a delectable wonderful addition to a fabulous piece of meat that I absolutely love! Great great recipe here!

Reeni said...

I had ladolemono for the first time this summer and loved it - I can understand you drinking it! The soup I have never had - wasn't even sure what it was but it's definitely something I would like (wish I was your neighbor).

Unknown said...

I think I just gained weight reading your post, doggonit. I adore lamb. It's without a doubt my favorite meat and I cringe every time I eat it. But I do.

Anonymous said...

The lamb sounds absolutely amazing with your delicious Ladolemono sauce, yum!

Proud Italian Cook said...

It's going to be 82 here on Sunday, crazy! I was just getting into some hearty dishes too, now I have the windows open again and craving a caprese salad! I love your go with the flow attitude Claudia and your food looks and sounds great especially that ladolemono sauce!

La Bella Cooks said...

There has definitely been a game changer here as well with this heat. Not what I am expecting from October but I guess we have to live with it for a while yet. Both recipes are gorgeous and fit perfectly with the weather, warm or cold. Lovely post.

Monet said...

We have yet to dip below eighty here in I understand the frustration of not being able to make all these yummy, cold weather food! But the recipes you shared with us today are just delightful. I can imagine that they tasted wonderful, regardless of weather! Thanks for sharing love!

FOODESSA said... Montreal it was only really 2 days ago that the chill in the air welcomed the thoughts of Autumn cooking...hence I know what you mean about still being in summertime meal mode ;o)

The lamb dish is one my Hubby would be knocking at your door begging since I'm one to mostly leave meat preps to others. I do very much like that marinade and probably could adapt it to chicken successfully.

Here's to hoping that the game doesn't change on you too many more times.

Ciao for now,

whozyerdanny said...

The lamb looks absolutely mouth watering smothered in Ladolemono.

Jeannie said...

What a coincident! We just had lamb for dinner tonight, not as good as yours look but the taste was awesome too! I love the way you prepare your sauce and the fact that you have lemon in your lamb! yum!

Chef Dennis Littley said...

Hi Claudia,
your lamb looks so very good!! I have never heard of that sauce, but I can certainly see how it goes so well with sounds delicious....sometimes the simplest sauces work the best!
Most of the week here has been cool, but today it got up to 80 again...I am ready for fall weather!!

thanks for sharing all those wonderful dishes with us!

Beth said...

I can relate. I was ready to make chili the other night, and instead we barbecued!

Pam said...

Great recipes and I know exactly what you mean with the change of weather. It was in the 40's here a few days ago and yesterday it broke a record, being 86 degrees with the same expected today. So back to the grill for a couple of days!

Heather S-G said...

Oh, the sauce sounds so silky and delicious...and I wish I had a big chop to eat it with right now! Beautiful :D

Allie and Pattie said...

Too funny Claudia- we both made Greek lemon dishes this week! Gorgeous post!
xoxo Pattie

Mari Nuñez said...

wonderful recipe. I sure those lamb chops tasted great with ladolemono. I like the ingredients you use for this sauce. I will try it!

Have a great week :D

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

It is so true that summer has decided to linger on a little longer! I don't mind as long as the humidity stays away.

I love lamb but never made them with Ladolemono sauce. It sounds so delicious! It looks fantastic served with your wonderful greek salad!

Vichysoisse is good any time of the year! I've served it hot in the winter :) We also like fresh chives as a garnish!

I might have the same edition of the NY Times cookbook as you do Claudia!

Angie's Recipes said...

Perfect time for some lamb treat. Ladolemono sauce sounds multi-functional. :-)) Bet would work perfectly with some chicken too. Potato soup looks so creamy and smooth!
Everything here looks so tasty!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

I've heard of "avgolemono" sauce but ladolemono is new to me. I love it all though - the lamb, the sauce, the herbs and that gorgeous thick, warm blanket of a soup!

Joanne said...

I don't eat lamb but my mind is going crazy with all the delightful ways I can use Ladolemono sauce. It sounds delightful.

Barbara GF said...

What a tempting soup, Claudia. You're so right, you do have to go, or cook, with the flow this time of year. From one moment with the oven on to another with the windows open and a cool tomato salad beckoning.

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely meal. Your lamb chops look and sound heavenly. You asked about the cost of the Belgian endive. I live in a small community of 150,000. We deal with the supply and demand thing. Endive here varies between 6.99 to 8.99 a pound. Watercress is usually 4.00 a bunch. I hope all is well. Have a great day, Blessings...Mary

Jen_from_NJ said...

We are enjoying summery weather as well. I love that game changer lamb chop meal. It looks positively scrumptious!

May Ling Wu said...

I think it's great that you cook the classic way. Sometimes it's best not to re-invent the wheel!

Bunny said...

WOW Claudia this looks fantastic!

Joyti said...

I too love the change in terms of recipes that accompanies the change in seasons.
Your dish looks and sounds very yummy indeed.

Nancy said...

Delightful, delicious, and drool is all I can say.

Velva said...

I can feel the nest mode kicking in at your house. It almost feels like Fall. These dishes are wonderful leaps into the autumn season of eating soul satisfying meals.

Magic of Spice said...

Everything looks delicious...I really love the ladolemono sauce :)