a christmas feast

a more appropriate post for today would be on pork and sauerkraut, or black-eyed peas and collard greens, or even dreaming up a new good luck traditional meal of my own, but i'm still reminiscing about my family's final christmas break celebration dinner! my family was beyond generous with all kinds of cooking gadgets and gear for christmas - from the high-tech (food processor! :O) to the old-school (ravioli stamper and cast iron skillet!), so i was overwhelmed by all the new things i wanted to try to make. a 2017 good luck meal will come soon enough though. if last night's new year's celebration was any indication, 2017 will be one of the best yet.

but, i can't believe i'm now on the final days of an extra long holiday break. a whole week at home was wonderful. from discovering a year-round outdoor bar that's very conveniently located right at the halfway point between home and dc, to our marathon sessions of chopped, to my parents and cousins surprising me with christmas carols outside my bedroom since i was too sick to make it to our annual christmas eve party (for the first time in 25 years!), we were all happy happy happy. i remember one of my greatest fears post-college was that going home would feel different because now i had to be An Adult, but we all go home - the four of us adults - and talk about jobs and relationships and life, and we laugh and cook together, and i realize that was a silly fear. 

for our last meal together before we all parted ways for different parts of the country (me and rudy to dc, eric to chicago and my parents to pasadena), we feasted on what has become a seemingly classic stoltz meal: roasted lamb, hummus, tabbouleh and couscous with pine nuts and mint.

below, you'll find the recipes for the rosemary and garlic roasted lamb, tabbouleh and couscous with pine nuts and mint. the hummus recipe is here.

one thing to note is that typically, tabbouleh is parsley salad made with bulgur, but i used couscous instead since there was so much left over from the couscous with mints and pine nuts. however, if you want to make it truly the traditional way, swap in bulgur instead of couscous! no biggie. 

the flavors of this meal complement each other so well. lamb has such a strong, distinct flavor, but it's earthiness goes perfectly with the fresh, lemony tabbouleh. lamb is typically served with mint jelly, so it makes sense that the couscous with pine nuts and fresh mint belongs on the table too. and hummus is just good with everything, so...that settles that.

the other wonderful thing about this meal is that it's even better as leftovers. as i'm writing this, i'm chowing down on a bowl filled with layers of diced lamb, tabbouleh, couscous and a big scoop of hummus. ~heaven~


serves 6
what you'll need:

1 cup dry instant couscous
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 large cucumber, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (approximately 1 large bunch)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt, plus extra to taste
freshly cracked pepper, to taste

what you'll do:

NOTE: If making this recipe at the same time as the couscous with pine nuts and mint, simply take 1 cup of the prepared couscous from that recipe and skip making couscous for tabbouleh here too.

  1. in small sauce pan, bring 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and broth to boil. stir in couscous and 1 tsp kosher salt. remove sauce pan from heat and cover tightly with lid. let sit for at least 10 minutes so that couscous can absorb liquid. once absorbed, pour in large bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. to drain excess tomato juice, place tomatoes in a colander in the sink. toss lightly with 2 tsp kosher salt. let drain for approximately 10 minutes. prepare cucumber and herbs while you wait.
  3. in large bowl with couscous, toss together tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. squeeze juice of half a lemon over top of bowl, mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. cover tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. 

couscous with pine nuts and mint

recipe from ina garten's cooking for jeffrey
serves 6
what you'll need:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups instant couscous
1 tsp kosher salt, plus extra to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to taste
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned
1/3 cup pine nuts

what you'll do:

  1. in a small sauté pan, toast pine nuts over low heat, tossing often for about 7-10 minutes. set aside to cool.
  2. heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. add chopped onion, stirring and cooking over medium-low heat for about 6-8 minutes. cook until onion is tender, but not fully browned. 
  3. add stock to saucepan and bring to boil. stir in couscous, salt and pepper. remove from heat. cover tightly with lid and let sit for at least 10 minutes so that couscous can absorb all liquid. fluff with fork and stir in mint and pine nuts. adjust salt and pepper to taste. serve hot. 

rosemary and garlic roasted lamb

serves 7-8
what you'll need:

1 leg of lamb (4.5 - 5 pounds)
4-5 tbsp chopped garlic
8 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

what you'll do:

  1. one hour before cooking, remove lamb from refrigerator so that it comes to room temperature. 
  2. preheat oven to 325° fahrenheit. 
  3. in roasting pan, place leg of lamb. spoon chopped garlic onto lamb and rub all over to evenly coat. season evenly with rosemary, salt and pepper.
  4. place in oven uncovered and cook for about 25 minutes per pound. remove from oven once lamb's internal temperature is between 135°F to 140° fahrenheit.
  5. immediately after removing from oven, cover lamb in roasting rack with aluminum foil (shiny side of foil facing lamb). let rest covered for at least 10 minutes before carving.