Woman & A Gam of Lamb

March 26, 2016

There are no good girls gone wrong — just bad girls found out.
~Mae West

It is the day of egg dyeing, and the eve before hiding and hunting those orbs.  That paschal thing.   So, hens, as should always be revered.

Each day, our bedside table is graced with a hardback copy of Woman, An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer Prize winning author who sometimes writes for the New York Times.  Doubtfully, will it ever leave.

The volume is a searing, exuberant, captivating, guileless study of perhaps the most sublime species that has resided on this planet: women. They are such divine beings — their visuals, scents, minds, essences, intimacies, secrecy, candor, features, mischief, intricacies, enigmas, and so forth.  Damn, women are people, get it?

The book explores the anatomy of the human female biology including chromosomes, breasts, clitorises, orgasms, vaginae, uteri, ovaries, hormones, metabolism, brains, and psychologies, to name a few.  A worthy and appealing read.

ROAST LEG OF LAMB

1/3 C fennel seeds, roasted briefly under gentle heat, then ground

1 large lamb roast, bone-in leg (usually 8 lbs or so)
12 Italian anchovies packed in jars in olive oil, drained
4 T Dijon mustard

6 fresh rosemary sprig leaves, plus more for garnish
6 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

6-8 oz unsalted butter (1 stick or less), softened to room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 fresh lemons, cut in half
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, cut transversely

2 C dry white wine, plus more dollops for jus

Heat oven to 425 F

Use a paring knife to make about a dozen incisions, each about 2″ deep, through the fat that covers the top of the meat. Using a blender or processor fitted with a steel blade, blend the anchovies and the mustard, the rosemary and thyme leaves and the garlic cloves into a chunky paste. Using fingers, press paste deeply into cuts.

Mix the butter and ground fennel seeds into a paste. Smear this mixture all over the surface of the roast. Season liberally with freshly ground black pepper (do not salt given the anchovies and dijon).

Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up, and squeeze the lemon halves+ over. Place the sliced garlic in and pour the wine around the roast into the pan.

Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and roast until internal temperature reaches 130 F (for medium rare — about another 60-90 minutes). Throughout the cooking process, baste every 15 minutes or so with the wine and drippings in the pan, adding more wine as needed to keep from scorching.

Then remove pan, take rack from the pan, and let the roast rest on the rack for at least 15 minutes or so, tented with foil. The lamb will continue to cook, and the internal temperature will rise to about 140-145 degrees.

To make pan sauce, remove a few tablespoons of fat by tipping the pan and spooning off the top layer. Put the pan over medium heat until the liquid simmers. Taste and whisk in more wine, about 1/4 cup each time, until the consistency is to your liking. But, do not let the mixture become thick or syrupy — it should remain a jus.

Carve lamb into 1/2″ slices, vertically and arrange on a platter, decorated with rosemary and thyme sprigs. Serve jus in a boat with a deep spoon.

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You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
~Mae West

Homo naledi whose feet and teeth mimic homo genus but still bear human lineage were unearthed last month. These hominids with smaller than current brains and intracranial space have been dubbed a mosaic species due to their varied anatomical features. They are ancestors from some 2.5-2.8 million years ago, from the same genus which includes the famed Lucy. An average Homo naledi was about 5′ tall and weighed some 100 lbs.

Lithe, petite ladies — slender and agile enough to wriggle through the proverbial crack in the wall — snakily, shimmied and crawled down narrow limestone shafts and lightless tunnels in South Africa to gather fossils and skeletal remains bones and the like from the burial vault. It was breathtaking to watch how they adroitly slid down the scant walls and so carefully culled these bony artifacts from the dirt.

Paleoanthropology professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg was seated on the ground above poised before his laptop watching them dive and eagerly awaiting their safe return with their trove. They did not disappoint, even though some expressed concerns about trampling on such delicacies. As Dr. Berger remarked, “…there is no substitute for exploration.”

In the Rising Star Cave, these underground astronauts encountered tombs where many of the Homo naledi were interred by rituals which perhaps avoided scavengers.

Bok choy which translates to “white vegetable” in Chinese is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Not surprisingly, they are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A (carotenoids), potassium, folate, vitamin B-6, calcium, and manganese. Bok choy have smooth, glossy, spoon shaped leaves that cluster with a small base.

In some realms, smaller is better.

BABY BOK CHOY

1 T soy sauce
3-4 T oyster sauce
2 T rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Pinch of raw sugar

1-2 T peanut oil
2 T plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger root, peeled and minced
4-6 bunches of baby bok choy, with ends trimmed
3 T chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, raw sugar and rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy skillet (non-stick or not) placed over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger, then bok choy, and stir fry for about 2 or so minutes. Add stock to the skillet, then cover and allow to cook for a couple minutes more, until bok choy has softened some at the base. Toward the end, drizzle with the soy-oyster-sugar-vinegar sauce.

Remove bok choy and friends from the skillet and turn onto a platter or separate plates/bowls. We tend to serve bok choy sidled up to lemon grass chicken and jasmine rice or noodles (September 5, 2010), but it can be paired with a host of wokked, sautéed, roasted, or grilled main dishes, Asian or otherwise.

I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.
~Mae West

Carrots (Daucus carota) are root vegetables that have been traced back to ancient Roman texts of the 3rd century. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family along with neighboring parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin, and dill. Ancestors of today’s cultivated carrots likely originated in present day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago, probably as a purple or yellow root.

Do you suppose more carrot consumption over past centuries could have avoided the collective myopia inherent in Afghan invasions and the seemingly endless conflict? (See below).

Coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, carrots are a true multitasker—raw, steamed, roasted, in soups and stews, mirepoix, cakes, puddings, juices, and so on.

Mama reminded that you should down your carrots. Although some debate exists over this maternal advice, it may not have been just intuition or urban legend. Carrots are a potent source of antioxidant compounds, and contain healthy doses of vitamin A carotenes. If your diet is unbalanced and deficient in vitamin A, carrots have been found to help preserve or improve vision. In a five-year study, scientists in Ireland showed that the intake of high levels of carotenoids preserved macular pigments, slowing down the progression from early to late age related macular degeneration. In addition to improving vision, carrots have been traditionally known to treat digestive problems and parasites.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

1 lb carrots, peeled, julienned or halved lengthwise then sliced diagonally into 1″ pieces

1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
3 t honey
2-3 t white wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/2 C flat leaf parsley, chopped

Bibb lettuce leaves

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the carrots until just tender. Drain and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

Combine the cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, honey, wine vinegar, olive oil and whisk vigorously. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the carrots and parsley, then toss to coat well.

Marinate for a few hours, then serve over lettuce.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD II

2 large carrots, peeled

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, puréed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 t coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 t sweet paprika
2 pinches cayenne

2 t sugar or honey
2-3 T fresh lemon juice
1/3 C flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Kalamata olives, pitted

Slice the carrots in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife or corer, remove the carrot cores and discard. Then, slice carrots diagonally into 1″ pieces. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil, salt and then cook carrots until just soft but not mushy, about 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and then plunge carrots into an ice water bath to halt cooking. Drain and dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, purée the garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle with a little salt. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the garlic and spices just become fragrant, but do not burn. Remove from heat.

Whisk together sugar or honey, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper and then add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in a stream while whisking. Heat skillet with spices again and then add the carrots back to the pan with the garlic and spices and stir for a few minutes. Add the honey/lemon juice/oil “emulsion” and stir together for a few more minutes, until the carrots are just glazed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a platter, and garnish with olives. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

ROASTED CARROTS

1 1/2 lbs organic baby carrots,* washed, with greens cropped
1 yellow onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
2 T fresh chopped rosemary
1 head garlic, cut across in halves
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Gently toss together the carrots, onion, rosemary to coat with the olive oil. Arrange the carrots, onion, and rosemary in a baking dish (line with aluminum foil to ease clean up). Gently tossed so they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until nicely browned, about 30-40 minutes.

*Use organic local carrots which are the smaller sticks (4″-6″ long) with greens still attached, and not the commercial thumb sized variety that comes in a plastic bag.