Spring is a time for new growth and new beginnings. I find myself drawn to the north east corner of the Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market, where I walk up and down the rows of pots. Which herbs, flowers and vegetables should I buy? It’s so hard to choose. Since I don’t have access to a sunny, well-drained yard or community garden plot, climbing peas and okra are definitely out for me.
Even condo and apartment dwellers can manage a few pots of herbs inside their home. It is so lovely to have fresh herbs at the ready when you need them. Curly parsley and basil are wonderful. This year I’m also going to buy several varieties of mint. As any aficionado of Southeast Asian and fusion food knows, mint’s not just for juleps anymore.
I’ve never been fond of mint jelly. But I am tremendously fond of lamb. And fresh English peas – the ones you shell. They’re in season at the farmers market during spring. If you buy them shelled, you should use them right away. If you buy them in the pod, they will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two. I will add some raw to my tossed salads. I’ll add them to stews and soups. And I’ll serve them as a side dish. In fact, green peas with mint will bring the freshness of mint to your lamb dinner without the cloying sweetness of mint jelly. If you are a mint jelly with lamb fan, as many people are, you could carry the mint theme through the meal by serving a spring salad of pea, mint, radish and arugula.
Most of the supermarket lamb you find these days is imported from New Zealand. At the Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market, though, you can find local California lamb and goat for sale.
It’s easy to roast a leg of lamb. All you need is an oven, a leg of lamb, some salt and pepper, a little olive oil, and a meat thermometer. If you wish, you can stud the roast with cut pieces of garlic. Make a small hole with a knife and then insert the piece of garlic in the hole. Some people use small sprigs of rosemary instead of or in addition to the garlic. The studs should be about 2 inches apart.
To roast: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season the leg liberally with salt and pepper. Rub it with olive oil. Insert garlic pieces and/or rosemary sprigs. Insert meat thermometer. Brown the roast at 450 degrees for twenty minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook until the internal temperature is 130 degrees (about 75 – 90 minutes for a five pound lamb.) The flesh should be pink and moist. Lamb chops are tender and flavorful when served medium rare. But they come from the loin muscle, which is naturally tender. Leg muscles are more heavily used than loin muscles. You’ll be just as disappointed with rare or medium rare leg of lamb as you would with well-done or overcooked lamb.
Remove to platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. A five to six pound leg will serve 8 people.
Garden Pea, Mint, Radish and Arugula Salad
1 cup garden peas (about 1 pound before shelling)
bowl of ice water
Juice of 1 lemon (Eureka preferred)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, stems removed, washed and dried
4 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried
optional: 1 ounce shaved pecorino Romano or crumbled feta cheese
First, place a bowl of ice water near the stove. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil then add the peas. Cook for one minute, then drain. Immediately plunge into the ice water. Drain the peas and set aside. Toss with the peas, radishes and mint. Immediately before serving, combine the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk. Place the arugula leaves in a serving bowl, top with the pea mixture. If desired, garnish with the pecorino Romano or feta cheese.
4 pounds unshelled English peas
2 green onions, white and light green parts only
12 large mint leaves
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped chives
salt to taste
mint sprigs to garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, shell peas (you should have about 4 cups). Cook peas in boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a medium bowl.
2. While peas are cooking, trim and discard the root ends and dark green leaves of green onions. Halve white and light green parts lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise. Set aside. Chop mint and set aside.
3. Add butter to hot peas and toss until butter is melted and peas are coated. Add green onions, chives, and mint and toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve immediately.
Katie Malich has been heroically busy this week, and if you missed the Tuesday market, just get over to Saturday and you’ll do quite as well. No heroics required.