Lamb Chops with Turnip-Rutabaga Orzo

Meals like this are why you need a stovetop grill pan for the winter.

“Rutabaga” comes from rotabagge, the plant’s Swedish name, meaning “baggy root.” This is, perhaps, the reason that it’s sometimes called a Swedish turnip or simply a swede. Dense and sweetly earthy, a spheroid that can grow to the size of a human head, with a mottled, brown-and-white surface and a buttery, yellow interior, the rutabaga looks like an overgrown turnip—which it is, sort of, at least on its mother’s side. A reproductive quirk of the Brassica genus allows for uncommonly easy hybridization (see the evidence in your local grocery store: kalettes, the frilly little greens that were 2014’s sexy new vegetable, are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts). Somewhere, in the misty meadows of Central Europe, a turnip got frisky with a cabbage, and the rutabaga was born. This genetic history was confirmed only recently, in 1935, by the Korean-Japanese agricultural scientist Woo Jang-choon. But, three hundred years before, Bauhin, with his eye for botanical detail, saw to name the plant napobrassica, the turnip-cabbage.

Helen Rosner, NEW YORKER: “What Rutabaga Does Better Than Anything Else: A Recipe for… (Rutabaga Noodles Cacio e Pepe)”

Doesn’t this woman write in a way that makes you want to read anything she scribbles down on a cocktail napkin? If we could go out for cocktails, that is.

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Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup for Lunch

A stocked pantry is something like a gold mine when you’re hungry and you have no idea what’s for lunch. A peek into one big drawer of mine includes several kinds of dried beans, at least 5 kinds of rice, bulgar, barley, polenta, oats, couscous, farro, quinoa, a variety of dried fruits, and usually a couple of kinds of lentils. (A big bank account makes a lot of people feel secure, but I’m rich when my cabinets are full.) When I have no idea what’s to eat, lentils are my go-to. They’re easy, fast, filling, healthy as can be (see below), pair with nearly anything and in many a direction, and they’re even pretty darned inexpensive.

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Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

I am both blessed and cursed to be forced to cook for just me on a regular basis.  My better half has always traveled, and while for years I cooked for the kids and me, the kids are off cooking for themselves now.  These days, it’s often just “the babies” and me for dinner.

“The Babies”

You might remember or know the story:  There was a time when I was so relieved at not having to cook for a big group all the time that I just made eggs and toast.  It wasn’t long, however, before I got pretty tired of that and began to look around and start cooking exactly what I wanted for dinner.  Why not?  In fact, the kids talked me into writing a separate blog about it.   If you’re a regular reader, you know I blog elsewhere.  Otherwise, check out dinnerplace dot blogspot dot com. 

Stop in at The Groveland Tap:  Fairview/St. Clair — Saint Paul, Minnesota

It doesn’t mean there aren’t nights when I don’t feel like cooking (or cleaning up) and just bring home a great meal from the Groveland Tap–our fine family bar and grill one block down. (We can take the babies to the Tap and sit outside in good weather.) And, of course I sometimes go out with a friend — but most times I do cook.  Often I’m working on something for the soup cookbook or for one of blogs (this gives me real reason to cook), but there are times when I just feel like making myself something scrumptious.

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup is sort of an amalgam of a couple of those nights.  Many friends and/or testers have eaten  my red lentil soup; it’ll be in the upcoming book.  (In fact, I have made it for an ecumenical Taizé prayer dinner; the soup itself is vegan.) It’s still being tweaked, so I won’t include the recipe here, but  provide a link to a similar soup.  You can also bring soup home from the deli or your local soup nazi.  Anyway,  I had made a big pot for Souper Sunday, a fundraiser at Prospect Park United Methodist (where I work as a choir director), and also had some beautiful Colorado (the best) lamb chops that needed cooking.  The frig held nothing that sounded good as a side for lamb chops, but I kept eying that pot of soup. The aromatics with the heat, tomatoes, lentils, and curry are natural companions to lamb.  I’m partial to rosemary with lamb and, oddly, the flavors melded beautifully.  No arguments were heard between the spices or in my mouth.

If you can get it–and it’s hard to find–buy Colorado lamb.  Here in Saint Paul, Kowalski’s, a small local grocery chain sells only Colorado lamb.  You can easily cook frozen lamb chops; it will just take a couple of extra minutes.

Chops in already-cooked soup make for a truly fast dinner; lamb chops are cooked in just a few minutes. This is a meal you’ll need spoon, fork, and knife for–but I encourage you to pick up the lamb chops at some point. (Red meat is quite a treat.) Get your hands dirty and don’t waste a bite; the tenderest morsels are always closest to the bone.  You can hold the chop by its bone and dip it into the soup if you like.  A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect topping.  While curry and red wine aren’t always companions, I had no trouble putting them together here.  I drank some leftover California cab and was a happy Minnesotan.  While I loved this all by myself, it would make a tasty meal for friends.  (Add some olives for starters, a bit of bread –grilled pita?– with the soup, lemon sorbet for dessert.)  Try this:

Set the table and pour the wine before you cook. You’ll be ready to eat soon.

lamb chops in curried red lentil soup
  serves 2 (two chops each) or 4 (one chop each) with 2 cups of soup for each serving

Hot red lentil soup (4-8 cups)
4 lamb chops, room temperature (I like loin or rib chops, but any will do.)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground or cracked black pepper
1-2 teaspoon(s) finely minced and crushed dried rosemary, to taste and optional
2 tablespoons crumbled feta for each bowl

Colorado loin lamb chops

Heat stove top grill (or outdoor gas/charcoal) over high heat for 2-3 minutes. (You can use a cast iron skillet, too.)  Meantime, drizzle the chops with a little olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary, if using.  Grill for 2-3 minutes without moving, turn, and grill another 2-3 for medium-rare.* As you turn them, do let the chops cook briefly on their sides to cook off/crisp up some of the fat.  You don’t want these too done, as the soup is hot and may cook them just a little more.  Remove to a plate and let rest 2-3 minutes.

Into warm pasta bowls, ladle about two cups of the hot lentil soup.  Add a chop or two for each (as well as any juices on the plate) depending on how big of a portion you’d like, and top with crumbled feta.  Pass pepper grinder and hot sauce at the table.

USDA Cooking Temperatures

Sing a new song,

No-Hassle Easter

Cupcakes–Make them and freeze them tonight.  Defrost and frost Saturday or Order plain from the bakery and decorate at home.

no hassle Easter menu  serves 8

Deviled Eggs*
Make-ahead Green Bean Salad with Shallot Cream Dressing**
Pan-Grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade**
Oven-Roasted Rosemary Whole Carrots**
Czech Easter Bread, optional *
Cupcakes with Jelly Bean Frosting (Buy or Make)*

My choices for wine:  Bethel Heights Pinot Gris
           Fisher Cabernet Sauvignon — your choice— or ask your winemonger for a great Cab for Easter

**Recipes below
*Click link for recipe/choose your own

Czech Easter Bread (Link to recipe above.)
This menu promises full tummies and smiles all around for the Bunny-Cooks who
 bake up/buy some cupcakes in the next day or two, 
 make short work of the  leftover boiled eggs turned starter deviled eggs,
 throw some fresh vegetables into the microwave briefly to create a spring salad extraordinaire,
 and then grill a few tiny, but fat double lamb chops while quick-roasting a pan full of long, slim carrots covered with pepper and rosemary.  Phew. 
Just a few tulips–the perfect centerpiece.

 Or why do it all yourself?  You might get your cousin to do the cupcakes, your sister to do the salad, and so on.  Make the day easy on yourself since someone had to clean the house and put out the egg-shaped candles, afterall. But if you’re doing it all yourself, here’s how:

No cupcakes for these guys.


1. Today or Tomorrow:   Do grocery shopping.  Make/buy carrot cake cupcakes. Freeze plain cupcakes. 
2.  Friday:  Make tapenade and store well-covered.  Keep others out of it until Sunday.  Boil eggs.
3. Saturday:  Used boiled Easter eggs and make deviled eggs.  Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Do not sprinkle with paprika until ready to serve.  Here are three recipes or make your own. 
4. Saturday or Sunday morning:  Make the salad and dressing. (recipes below); refrigerate them separately until Sunday.
5.  Sunday: 

  • In the morning:  unthaw and frost cupcakes if not already done.  Store out of reach of the dogs and kids.
  • ”    ”      ”       :  set and decorate table
  • 1 1/2 hours before dinner:  Bring lamb chops to room temperature.  Uncork/decant red wine.
  • Set out deviled eggs and uncork white wine for starters.
  • Peel/prepare carrots and place on a half-sheet pan.  Prepare chops for cooking.
  • Pan-grill, then roast chops and oven-roast carrots.  Place chops and carrots on a large platter with tapenade and pass at the table.
  • Just before eating:  Spoon salad into large serving bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss well.  Pour red wine. Place bread on table if serving.
  • Serve cupcakes and smile. 


 Make-Ahead Green Bean Salad with Cream Shallot Dressing
    serves 8

This recipe calls for you to blanch the beans and fresh peas briefly in boiling water, drain, and cool quickly in an ice bath.  You can also cook them, separately, in the microwave for 2-3 minutes with just a couple of tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe covered bowl.

  • 6 cups fresh haricots verts or green beans, trimmed, blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
  • 3 cups fresh green peas (or frozen), blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 1/2 c each diced red  bell pepper, yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Dressing:   2T minced shallots, 2T lemon juice, 1 cup half and half, 2T finely minced flat-leaf parsley,  1/4 tsp each sea salt/ fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp grated lemon zest,  2 drops Tabasco.  Place all ingredients in a jar with a tightly-fitted lid and shake vigorously when making and just before dressing salad.

  1.  One day ahead:  Mix all salad ingredients—except lemon juice– together in a large bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 
  2. When ready to serve, add lemon juice and toss well.  Drizzle with dressing and toss again.  Taste and re-season.  (You’ll have leftover dressing.  Store in refrigerator 2-3 days.)

Note: This salad is loosely based on one from the book SALAD FOR DINNER by Patricia Wells, who is one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Pan-grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade and Oven-Roasted Rosemary Carrots

  serves 8

  A. Up to two days ahead, make tapenade and store tightly covered in the refrigerator:

Tapenade- Chopped olives, garlic, parsley and anchovies.  Great with sliced baguette or crackers, too.
  • 2 cups pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil                                              
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 1T fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch fresh ground pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • salt, if needed, to taste   

Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store, well-covered, in refrigerator until needed.  Serve in a bowl on the table for guests to help themselves or spoon a bit on each chop if you like. 

B.  For chops and carrots ( recipe, see below) — about 45 minutes before dinner time.

  •     8 double lamb rib chops at room temperature
  •      olive oil
  •      kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper


  • 2 dozen long, thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4T finely minced fresh rosemary

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

 Place carrots on a large baking sheet/s, drizzle with oil and dust generously with salt, pepper, and   rosemary.  Place pan of carrots in the oven on a rack in the bottom third of the oven and roast until tender and somewhat crispy.

Heat grill pan or large, heavy skillet/s for the chops over medium-high heat.  Place another rack, for the chops, in the upper third.

  1. Meantime, drizzle chops with olive oil on both sides and salt and pepper thoroughly on both sides.  Brown chops very well on each side and remove to a roasting pan or oven-safe casserole.  When all the chops are browned, place pan/casserole in the oven and roast until done to your liking. 
  2.  Use instant-read thermometer to determine if chops are done.  I like mine fairly rare (quite pink) and took them out to rest when the temperature was between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you’d like them just pink, try 140 degrees.  Quite done is about 160.
  3. Remove pan/casserole from oven and remove chops to serving platter.  Let sit 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Remove carrots from the oven and add them to the platter. Serve hot with tapenade  

Note:  If you’d like to use nice big and thick bone-in pork chops instead of lamb chops, they’ll work just as well using the same process.  You’ll want them cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (medium rare) and allowed to rest a few minutes.  Great with tapenade.

Happy Easter and Sing a New Song,

No Reservations (Valentine’s Day at Home)

Alyce’s Tuna with Marinara and Spinach with Onions*

To get you in the mood, kick off with Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”  
Or, if you’d rather, “Someone Like You.”
          Note: If you right click on the song title, you can open youtube in another window and keep the music playing…………………………………
If you’d rather just order pizza (I know you!) and watch a movie, stop here and look at the best movies of 2011 and call for delivery.   Wow, that was a short blog!   But…if you’re in the mood for food at home, read on.

Since everyone and their mother is now a food or wine writer, it’s a bit crazy to see just how many articles there are about cooking for Valentine’s Day or drinking for Valentine’s Day.   “I Wine You to Wine Me,” is out from Wine Spectator.  Phew.   The desserts, the bubblies…  It’s all somewhat odd, eh?  Because the word has always been that one goes OUT for Valentine’s Day–something I’ve seldom done.  Why?  Too crowded, too expensive, and rushed food.  Enough reasons?  I will admit, however, that if you have children of any age in the house, going out looks better and better.  Who wants to be searing a great piece of salmon while your loved one lights the candles only to be confronted with a dirty diaper, a bloody nose, a soccer practice, or a boyfriend crisis?

The only kids now at home sleep under the table!

 Because I’m a faithful person and because my (adult) children know I love them madly, I’ll admit I’ve been thrilled to cook at home on Valentine’s Day in the years since they left.  THANK YOU, GOD! And, truthfully, we were broke for a lot of years before that, so I cooked for a bunch of those, too.  Not only that, I  have always made Dave one of his favorite desserts for his Valentine’s Day present.   (What do you get a guy for Valentine’s Day??)  For us, it’s a bit simple. While embarrassing to admit, I cook better food than most restaurants serve (as do many people) and I can afford the wine in my cellar (or on my counter) because I bought it myself and it’s paid for.  So, the food and wine are both better…   I’ve saved a heap of money (even the loveliest filet at the butcher is $15 per in St. Paul), I can hear everything Dave says, and dinner can–and occasionally does–take all evening.   No one is standing at the entrance to the room eyeing our plates to see when we’ll be done.  No server is bringing dessert before I’ve finished my dinner.  If there’s any clanking in the kitchen, Dave and I are doing it.  And, in St. Paul, no doors are opening letting in the Arctic Circle.

I often plan a meal complete with music (you can get “Sarah Vaughn for Lovers,”  “Ella Fitzgerald for Lovers” or just put on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and be done) and it may start in one room–maybe the kitchen– with a tiny appetizer and a sparkler, later moving into dining room for soup, main course, and salad–and end in the living room with cheese and dessert.  A spot of port.  While that’s possible in a restaurant, it’s not probable.   You don’t have to do all those things, of course; but they’re fun!

So if you can pawn off the kids elsewhere or pay them to stay upstairs… or if you have no kids… dream up something scrumptious and cook at home.  Leave the dishes rinsed in the sink for the next morning.

First,  you’ll have to decide about the gift dessert— I don’t know what I’m making Dave this year, but here are some of my favorites on More Time:

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake

Apple pie...a great gift for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies (good anytime)

 Lemon Scented Pear-Almond Crostata – Yes!

There are directions for making this crostata with apples, too, if you like.

One of my all-time favorite desserts is Brandied Fig Vanilla Pudding from Epicurious.  Almost done before you begin, this silky pudding is simple, subtle, supple, and topped with a bit of fig preserves mixed with a spoonful of brandy.  Sometimes I offer a tish of hot fudge and berries in placeof the figs, depending on the season.   Made on the stove in a few minutes, it can be done ahead or at the last minute.  It’s great warm if you’re running late!  One note:  Brandied Fig Vanilla Pudding is gorgeous in nice, heavy crystal on-the-rocks tumblers; you can see the pudding and the shining golden fig layer at top through the sparkling glass.

 Thing is, I think you can often cook as well as the folks in the restaurants, too.  You can cook to your own tastes and take your time.  You can make the dessert today and just serve a salad and steak tomorrow.   I mean, most of us work on Valentine’s Day, right?

Needn’t be a complex salad to be good.  In fact, the opposite is true.

Just for fun, I’ve looked around at a few available menus to see what exactly IS a romantic menu?  I’m not sure I know; so here are a couple I’ve seen around the net lately:

This one, off the Epicurious site, is called:

                                        ROMANTIC DINNER

  • Peach Royale
  • Smoked Salmon with Crispy Shallots and Dilled Cream
  • Seared Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce
  • Penne with Hazelnut Gremolata and Roasted Broccolini
  • Sliced Strawberries with Grand Marnier Zabaglione
OR…you might like…
  • Flatbread with Fingerling Potatoes, Shitake Mushrooms, and Truffle Oil
  • Spice-Coated Rack of Lamb for Two with Arugula, Avocado, and Blood Orange Salad
  • Almond Cakes with Chocolate Passion-Fruit Sauce 

Other options are:


LAMB CHOPS AND ROASTED VEGETABLES FOR TWO  right here from More Time.  (pictured at top)
                           If you do make the lamb chops, you are wide open for both wine and dessert.  While a typical pairing for lamb is Cabernet Sauvignon, I like Syrah or Pinot Noir (California and Oregon, respectively, though I love CRISTOM Syrah, which is Oregon) with this meal to meet up and ring with with the sweet tones in the root vegetables.  In the post, there’s a simple bread pudding, but you might remember I just blogged another bread pudding that’s to die for.  Don’t want to make dessert?  Pick up two kinds of gelato or sorbet (I like Pistachio gelato with Raspberry sorbet) and some tiny Scots shortbread cookies or feast on a bit of the chocolate you bought.  Don’t skimp on the coffee; make sure it’s lovely.  It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s all in the details (and the laughter.)



While I’m just realizing this, one of my favorite meals to serve Dave or company, isn’t on the blog; the marinara, however, is on my other blog, Dinner Place, as is tuna with spinach and onions.
I think you can figure out how to put it all together from the photo; don’t forget Parmesan at the table. 

Whatever you do, enjoy. 

two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Last Friday Night’s Table

The other lovers.

On my kitchen window

Tucker–thinks he’s hiding.

Sing a new song on Valentine’s Day….