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a table set with pea salad, roasted lamb and blackberry crumble

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

As soon as sugar snaps show up at the farmers’ market, I’m instantly happy. Sweet and crisp, this salad is all about the sugar snaps, with a pinch of Aleppo pepper for heat, some fresh ricotta cheese for richness and texture, and edible flowers for color. It comes together easily, looks gorgeous and is oh-so-easy to love.

a bowl of sugar snap pea salad

Serves | four

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • A few leaves of fresh peppermint
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  • Handful of edible flowers, such as pea blossoms or nasturtiums

Directions

  1. Trim the tips of the sugar snap peas on both ends, remove the strings if they bother you, and cut some in half lengthwise.
  2. Blanch the peas quickly, just about 30 seconds, and shock in ice water.
  3. Slice the radishes thinly.
  4. Combine the peas, radishes, cheese and peppermint in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper and garnish of edible flowers.

Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder

When I was an 18-year-old exchange student in Spain, I remember being in a family winery in Castilla y León, roasting whole lamb for Semana Santa, Holy Week. Castilla y León is the heart of lamb country in Spain, and no festival is complete without lamb roasted over hot coals. I enjoyed the familiar, thick, lanoline smell of it in the early spring air. 

The day before, we had stopped at the butcher shop to pick up four whole suckling lambs and brined them overnight with olives, herbs and preserved lemons. Every time I have roast lamb, I think of that incredible Easter Sunday, my first of many memorable Easters in Spain. 

If you can’t get lamb shoulder, leg of lamb will work nicely; just cook it a little longer.

a pot of roasted lamb

Serves | six

Ingredients

  • 1 cup good-quality black olives, pits removed
  • 6 slices quick-cured lemons (see Video Extra! to learn how to prepare them) or purchased preserved lemons
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Generous handful of mixed fresh herbs, like rosemary, oregano, sage, parsley, and/or thyme
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 lamb shoulder, roughly 4 to 6 lbs., deboned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large mortar and pestle or in a food processor, work together the olives, cured lemons, garlic, herbs and olive oil to create a nice, rustic paste. If you’re using a food processor, be careful not to overprocess it; you want the paste a bit coarse.
  2. Spread the deboned lamb shoulder flat on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to open up any connecting meat and form a nice square. Rub the lamb all over with the paste, roll it up and truss it with butcher’s twine every inch and a half. Refrigerate the lamb for a few hours or overnight to allow all the flavors to come together.
  3. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about
    45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  4. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and place it on a rack fitted in a roasting pan. Roast for one to 1.5 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of about 148 degrees F. Baste the lamb every 20 minutes or so. Once the lamb is done, set it aside in a warm place to rest for 10 minutes before serving and slicing.

Blackberry and Almond Crumble

When I buy plump, tart blackberries at the farmers’ market, I usually devour them before I make it home. When I manage to save a few, I make this crumble. I like my desserts to be simple (mostly because I’m not much of a pastry chef and I don’t want to screw them up). Chopped almonds (I like to use Marconas) give the topping a great little crunch and, along with the berries, offset the pro-inflammatory effects of the sugar.

almond crumble

Serves | four

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Couple pinches of salt
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup almonds, preferably Marcona, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the oats, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the almond flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Move to a bowl and mix in the chopped almonds.
  2. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the blackberries, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt, and arrange in a baking dish.
  3. Spread the crumble mixture on top of the berries. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Serve alone, or with vanilla or almond ice cream.

(Recipes reprinted with permission from Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food by Seamus Mullen/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.)

This article originally appeared as “Heroic Feast” in the March 2013 print edition of Experience Life.

Food Photography by: Terry Brennan; Food Styling by: Betsy Nelson

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