I came to realize recently that no matter how much we hope to slow the clock, it moves ever-forward, one tick at a time. Busy moments rush by as quickly as they erupt and people fade into the distance, slowly at first, until the rhythm of our lives picks up pace and whisks those people further into the background. The back pocket of our minds where they are thought of often (certainly more often then they realize), but seldom ever seen.
To rejoin and see one-another again is the same occasion that makes me ponder; what it was that kept us apart for so long? It is that same occasion which leaves me promising to never to let that much time pass again. Yet then, the ticks tock and the pace resumes, full-speed once more and I can only hope that I am able to pull myself back from the race, much sooner than before, to linger in new moments with those I hold so dear.
This is especially true of family, as well as friends and acquaintances (new or old). Luckily, (long) overdue family gatherings usually require the involvement of food. At my Dad and Linda’s house, the food is never less than exceptional, in a comfortably casual, yet civilized and celebratory way.
I can hardly believe that the last time I had been to visit my Father was over a decade ago. We had all gathered at his place in Mexico (quite the hacienda) for a true Fiesta in celebration of the christening of my (then tiny) Nephew Alex. The (rather large) mariachi band still sings in my head as I recall those fond memories.
We had never been to their (somewhat new, to them) house in Arizona, yet when Tom and I went for dinner during our Easter weekend with my Mom, it felt like coming home. The house itself was nothing like the house we had grown up in in Alaska, but it had the convivial quality to it that the house in Anchorage had when I went home for Christmas every year during school. Back then, there were always dinner parties and entertaining, as there still are today, in whichever house they reside in at the time. The eclectic smattering of collected pieces of art, furniture, dishware and decoration, as well as the smells and sounds that erupted from the kitchen, all added to the warmth and comfort I felt when I was there.
This visit brought me back to that place of happy contentment. The moods were light and inviting. The house was unique, quirky and had character, just like my Dad and Linda.
There was a heavy Spanish influence to the architecture and a wonderful connection of outdoor courtyards to indoor living spaces.
The yard had not had much tending to yet (so says Dad), but the abundant olive trees provided lush shelter from the street, and the native growth firmly held their place in the landscape as a stunning foreground to the mountainous sky. There was more rosemary growing around one of the trees than I could imagine using in a lifetime; how I wish I could grow one good shrub, even a fraction of that scale.
Many birds had taken up residence, to which my Dad happily encouraged. We needed to be quiet in the front by the fountain so as not to disturb the nest of quail.
Cracked terra cotta pots and well-placed lanterns all lended to the easy vibe; several outdoor spaces, all directly accessible from the house, made for happy discovery moving from room to room.
The bar was open as we arrived and stayed open until well after Linda went to bed. We talked and reminisced, filled in missing bits and stayed up long past bedtime, sipping on the nectar from a bottle of Maker’s 46.
The boys discussing the adjacent courtyard fountain renovation.
But first…let there be lamb!
Yogurt and lemon-roasted Leg of Lamb with herbaceous pesto
I tend to go for lamb chops or rack of when I order or cook lamb; similar to opting for the tenderloin of beef rather than a delectably fatty rib-eye or lusciously large T-bone.
Linda does the leg… and has always done it well. This was no exception.
In fact, rack or tenderloin be damned. This was flavorful, tender and AMAZING!
Her delicious marinade of balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary and red wine had been replaced with lemon juice and plain yogurt; garlic plus rosemary still in tow. A platter of grilled eggplant plus asparagus went perfectly with the gratin of potato and aioli with which they were served.
The marinade and pesto were adapted from Food and Wine. The pesto called for hemp seed but Linda used pistachio, which worked perfectly. I happened to have a bag of raw, shelled hemp seed as a sample from IFBC so I gave that a try. Yum!
2 1/2 lb bone-in lamb leg
6 cloves garlic, minced (3 TB)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
A splash of bubbly (if you have some open)
1 TB Dijon
Pesto for saucing (recipe to follow)
A nice size bouquet of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme)
1/2 tsp kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, plus a drizzle of olive oil over rubbed lamb
Rinse and pat dry the lamb. Use the best quality you can afford; it will make a difference.
Combine the marinade ingredients, garlic through dijon, in a metal bowl or Ziploc freezer bag.
Add the lamb and season with sea salt, fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Seal it up and let marinated for a night or a day; whatever time you might have.
Transfer the lamb and marinade to a baking dish. Cook, uncovered in an oven set to 375-degrees.
Cook, uncovered, for approximately 1 1/4 hours. An instant-read thermometer should measure at 135F.
I never really measure things when I make pesto; it is a touch and feel sort of affair; or rather mix and taste. I grabbed a big mix of herbs from my pots (oregano mostly, plus a little basil and some thyme).
In a mortar with a pestle, smash a clove of garlic into paste then squeeze in a little lemon juice. Add the herbs (cleaned, dried and stems somewhat removed) and gently grind them into the garlic forming a green paste.
Add in some raw, shelled hemp seeds (or pistachios) and grind into the mix. I used about 1 TB. Add more lemon juice to get it flowing and a little drizzle of olive oil too. Perhaps some salt might be needed but I didn’t bother.
No cheese for this one; it really isn’t needed.
You can always use a food processor and if making a large batch, it is probably more efficient. In this case, add all but the olive oil and puree. Drizzle olive oil in with the machine running until it is of a consistency that looks right.
(insert picture from Dad here; oh wait, I can’t, he hasn’t answered my request yet…maybe later?)
Because I’m a procrastinator on posting, an update from Dad on the pair of Gamel quail that built the nest in the middle of their courtyard flower bed.: “They have successfully produce a large covey of 16 baby quail for whom I have been throwing out bird seed and filling small containers of water each day. I have been enjoying watching them, darting all over while the father stands on the wall edge of the fountain and keeps an eye out for their safety. The mother stays on the ground with her babies showing them where to peck and where to move. They all run back to the nest whenever they spot any movement by us. The babies are such tiny creatures and appear to be on jet skis.”