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A Cure for Spring Fever

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A cool soup, a refreshing salad, and a mint relish lighten up a menu starring lamb

The menu serves six, but it can also be multiplied easily if you have the oven space: just scale up all of the recipes except the dessert; the angel food cake will easily give you 10 slices.

As soon as we get that tease of a 70ºF day in early April, I’m done with all that hearty food I couldn’t get enough of back in November. Even when the temperature plummets again—as it always does in New England before rising slowly and steadily—I don’t want to see anything braised or stewed. All I crave is bright color, crisp textures, and fresh flavors.

That’s why this menu is perfect for Easter or any special occasion in early spring. It features classic harbingers of spring like asparagus and lamb. The salad, however, is what I really love about this menu. A mix of roasted fingerling potatoes, cucumber, fennel, celery, and red onion, it’s served with a dollop of cool, creamy yogurt on the same plate as the lamb. The result is an unbelievably refreshing, almost palate-cleansing side dish.

Download a pdf of this menu, including all recipes, shopping list, and timeline.

Menu Timeline

Up to two days ahead:

  • Cook and purée the soup. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.

Up to one day ahead:

  • Bake the cake. Let it cool completely before gently wrapping in plastic wrap.
  • Make the croutons for the soup. Let cool completely before storing airtight at room temperature.
  • Make the relish. Cover and refrigerate.

A few hours before dinner:

  • Combine the yogurt and parsley. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Roast the potatoes. Keep them at room temperature on the baking sheet; reheat gently if you want to serve them warm.
  • Cook the green beans and slice the vegetables. Gently combine them in a large bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and refrigerate.
  • Toss the strawberries with the sugar. Cover and refrigerate.

An hour before dinner:

  • Sear and roast the lamb. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
  • Remove the relish from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

A half-hour before dinner:

  • Remove the strawberries from the refrigerator.
  • Slice the chives for the soup. Cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.

Just before each course:

  • Reheat the soup if serving warm, and season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss the vegetables for the salad with the lemon and olive oil.
  • Slice the lamb into chops.
  • Give the relish a stir.
  • Season the yogurt mixture to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • Whip the cream for the angel food cake.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce:

  • 2 bunches asparagus (about 2 lb.)
  • 1-1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes
  • 3 medium stalks celery
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 medium bulb fennel (about 1 lb.)
  • 1/2 lb. haricots verts or slender green beans
  • 3/4 lb. strawberries
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 large shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch fresh chives

Meat, Eggs & Dairy:

  • 3 racks of lamb (8 ribs and 1 to 1-1/2 lb. each), frenched if you prefer not to do it yourself
  • 11 large eggs
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, such as Fage Total
  • 1-1/2 pints heavy cream

Other Groceries:

  • 3 to 4 slices of fine-grain white bread, such as Pepperidge Farm
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 Tbs. Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads

Pantry Staples:

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • White peppercorns

Wine choices

The asparagus soup calls for a dry, crisp white with an herbal touch. A young Chenin Blanc from France fits the bill, and the 2006 Domaine Pichot Vouvray ($14) is one of the best I’ve recently tasted.

A Cabernet Sauvignon, with its blackcurrant fruit and firm tannins, would complement the rich flavor of the lamb. The 2005 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) from South Australia is an especially vibrant choice.

Finally, a crisp medium-sweet dessert wine with spice notes would be perfect with the angel food cake. Look for the 2006 Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière ($18).

Tim Gaiser, master sommelier

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