Gilliland's, an intimate neighborhood restaurant in Santa Monica, has found its way into the big time. But it didn't happen overnight. Owner Gerri Gilliland had been a caterer and a cooking-school teacher in Los Angeles for several years before venturing into a business of her own. "I started in the summer of 1984 with no restaurant experience. I kept hiring the wrong people and letting them guide the restaurant until it got completely out of focus," she says.
It was after a year or so, when Gilliland fired everyone and took over the kitchen, that the business began to take off.
"Now the restaurant is exactly what I had in mind when I started," she says.
The atmosphere is homey, with quilts hanging on the walls, and black-and-white-checked skirts on the table. Even the prices dropped, in keeping with Gilliland's original idea of a casual, inexpensive restaurant for the regulars, among them movie industry people who shy away from celebrity spots.
As for the food, she created a menu that reflects the way she likes to eat--an international selection that includes dishes inspired by Indian, Italian, French, Thai, Mexican and South American cuisines. And, of course, there are Irish dishes, such as the leg of lamb featured here, because, after all, Gilliland is from Ireland.
"The lamb was something we always served at home and we'd do it with rosemary or mint. Sometimes we served it with a vinegared mint sauce, but Americans always asked for mint jelly," she explains. Lemon tart with a top crust is typical of the desserts served by her family. And she makes wonderful Irish breads and cakes, to the delight of her patrons. ROAST LEG OF LAMB
6 pounds leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
6 to 8 cloves garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons oil
4 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
With paring knife, make 10 to 12 small, 1-inch-deep incisions all over lamb. Lightly crush garlic with heavy knife; peel and cut cloves into thin slivers. Insert slivers into incisions. Rub roast with small amount of oil. Insert small sprigs of rosemary into incisions with garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place lamb in oiled roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees 1 hour, or until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of roast registers 135 to 140 degrees for rare, or 150 degrees for medium or 160 degrees for well-done. Remove meat to warm carving board. Let it stand 10 minutes before carving. Serve meat, sliced, with pan juices. Makes 6 servings. PUREE OF PARSNIP AND CARROTS
1 1/2 pounds carrots, cooked
1 pound parsnips, cooked
1/2 cup butter
Combine cooked carrots and parsnips in food processor with butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Process until a smooth puree is formed. Makes 6 servings. LEMON TART
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Grated peel and strained juice of 3 large lemons
3 large eggs
1 small egg white, beaten
Sugar for dusting
Prepare Almond Pastry and chill 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place sugar, butter, peel and lemon juice in small saucepan. Bring slowly to boil. Whisk eggs in separate bowl until well mixed. Slowly whisk in small amount of the hot butter mixture. Return egg mixture to pan and cook over low heat until thick and mixture coats back of spoon. Do not boil or mixture will curdle. Chill.
When ready to bake pie, roll out of the pastry, -inch, thick between two sheets of wax paper. Fit onto 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce base and chill 5 minutes.
Fill pie shell with cold lemon curd filling. Roll out remaining pastry to fit over tart. Trim and seal edges. Bake at 375 degrees 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned. Brush top with beaten egg white and dust with sugar. Return to oven to glaze top, about 5 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 1 9-inch tart. Almond Pastry
cup whole almonds without skin
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
Chop almonds finely in food processor and set aside.
Combine egg, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and butter in processor. Process on and off to blend well. Add flour, sugar, salt and almonds; blend until dough begins to mass together. Do not allow to form into a ball.
Turn pastry out onto pastry board. Gather into ball. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes. Makes enough for 2-crust pie.
PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER / FLOWERS BY ROOTS & SHOOTS, VENICE / LINEN, TABLEWARE FROM THE PRINCE'S TABLE, BEVERLY HILLS