Donna Barasch, a Villa Park cooking instructor, stresses fresh ingredients in her spring menus, which she likes to prepare for daytime gatherings.
Following are her original recipes for a Sunday afternoon "dinner" with a spring theme. The menu is built around lamb with herbs, new peas, fresh strawberries and an assortment of decorative touches (for information on her classes featuring these dishes and others, call (714) 997-3369).
To complement the meal, husband Ken Barasch, whose hobby is wine collecting, recommends a French Burgundy such as DRC Aa Tache or a California pinot noir such as 1984 Carneros Saintsbury or 1984 Tulocay.
SPRING MENU FOR 8
Pineapple-ham turnovers with chives pastry
Butter lamb sculpture
Spring leg of lamb
Potato baskets with fresh green peas and carrots
Meringue baskets with strawberries
PINEAPPLE-HAM TURNOVERS WITH CHIVES PASTRY
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried chives
1/2 cup shortening
3 tablespoons water
1 cup ground ham
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg, beaten
Make dough mixture by combining flour, salt and chives in medium bowl. Cut in shortening with two knives or pastry blender. Sprinkle with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork to blend. Gather into a ball with hands, flatten slightly, roll out on lightly floured board until thin. Cut out 4-inch rounds, re-rolling scraps until used up. Should make about 8 rounds.
Make filling by combining ham, pineapple and cloves in food processor with metal blade or in blender until well mixed.
Assemble by placing a tablespoon of filling just off-center on each round. Moisten edge with water, fold and seal. Flatten edges with tines of a fork. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
Bake at 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden.
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine
1 egg, beaten
12 eggs, boiled 5 minutes
Extra flour as needed
Stir together first 4 ingredients and set aside. Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and grease lightly. Blend together 2 eggs and oil or margarine; add to yeast mixture. Add 5 cups of dry ingredients to yeast mixture. Stir. Add enough of remaining dry mix to make a sticky dough. Turn onto board floured with remaining dry mix; knead about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 12 equal balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 10 inches long and 1/2-inch thick, fold rope in half and twist. Form a circle, sealing ends together. Put boiled egg in shell in center. Place on baking sheets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush bread with remaining beaten egg. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. This recipe makes 12 nests.
BUTTER LAMB SCULPTURE
1 pound butter
2 whole cloves
Place a 1/4-pound stick of butter on serving plate.
Cut another stick of butter in half. With a knife, round off one end of one of the 1/2 sticks to make the lamb face, then smooth. Run a hot knife along the underside of that 1/2 stick and attach it to the front top of the whole stick, with the face extending beyond the bottom stick.
Cut another stick into about 12 pieces. One by one, place small pieces in bowl of garlic press and squeeze out about 1/4-inch of "wool." Run a sharp knife across the face of the garlic press to pick up "wool" and place it along the lower edge of the large stick that is being used for the lamb body. Repeat the process with the remaining butter. Keep adding "wool," covering entire lamb, except for the smooth face. Always work from the bottom to the top. Cut off and discard the large end of the cloves and press remaining thin part into the lamb's face for eyes. Chill until ready to serve.
SPRING LEG OF LAMB
5-6 pound fresh leg of lamb
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried or fresh savory
1 teaspoon dried or fresh marjoram
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Debone or have butcher debone lamb.
Mix a paste of remaining ingredients. Spread paste on all sides of meat. Roll into a log shape and tie at 2-inch intervals with kitchen twine. Place in glass dish, cover with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Place on rack in roasting pan. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place roast in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees. Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes per pound of deboned weight or until thermometer registers 175-180 degrees for well done or 160-165 degrees for slightly rare.
POTATO BASKETS WITH FRESH GREEN PEAS AND CARROTS
1 package frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted and drained of excess water.
2 pounds fresh green peas, in shells