Grilled lamb, ragout take center stage at Holy Day table

Rosh Hashanah is a particularly sweet and joyful occasion in my family. I come from a family that was totally displaced by two world wars. We were scattered and shattered. Most of the surviving family members created new lives for themselves, far from their origins.

Some time in the early 1970s, a cousin, Caroline, arrived in the Bay Area from England, following an impulse to seek out her relatives, her family history. She found me. Later, traveling in Africa, she met an American and together they moved to Berkeley where they both now live and teach.

Since their arrival in our lives, we’ve come together to celebrate the holidays in her home. We shop and cook together and we eat together. Our children (her two, my three) have always done this, perhaps in much the same way as our grandparents did. Literally and symbolically we celebrate our survival as a family by doing what we do well together: preparing a festive meal, sharing our stories and giving thanks.

These are the dishes we’ll be cooking and eating together this year.

Shanah tovah.

Smoked Trout or Smoked Salmon Salad with Dill Dressing | Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs
1 bunch watercress
1 smoked trout, boned, skinned, broken into pieces or 1/2 lb. smoked salmon, sliced

Slice the fennel very thin and combine with the watercress in a bowl. Set aside.

1 shallot, diced
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Place shallot, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk in olive oil. Set aside.

Dill Dressing:
1/3 cup non-dairy sour cream
1 Tbs. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

Whisk non-dairy sour cream with lemon juice, salt and pepper and add the dill.

Toss the fennel and watercress in the vinaigrette and mound in the center of four chilled salad plates. Top with the smoked trout and drizzle the trout with the Dill Dressing.

Grilled Lamb With Eggplant, Mushroom and Mint Ragout | Serves 4-6

1 lamb shoulder, butterflied, fat trimmed
1 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh marjoram or oregano, plus additional for serving
lemon juice

Ask the butcher to butterfly the lamb or do it yourself by cutting the bone out of the lamb.

Open the meat out flat so it is approximately the same thickness everywhere and roughly butterfly shaped.

Pour olive oil over meat and sprinkle with garlic and herbs. Let marinate for 2 to 4 hours.

Pat the meat dry and grill over mesquite. Remove from the grill when cooked to medium rare (or to taste) and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing.

Sprinkle each serving with a small amount of olive oil, additional marjoram, kosher salt and the lemon juice.

Ragout | Serves 4

1 1/2 lb. Italian or globe eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced 1/3-inch thick
2 oz. (1/4 cup) dried porcini mushroom, chopped, reconstituted in hot water (save the liquid)
1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
fresh mint for garnish

If time permits, the eggplant will benefit from salting in a colander for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.

Sauté garlic in olive oil with 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the eggplant, scallions, fresh and dried mushrooms and chopped mint. Add the saved, strained porcini juices if needed.

Place the mixture in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until ingredients are soft and reduced to an almost crisp top.

Place on a platter and arrange sliced, grilled lamb on top. Season to taste and garnish with fresh mint.

Almond Macaroons | Makes 28-32 cookies

8 oz. blanched almonds
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 Tbs. slivered almonds

Grind almonds and sugar until fine. Beat egg whites until firm but not dry, adding the almond extract at the end. Fold whites into the almond mixture. Using a No. 7 star tip, pipe into rosettes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Place almond on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until lightly colored. For best results, use a double pan (a sheet inside a sheet).

Michael Wild is the founding chef and co-owner of BayWolf Restaurant in Oakland, and co-author of “BayWolf Restaurant Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press).


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