TasteFood by Lynda Balslev

Easter Spring Fling

In honor of Easter, Passover and spring, I share this roasted lamb recipe. Mind you, this is not your traditional springtime lamb roast studded with garlic and served with mint (which is always a good option, of course). Instead, this roast veers to North Africa with a generous smear of chermoula, a heady concoction of aromatic spices, fresh herbs, chiles and garlic. Consider it Easter break on holiday -- a spring fling for culinary travelers.

Chermoula is a flavorful and versatile condiment in Moroccan, Libyan and Tunisian cuisines. It’s used as a marinade and garnish for fish, meats and vegetables, and it can also be swirled into rice and couscous dishes. Recipes for chermoula vary from region to region and cook to cook, but the gist is to use fistfuls of fresh green herbs, such as parsley, cilantro and mint, and plenty of spice, such as cumin and coriander. While it’s a long list of ingredients, it’s easily blitzed in a food processor in just a few minutes. The end result should be bright, sharp and aromatic with a kick of heat. Ideally, toast and grind whole spices for best flavor, but pre-ground spices will do just fine.

The meat is served over a platter of spring greens, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. Choose a selection of sturdy greens that are a mix of bitter, peppery and sweet. The cooking juices from the lamb will slightly wilt leaves, for a refreshing contrast that mirrors the season. And, for best flavor results, begin marinating the lamb the night before roasting.

Lamb Chermoula With Spring Greens

Active Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours

Marinating Time: 24 hours, plus 1 hour standing time

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Chermoula:

4 cloves garlic

1 cup Italian flat leaf parsley sprigs

1 cup cilantro sprigs

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed

Lamb:

1 (5- to 6-pound) semi-boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups mixed spring greens such as frisee, mustard greens, mizuna, arugula

1 small handful mint leaves, coarsely torn

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley and/or cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Begin marinating the lamb one day before serving. Place all of the chermoula ingredients, except the olive oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil and process to blend. The chermoula should have a runny paste consistency. If needed, add a little more oil to achieve this consistency.

Place the lamb in a large bowl and season on all sides with salt and black pepper. Rub the chermoula all over the lamb. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. One hour before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (not touching the bone) reaches 135 degrees for medium-rare, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the lamb. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to collect.

While the lamb is resting, place the greens, mint and parsley and/or cilantro in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the lemon zest over, lightly season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

Carve the lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spread the greens on a serving platter. Arrange the lamb in the center. Drizzle any collected lamb juices over the meat and greens and scatter the pine nuts over. Serve warm.

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