We had our good friends, Charles and Alexa, over for dinner this past weekend to enjoy good food, good wine and, our favorite card game, Cards Against Humanity. It was a great night. They brought some wine from their recent trip to Napa that went down all too well and I supplied the dinner.
When putting together a menu for a dinner we are hosting, I always think about the guests, including what they would enjoy, and what’s seasonally available/appropriate. I usually decide the main entree first and then build the sides around that selection, although I’ve been known to pick a dessert first on occasion! Once I have a main dish settled, I can decide how light or heavy the sides can be, what flavors would complement each other and even think about what would make for a pretty or colorful plate. We usually serve an appetizer prior to dinner, which inevitably nearly always involves cheese, which is never a bad thing!
The appetizer selection for this dinner was based on whichever one I could find that used up the most cherry tomatoes, which are currently overflowing from the garden. I found a honey roasted cherry tomato recipe that was perfect, and I served it with some creamy burrata cheese and baguette slices. The perfect way to kick off a mid-summer meal with friends.
For dinner, the Washington Post ran their Top Tomato contest winners last week, and one recipe really caught my eye. It was a braised lamb shank with fresh tomatoes and it turned out fantastically. I knew it would make the perfect entree for the weekend, especially since I wanted to use some of the larger tomatoes from the garden. I had to make some modifications (noted below) to create more tomato sauce, but the end result was delicious. I love saffron rice with braised shanks, and the one I chose paired really nicely to soak up all that wonderful sauce, as well as using up some red peppers from the garden. I wanted to add some color to the plate, along with making an easy side, so I picked up some green beans at the farmer’s market that morning. I did a quick steam of them and added a tablespoon of melted butter and the juice of half a lemon. Dinner was rounded out with a homemade plum crumble with fresh plums purchased from the farmer’s market.
Menu – Braised Lamb, Saffron Rice, Lemony Green Beans, Plum Crumble
Honey Roasted Tomatoes with burrata and baguette slices
*Note – I couldn’t find the size shanks recommended so I ended up with 4 shanks, about 3 pounds total, which all fit on the bottom of my 6 quart cast iron pot. Even though I used 11 fresh tomatoes from my garden, I didn’t have enough sauce to cover the shanks before the long braise, as noted in the recipe. I added a pint of crushed tomatoes I had canned the week before and about 2 cups of tomato water. This resulted in enough sauce to cover the lamb and also left enough delicious sauce to add to pasta for dinner the next day, which made for a really excellent meal. If you don’t have either on hand, canned or diced tomatoes and some water would do the trick too. I made the braise earlier in the day so I could let the sauce cool and skimmed quite a lot of fat off the surface once it cooled. I would recommend adding this step into reduce the greasiness of the sauce. I stored the pot in the fridge once it cooled and then reheated it on the stove prior to serving.