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Cooking with Myra: Easter feast has multitude of flavors

By Victoria Advocate
April 19, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 18, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.

Spicy Lamb Chops with Mint Mango Sauce

Spicy Lamb Chops with Mint Mango Sauce

Mint-mango sauce

2 (1-pound) ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded

3 cups fresh mint leaves

3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

2 serrano chiles, halved, seeded

Lamb chops

11/2 Tbsp. ground cumin

11/2 Tbsp. ground coriander

1 Tbsp. coarse kosher salt

11/2

1 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

16 (1-inch thick) lamb loin chops

Fresh mint sprigs

For mint-mango sauce

Blend all ingredients in processor until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Season with salt. Cover and chill. Can be made one day ahead.

For lamb chops

Prepare barbecue to medium-high heat. Whisk first eight ingredients in small bowl. Mix oil and garlic in another bowl. Brush chops on both sides with oil mixture, then press chops into spice mixture to coat both sides. Grill chops to desired doneness, about four minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter. Garnish with mint sprigs. Serve warm or at room temperature with sauce.

Papaya Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/3 cup water

2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 tsp. hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)*

24 (6-inch) rice paper rounds*

24 large fresh basil leaves

48 large fresh mint leaves

11/2 large firm but ripe papayas, halved lengthwise then crosswise, seeded, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick strips

1 unpeeled English hothouse cucumber, cut 1/4-inch thick, 2 1/2-inch long strips

60 small fresh cilantro sprigs (you will garnish with the remainder of sprigs)

Whisk first five ingredients in bowl. Add more chili paste if you prefer sauce to be spicy.

Fill large bowl with warm water. Working in batches, soak 3 rice paper rounds in water until softened, about two minutes. Remove rounds from water and arrange in single layer on work surface. Place one basil leaf in center of each round. Place two mint leaves atop each basil leaf. Place two papaya strips, then two cucumber strips atop mint. Arrange two cilantro sprigs atop cucumber. Fold one edge of each round over filling. Fold in ends. Roll up rice paper rounds tightly, enclosing filling. Transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining rice paper rounds. Cover with moist paper towel, then plastic wrap; chill. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled.) Serve rolls with peanut sauce.

*Available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets.

Green Bean and RADICCHIO SALAD WITH ROASTED BEETS AND BALSAMIC RED ONIONS

1 large red onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

1/4 cup plus 6 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 bay leaf

6 large beets (about 21/2 pounds)

1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. water

11/2 pounds slender green beans, trimmed, cut in half crosswise

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme

1 large head of radicchio or 1 large head butter lettuce

Salt to taste

Place onion, 1/4 cup vinegar, and bay leaf in large jar or medium bowl. Add just enough water to cover. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be prepared three days ahead.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place large piece of foil on baking sheet. Place beets in center of foil. Drizzle beets with 1 Tbsp. oil and 2 Tbsp. water. Top with another piece of foil; crimp edges to seal tightly. Roast beets until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water to cool. Drain and pat dry.

Whisk remaining 6 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, shallots, and thyme in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Peel and cut beets into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange large radicchio or lettuce leaves over very large platter to cover (reserve small leaves for another use). Drain red onions; scatter over radicchio. Arrange beans over onions. Arrange beet slices decoratively over beans. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Carrot Salad With Olives and Orange

3 pounds carrots, peeled, cut diagonally 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. grated orange peel

1 Tbsp. ground coriander

Drizzle of honey

1 cup drained chopped pitted brine-cured green olives

1 cup chopped green onions

Orange slices

Fresh Italian parsley sprigs

Cook carrots in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well.

Whisk oil, lemon juice, orange peel, and coriander in large bowl to blend. Add hot carrots and toss to coat. Cool, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with honey, if desired. Stir in olives and green onions. This dressing needs to be refrigerated for at least three hours or can be made ahead.

Stir salad to redistribute dressing. Garnish edges of platter with orange slices and parsley. Mound carrots in center.

Myra's Pavlova With Fruit

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. white vinegar

1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch (corn flour)

Topping

1 cup heavy whipping cream

11/2

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Fresh fruit: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, blueberries, or other fruit of your choice

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You are going to mound the whipped egg whites on the parchment paper and bake. You can draw a 5-inch circle on the paper to make it easier to gage the size. Be sure to turn the paper over so that the pencil lines are not coming in contact with the egg whites.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with gently fold in with a spatula. Spread the meringue on parchment paper in a circle with a well in the center. You will place the whipped cream and fruit in here right before serving.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallow.)

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a plate. Whip the cream in a mixer with a whisk attachment and sweeten with sugar and a dash of vanilla. Mound the pavlova with soft whip cream and then arrange fruit on top. Garnish with mint. Serve immediately.

By Myra Starkey

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.

- Pablo Picasso

Our house should be a reflection of us. The colors on the walls in my house are beiges and pale yellows. These are calming colors, but I think we decided to paint the walls in neutrals because these hues match everything. Our house is more than 150 years old and has wooden floors, which have been scuffed by many years of running feet and roller skates. Later, when the boys learned to skateboard, they practiced inside when I was not around. The floors around my kitchen table have dents in the wood from the kids tilting their chairs back on two legs, despite my warnings of the danger of doing so. Our house bears these wounds proudly, and they only endear this structure to me.

Taylor is the decorator for our family. He gained this title long ago when he developed an eye for antiques and color. He has a knack for putting different items together to make a room livable yet interesting. We have collected items over the last 25 years from more antique shops and second-hand stores than I can begin to count. If one were to come in and look around, the scheme would be called eclectic, which is short for a lot of different stuff.

Last weekend, Taylor and I went to Rockport with our old friends, Doug and Laura, from Shiner. Our main, planned activity was the Rockport Tour of Homes. It is fun to look at houses and see how other people live and how they decorate. There were six houses and one yacht on the tour. We were particularly interested in this incredible mansion that had been built this past year on Fulton Beach Road overlooking Aransas Bay. It lies beyond an ornate iron gate in a walled enclave.

On Saturday, with tickets in hand, we headed for our first stop at a new mansion on the bay. Beyond the gate is a beautiful winding path through oak trees bent by the ever present coastal winds. We entered though a massive front door into a room with a 20 foot marble fireplace hand carved in Italy. The ceilings in the downstairs of the house were 25 feet tall. The main room looked out over the bay. Below was a tiled pool surrounded by four large classical marble statues of women representing the four seasons. The inside was filled with beautiful chandeliers and incredible African wooden carvings. The house lacked for nothing and had one of the largest kitchens and 10 burner stoves I have ever seen.

Our next stop was a small house in Key Allegro, which was right on the bay. Looking out the large picture windows, one could see nothing but waves and water. This house was decorated with pale green and blues like the color of the sky and ocean. Decorative tiles in the kitchen continued the same theme as we gazed toward the dining room table set for imaginary guests.

The next house on our tour was my all-time favorite, and I have been on a lot of home tours. Color was the scheme, and I have never seen such a wonderful use of the spectrum. This Cape Cod-style house was in Harbor Oaks, which is a canal community. The front columns of this green house had bases made of sea shells, starfish and river rocks. This was just a hint of what was to come. We entered into a large room that had several sitting areas with bright orange slip covered sofas and red coral tapestry chairs. The fireplace mantel was made with the same river rocks and shells as the column bases. Some walls were painted bright orange, others purple or turquoise, and still others vivid yellow. It immediately brightened my spirits. Even the laundry room was filled with color and sketches of clowns. Everywhere I looked, there was color and lots of brilliant art.

The backyard had decks overlooking the canal with comfortable wicker couches filled with bright floral pillows. I wanted to just sit down and ask for a lemonade and spend my afternoon relaxing. We walked back into the main house and toured the kitchen, which had a massive island, and I imagined hungry grandchildren lined up with their plates to be served. The bedroom had handmade quilts of red and white.

The home had been recently completed, and the result was a feast for the eyes. I cannot imagine getting up every morning amidst such a wash of brightness and not greeting the day with a smile. Right now, I feel like painting my walls, starting with turquoise and ending with sunflower yellow. I just have to get my decorator to go along with the plan.

Last week, my friend, Janet, had supper club at her house, and she created an Easter feast. She prepared several of the dishes and gave recipes to the rest of the group. There was a multitude of colors and flavors on the plate; spring rolls with papaya, lamb chops with green mint sauce, carrots with orange and olives and another dish of red beets with green beans. I prepared individual Pavlova's for dessert topped with fruit and cream. Everyone agreed that the meal was both delicious and colorful. Here's a menu to celebrate the amazing world of color in food.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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