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Ideas for Spring Dinners

A plate of Sweet Jesus oysters grown in Chesapeake Bay by Hollywood Oyster Co. in Hollywood, Md.
Katy Adams
Courtesy Clyde's Restaurant Group
A plate of Sweet Jesus oysters grown in Chesapeake Bay by Hollywood Oyster Co. in Hollywood, Md.

Shopping at the market these days is pure delight. Many of our favorite foods are making their initial appearances, and we come home with market baskets sagging with all manner of good things to eat. Chef Jerry Pellegrino would say that Springtime is downright inspirational for the home cook.

Let's take advantage of what's around. It's mid-April and Maryland oysters are still available, so let's try this. Get about a dozen and a half oysters and scrub them clean. Place the oyster in a Pyrex pie dish and place the dish on a trivet in a

large pot. Pour water into the pot; just enough to come under the trivet. Bring

it to a boil over high heat and cover. In about 5 minutes the oysters will be steamed

and can be easily opened and shucked when cool. Meanwhile cook a pot of wild rice,

and a pound of baby spinach. Quickly sauté some chopped shallots and grate the zest of a lemon. Mix the rice with the cooked shallots and the spinach. Season the mixture. On a serving platter make a bed with the rice and spinach and place the shucked oysters on top. Sprinkle the lemon zest across the whole dish, and put a drop or two of red wine vinegar on each oyster.

To feature our Maryland asparagus is easy. Select twenty fat asparagus, clean and trim them. Get 10 slices of prosciutto ham (or thin sliced Smithfield ham if you can find it) and cut them in half lengthwise. Season the ham with a little salt and pepper, grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Wrap each spear of asparagus in the ham, working diagonally as you roll them up. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place the baking sheet under a high broiler and broil for about 5 minutes. Drizzle a little lemon juice over them and serve.

Onions are abundant right now, and it's good time to make creamed onions. Simply take a large onion and peel it, then cut it into big chunks. Blanch these in hot water until just tender. Meanwhile cut up about a dozen Brussels sprouts and steam them until fork tender. Whisk up a quick béchamel sauce with melted butter, flour, cream, and grated cheese. While everything is still hot, mix it all together and serve.

Super easy.

And of course lamb is very much in season now. I like cooking with lamb cubes because they are easy to work with and much less expensive than lamb chops.

You can make a delicious lamb stew with the lamb cubes, sautéed onions and garlic, tomatoes, and assorted spices. After the stew is assembled in the pot and has made a flavorful sauce, you add cut up new potatoes and carrots and let them cook w hile longer. Serve alongside your creamed onions for a succulent Springtime meal.

Spring Lamb Stew

3 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tbs minced garlic

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

assorted spices

1 1/2 lb. cubed lamb

14 oz. can or crushed tomatoes, with juice

1 tsp tomato paste

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

corn starch for thickening

Salt and pepper to taste

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut coarsely

3 small potatoes, cut into eighths

1 tbs balsamic vinegar


1. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add in the onions and stir until translucent.

Add the garlic and stir, keeping the garlic from burning.

2. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce and stir thoroughly. Cook for about 3 minutes.

3. Add 1 tsp paprika; 1 tsp ground coriander; 1/2 tsp black pepper; 1 tsp thyme;

1 tsp cumin; 1/2 tsp ground clove; 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper; and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the cubed lamb to the dish, and cook until the lamb has turned color, turning the cubes as necessary.

5. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Add 1 tsp of tomato paste and stir into the stew. Cook for 5 minutes.

6. Pour in chicken broth, give everything a good stir, cover and cook for 35 minutes

7. Use corn starch and the broth to make a slurry, then add back into the stew to thicken it. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

8. Add cut up carrots and potatoes and balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook for a final 20 minutes. Serve and garnish with parsley.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.