One of my very favorite events during Teacher Appreciation week, is the luncheon. I absolutely love to organize it, and the parents at the school really make an incredible effort - we want to make our teachers feel special and appreciated by providing a spectacular spread that can be leisurely (that's the idea anyway) enjoyed! This year it was held at a beautiful historic home, nestled among peaceful, seemingly endless gardens - it was a beautiful, warm day, and the tables were set up out on the gorgeous porch. We settled upon a Mediterranean theme, and, as always, the parents were excited and able to provide many fabulous dishes.
LAMB MINT AND FETA MEATBALLS
1 slice of white bread
1/2 pound of ground lamb
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon grated feta cheese
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
Remove the bread crusts. Put the bread slices in a small bowl and add enough water to soak the bread through (about 1/4 cup). With your hands, squeeze the water out of the bread and tear it into small pieces into a medium bowl. Add the lamb, onion, egg, mint, cheese, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper to the bread and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (I was running behind, so mine were in the refrigerator for about an hour).
With the palms of your hands, roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Put the flour into a bowl, and dredge the meatballs through the flour, until well covered. Transfer to a baking sheet, shaking off excess flour.
Heat the oven to 400F.
Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until cooked all the way through (the recipe called for frying them - which I know would have been delicious - I was trying to be a little healthier).
Arrange the meatballs on a platter, sprinkle with mint and serve warm.
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking
CORNMEAL ROSEMARY CAKE WITH PINE NUTS AND ORANGE GLAZE
Note: this cake is apparently fabulous any time of day - I ate mine for breakfast the day after the luncheon, served with Greek Yogurt and fresh berries - divine!!
FOR THE CAKE
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
FOR THE ORANGE SYRUP
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar
FOR THE ORANGE GLAZE
1 tablespoon whole fresh rosemary leaves (stripped from the stem but not chopped)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
5 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
MAKE THE CAKE
Heat oven to 350F. Butter a 9X2 inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment, and butter the parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, pine nuts, rosemary, orange zest, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, briefly whisk the mascarpone to loosen it. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to combine. Add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the wet ingredients, mixing until smooth. Stir in the melted butter with the rubber spatula until blended.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly, and bake until the entire top of the cake is a rich golden brown and springs back when pressed gently in the center, 40 to 45 minutes. A skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out looking a bit moist, and the sides of the cake may have begun to pull away from the pan.
MAKE THE ORANGE SYRUP
While cake is baking, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Run a small knife around the cake. Set an inverted plate over the cake pan and tip upside down. The cake should slide right out onto the plate.
Peel off the parchment, and place the cake right side up on serving plate.
With a wooden skewer, poke a few dozen holes all over the top of the cake. While the cake is still warm, brush the cake with the warm orange syrup. Continue brushing for several minutes, giving the syrup time to sink into the cake, until you've used all the syrup. Let the cake cool completely.
MAKE THE ORANGE GLAZE
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Have ready a small bowl of ice water. Put the rosemary leaves in a small sieve and dip into the boiling water to blanch them for 1 minute. Drain the rosemary leaves and immediately set them (still in the sieve) into the ice water. Drain and spread the rosemary leaves on a paper towel to dry (personally I think you can skip this step - I don't think the rosemary leaves added anything to the cake). In a bowl, whisk the confectioners sugar, cream, and orange juice until smooth and then whisk in the blanched rosemary (if using) and the zest.
When the cake is cool, pour the glaze over the top of the cake. Let sit for an hour before cutting the cake, the glaze may or may not become firm, depending on the weather.
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking