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Thursday, 06 April 2017 09:44

Symbolism and food mark religious holidays

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A roasted rack of lamb served with maple-glazed delicata squash, Brussels sprouts and pears will make an impressive Easter dinner. A roasted rack of lamb served with maple-glazed delicata squash, Brussels sprouts and pears will make an impressive Easter dinner. AmericanLamb.com

Easter is next week and Passover begins at sundown tomorrow — both are important, intertwined religious observances with accompanying food traditions. In the Christian religions, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection occurred after he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew). The Jewish festival commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Easter eggs are meant to represent Jesus emerging from his tomb. The egg also is a symbolic food on the seder plate, which is the centerpiece of the Jewish celebration of Passover. They represent a sacrifice once offered at the holy temple.

The seder plate

Other items on the seder plate are:

• Matzah or matzo, unleavened bread, is the quintessential Passover food.

• Karpas, a leafy green such as a sprig of parsley, representing the Israelites’ initial flourishing in Egypt.

• Maror, or bitter herb, often horseradish, represents the bitterness they experienced.

• Charoset, representing the mortar the Israelite slaves used when laying the Pharaoh’s building projects. Also spelled Haroset, this is a blend of apples, walnuts, wine and cinnamon.

• A shank bone, representing the sacrifice made the night before the Exodus, is traditionally a lamb bone.

Lamb also is a popular meat served on Easter.

Herbed butterflied leg of lamb

— Recipe compliments of Steve and Darlene Pinnow of WisconsinLamb.com

Makes 8 servings.

1 (5-6 lb.) butterflied leg of lamb

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup onion, grated

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. diced thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Place lamb in shallow dish. Combine remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly and pour over lamb. Refrigerate and marinate for at least one hour, but preferably overnight. Remove lamb and reserve marinade. Place lamb on barbecue rack 4 inches from heat source.

Baste often with marinade. Grill until lamb registers 140 F for rare or 150-155 F for medium.

Roasted rack of lamb

— Recipe compliments of AmericanLamb.com

6 garlic cloves

3 Tbsps. fresh rosemary leaves

2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil

1 rack of American lamb, frenched (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegetables

1 medium (about 1 lb.) delicata squash

12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (keep any loose leaves)

2 red Anjou or Bartlett pears, halved, stemmed and cored, and each cut into 8 wedges

2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsps. maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 handfuls fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 475 F.

For the lamb: Finely chop the garlic, rosemary and olive oil until the garlic is a paste and the rosemary is a mix of finely chopped and larger leaves. Season the lamb rack on both sides with salt and pepper, then rub with the garlic-rosemary mixture. Set aside at room temperature for about one hour.

For the vegetables: Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut it into 1/2-inch thick, moon-shaped slices. Pile the squash, Brussels sprouts and pears in the center of a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup and sprinkle with a few big pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Toss to coat evenly, and spread the mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet. Place the lamb, meaty side up, in the center of the pan, covering some of the vegetables and pears.

Roast in the upper third of the oven until the vegetables are tender and the internal temperature of the lamb reaches about 120 F, 25 to 30 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and position the sheet pan so that the top of the lamb is about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until the lamb and vegetables are nicely browned on top, three to five minutes.

Transfer the rack to a carving board, tent it with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Loosen the pears and vegetables from the baking pan with a spatula, scraping up any browned bits from the pan, and toss them together with the parsley. Transfer to a warmed serving platter.

Carve the rack between the rib bones and transfer to the platter, nestling it over the vegetables and pears. Serve immediately with Syrah wine.

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