If your freezer is filled with last year’s rhubarb, now is the time to start baking it up before the fresh crop arrives in the garden. (Photo submitted)

If your freezer is filled with last year’s rhubarb, now is the time to start baking it up before the fresh crop arrives in the garden. (Photo submitted)

Spring into the season

Rack of lamb makes a nice change from ham for your Easter feast

  • Apr. 5, 2017 3:30 a.m.

Cathi Litzenberger/Morning Star Columnist

Now is the time to be preparing for spring and Easter…and that means taking a look into the depths of our freezers to see what fruits and vegetables are remaining from last year’s efforts. Best to use them up now before the fresh become available.

I’ve found rhubarb, peaches and asparagus that need to be used up. Rhubarb is the star of the spring season, with its tart and glorious taste and once the fresh crop arrives no one will want the frozen, so get baking!

Sour Cream Rhubarb Bars

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

1 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream

1-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, nuts, melted butter and cinnamon until crumbly and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the brown sugar, shortening and egg. Add flour, baking soda and salt to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Lastly, gently stir in the chopped rhubarb.

Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle with reserved topping. Grease and flour 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes. Cut in squares and serve warm or cool. Serves 18. Enjoy!

Note: Can be made with most any frozen fruit.

Rack of Lamb with Strawberry Mint Sauce

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons honey

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1/4 cup freshly sliced mint leaves

Lamb

1 (8-bone) rack of lamb, fully trimmed

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon finely minced green onions

1/4 cup fine plain bread crumbs

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place halved strawberries, zest from one lemon, juice from 2 lemons, water, honey, salt and cayenne pepper in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. As strawberries begin to release their liquid, soften, and start to break down, reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring and cooking occasionally until fruit is very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Line a shallow baking pan with foil, bringing ends up and over sides of the pan.

Generously season rack of lamb on both sides with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Place lamb on prepared pan. Roast rack of lamb in hot oven to sear, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Combine mustard and onions in a small bowl. Pour melted butter into bread crumbs in a separate bowl; stir until mixture resembles wet sand. Season with salt. Coat top of lamb generously with the mustard mixture. Sprinkle crumb mixture onto the mustard mixture and press down to create a crumb crust. Roast rack until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees F, about 15 minutes. Let rack rest 10 minutes before slicing between ribs into four 2-rib servings or two 4-rib servings. Mix thinly sliced mint into strawberry sauce just before serving. Spoon a small pool of the sauce onto serving plates. Place ribs on sauce to serve.

One 8-bone rack of lamb is enough for 2 large or 4 smaller portions.

For the sauce: do final seasoning after sauce has cooled. When tasting sauce, keep in mind it’s going to be used as a condiment, and not eaten plain, which means it needs to be very well-seasoned. This is why it’s better to taste on a cracker or piece of bread, instead of off the spoon. Other great additions to this sauce are things like balsamic vinegar, hot/sweet peppers, cracked black pepper, as well as other “sweet” herbs, like tarragon and basil.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.