A TASTE of SPRING

recipes + photography SANDY GARSON

Saffron Green Bean Frittata

This is my go-to potluck, party and brunch recipe because the saffron makes it elegant; the surprise tarragon, tasty. Everybody seems to love it—even kids, because green beans are a known vegetable.

I get nine squares, cutting three lines both ways. Recipe can be doubled to fill a 9- x 12-inch baking pan for a crowd. Covered in foil, it will keep in the fridge a few days and also serve as lunch box food. Frittatas are believed to have been originally created for working men to carry into the fields where they took their lunch break.

Makes 9 squares

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs or fine cornmeal, divided
1 pound green beans, cleaned and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons milk or water
Pinch of saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
¼–½ teaspoon Aleppo chili pepper (depending on if you want to taste it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 8-inch square baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs across the bottom.

Cook cut beans in boiling salted water until tender, 8–10 minutes. Drain.

Melt remaining butter in a skillet and over medium-low heat; sauté onions until soft and translucent.

In medium bowl with pour spout, beat eggs with milk. Whisk in saffron with its water, nutmeg, tarragon, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in green beans and onions and thoroughly blend. Pour everything into buttered pan and level the top. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and paprika.

Bake at 350º for 25 minutes, or until eggs are firm. Cool at least
5 minutes before cutting.

Lamb Shanks with Prunes

Cinnamon-spiced lamb slow-cooked in saffron and garnished with honey-plumped prunes.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks, approximately the same size
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 large onion, diced
2 cups beef or bone broth, vegetable broth or water
Large pinch of saffron or ¼ teaspoon ground saffron threads
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cilantro sprigs (more optionally for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon, peel only, cut lengthwise into wide strips
1⅓ cups pitted prunes, whole
3 tablespoons honey  
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In a large heavy-lidded pot or casserole, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Raise heat and add lamb shanks. Sprinkle with cumin and brown shanks on all sides. (Reduce heat to medium if pot starts to smoke.) Remove shanks and add onion. On medium heat, sauté to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add broth/water, saffron, ginger, cinnamon sticks and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Return shanks to pot. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover pot, reduce heat to simmer, cook 1 hour. Add lemon peel and continue to simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Add prunes and honey. Cover pan; cook 30 minutes. The lamb should now be almost falling off the shanks.

Place shanks on a serving platter. Arrange prunes and sauce over them. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, or strew chopped cilantro leaves around.

Lamb with Fresh Dates

This is the recipe everybody asks for after they taste it.

Serves 8–10

3 pounds cubed lamb
Salt and pepper
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon paprika
2½ teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings (about 2 cups)
Pinch saffron
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons dried ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne (¼ if you like hotter)
½ cup chopped fresh dates plus 24  whole Medjool dates (with pits)
½ cup raisins (preferably golden) soaked in hot water with 1 teaspoon   rose water
Optional: ½ cup pomegranate arils
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Combine garlic, fresh ginger, paprika and cumin in small bowl, then rub it all over lamb. Let lamb sit at room temperature at least an hour or wrap it and refrigerate overnight. Return to room temperature to continue.

In Dutch oven or large lidded casserole, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saffron and generous amount of salt. Sauté until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking another minute. Add lamb and sauté until meat and onions are lightly browned.

Heat oven to 400ºF. To pot, add cinnamon sticks, dried ginger, chopped dates and enough water to just cover. Bring to a simmer, cover pot tightly and put in oven. Bake at 400º for ½ hour, then reduce heat to 350º. Check liquid and add water if it has fallen below meat. Continue to bake another hour until the meat is almost falling apart.

Remove from oven and skim off any obvious surface fat. Add whole dates, stir, cover pot and put it on a burner with medium/low heat. Cook 5–8 minutes, until dates are plump. Remove from heat.

To serve, pour into a large bowl, top with drained raisins, optional arils and cilantro. The sauce should be very thick.

Serve with couscous, freekeh or bulgur.

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