With only a few weeks of the new season under our belts, it’s time to start planning for ways to use all those wonderful spring ingredients and preparing lighter meals. Irish Echo

Who doesn’t love April? Spring break. Spring fever. Spring produce. With only a few weeks of the new season under our belts, it’s time to start planning for ways to use all those wonderful spring ingredients and preparing lighter meals that make us believe it really is here! These recipes, from my new cookbook “Favorite Flavors of Ireland,” should help to kick off the season.

Lamb Cutlets with Fresh Herb Dressing

Serves 4

Lamb cutlets, chops, or steaks are perfect for spring grilling, but cooking them in a griddle pan or under the broiler works equally well. The kick in this flavorful dish is the lovely herb dressing that can be drizzled over boiled new potatoes, peas, green beans, or asparagus. For a slightly sweeter dressing for the lamb, try the Apricot-Tarragon Sauce that follows.

Lamb

12 lamb cutlets or loin lamb chops
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dressing

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To prepare the lamb, place the cutlets or chops in a shallow dish. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the mixture over the lamb and marinate at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, turning once.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Light a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Grill lamb for 3 minutes on each side (for rare), and up to 8 minutes for well done.

To serve, arrange the cutlets on a plate and drizzle with the dressing. Add sautéed cherry tomatoes, if desired.

Variation

Lamb Cutlets with Apricot-Tarragon Sauce: In a large bowl, combine 1 cup chopped dried apricots, 2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth, and 2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon. Marinate for 3-4 hours. Stir in 1 tbsp. honey, 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process for about 1 minute, or until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through. Light a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Combine 2 tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. hot curry paste, and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over both sides of 12 lamb cutlets and season again with salt and pepper. Grill lamb as above. To serve, arrange the cutlets on a plate and drizzle with the sauce.

Spring Greens with Shaved Dubliner, New Potatoes, and Walnuts

Image: iStock

Image: iStock

Serves 4

Irish-made cheese is nothing short of superb. No matter what variety you choose, it’s always an excellent addition to a simple salad and never overpowers the other ingredients. Try this fresh spring salad with shaved Dubliner and top it with toasted walnuts and one of these assertive vinaigrette dressings.

Sherry Vinaigrette

2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Walnut Vinaigrette

1/4 cup walnut oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup rapeseed or olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad

1 (10 oz) bag mixed greens
8 salad variety potatoes, such as Yukon gold, steamed, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted (see Note)
Shaved Dubliner to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the vinaigrettes, in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until smooth. Set aside.

To compose the salads, divide the greens and potatoes among four salad plates. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the walnuts. Shave the cheese on top and season with pepper.

Note: To toast walnuts, preheat the oven to 350° F. Spread the walnuts out on a baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes (shake the pan once or twice), or until browned.

Garden Greens with Cheese Fritters

Image: iStock

Image: iStock

Serves 4

This recipe can be made with goat’s cheese or a combination of Blarney Castle and Dubliner cheese. A real bonus is that you can make the fritters well ahead of serving time; in fact, the longer they have to firm, the better! Serve them with one of the vinaigrette dressings above.

Fritters

3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup grated Blarney Castle cheese
1 cup grated Dubliner cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper
Flour for dredging
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Seasoned breadcrumbs for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying

Salad

1 (10 oz) bag mixed greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the fritters, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and milk and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and Blarney cheese. Continue to whisk until the cheese melts.

Remove from the heat, add the Dubliner cheese, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and whisk until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or until firm.

Scoop out the mixture one tbsp. at a time, and with floured hands, shape into eight balls. Dredge each in flour, then egg wash, and then breadcrumbs. Return to refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

In a deep fryer or skillet, heat the oil. Cook the fritters for about 4 minutes, gently turning each with two spoons to brown evenly. With a slotted spoon, remove the fritters and transfer to paper towels to drain.

To compose the salad, toss the greens with the vinaigrette and divide among four salad plates. Place two fritters on each and sprinkle the dried cranberries over the greens. Top with a few grinds of black pepper.

Margaret M. Johnson’s “Favorite Flavors of Ireland” is a “labor of love and tribute to her thirty years of travel there. It offers more than 100 best-loved recipes from her previous ten cookbooks and celebrates the special flavors of each Irish season: Spring/An t-Earrach, Summer/An Samhradh, Autumn/An Fómhar, Winter/An Geimhreadh.” To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com.

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This article originally appeared in the Irish Echo. You can read more from them here