Spring ushers in a whole new season of culinary delights. When mouth-watering brews of roast lamb, flavored with rosemary and garlic, float through the kitchen, spring has arrived. A tasty lamb dinner can make a Sunday family gathering or an evening with friends even more special.

The lamb is a young sheep less than a year old. Spring lamb is the best. Adult sheep are mutton and have more fat and a stronger taste. The rack is the section of the ribs. With eight chops per rack, this is the most tender part of the lamb. For better presentation, a French rack gives a cleaner look, with the meat, fat and membranes that connect the ribs removed. Look for bright pink flesh, white fat, and tender, moist pink bones.

Have you ever cooked lamb? Roasting a rack is one of the simplest preparations. A French rack of all-natural, pasture-raised New Zealand lamb is available locally at Sam’s Club and Fresh Market. Quickly prepared and presented on a large platter, the lamb—crispy, golden and garlicky on the outside, tender and pink on the inside—is surrounded by seasonal spring vegetables. Whole carrots sprinkled with fresh dill, grilled Campari tomatoes and basil, asparagus cooked until just tender, and rosemary-roasted golden potatoes complete this gourmet ode to spring. Perfect with a lush, fruity Pinot Noir, this elegant yet easy starter can become a new tradition.

Celia Casey graduated from Paris Condon Bleu and teaches French cooking. She can be reached at 850525-6720.

Rack of lamb roasted with spring vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 French racks of lamb
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Dry the lamb well with paper towel. In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add mustard and olive oil and mix. Stir by hand to mix well. Coat the racks of lamb with the mixture, covering both sides well. Lightly oil the ends of the bones. Lamb can be covered and refrigerated for several hours. Let the meat rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roast 18 minutes for medium-rare, 20 minutes for medium. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil for 10 minutes.

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Carrots with dill

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 small whole carrots per person, peeled
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • chopped fresh dill

In a saucepan, cover the carrots with salted water and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with dill.

Tomatoes with Basil

Ingredients

  • cherry tomatoes (campari)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh pepper
  • fresh basil leaves

Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them in half. In a baking dish, coat them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil.

Asparagus with lemon zest

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 medium sized asparagus tips per person
  • lemon juice and zest

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the bottom ends of the asparagus. Take a handful and stack them with the tips down. Secure with elastic or kitchen cord. Cut the hard ends to even them out.

Place the bundles in a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil uncovered 3-4 minutes. Drain and detach. Season with lemon juice and zest.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5 small Yukon Gold potatoes per person, washed and dried
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • fresh rosemary leaves

In a baking dish, lightly rub the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and roast for another 10 minutes until golden brown.