Dinner Party to Welcome Spring


Bryce Canyon, Utah

On Sunday’s journey back from Utah (an impromptu trip utilizing a free AMEX companion plane ticket), while poring over photographs taken hiking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, I lamented that I forget to take my wide-angle lens.


Better gear up when hiking The Narrows at Zion.

Still. I could never capture Ansel Adam‘s American West no matter how many strings of cameras I roped around my neck.

I suspect you may have similar experiences when traveling; put that camera phone to good use and lighten the load.

Aside from Thai Sapa, a restaurant in Springdale (the gateway to Zion) that served the most amazing fusion Asian, this was no culinary adventure–I doubt backpack sandwiches and cut-up veggies are your thing.

And now I’m sitting in my kitchen, in the throes of  re-entry blues, poring over recipes that I can carve into a dinner party this weekend.

Spring is loaded with celebrations; celebrations mean food. This past weekend Ann Arbor was inundated with graduation parties. Next weekend is Mother’s Day; Richard and I are spending it in Chicago with daughter Greta and her partner, Tom.


Flank Steak Success: Cook over high heat and serve medium rare to rare.

We’re hosting a dinner party for a close friend Saturday night and I’ve been perusing the site for inspiration. We want to grill, closing the doors on winter, and we want to utilize the wild leeks Greta recently picked.

A Spring Green Risotto , to utilize the leeks, paired with Balsamic Flank Steak (recipe follows) that we’ll throw on the grill, and we’re in business.


A pic I took of Greta on the telly.

For dessert Greta is making a Creme Brûlée, using a blow torch from her workshop to caramelize the top. On Mother’s Day we’ll all be watching her put the blow torch to its intended use on Discovery Channels, Epic Bar Builds that airs Sundays at 3:00 (EST).

   Love and Blessings To Mothers Across the Land!


Balsamic Flank Steak


  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon crushed dry)
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds flank steak
  1. Whisk together garlic, vinegar, oil and rosemary. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. Place the steak in a large resealable plastic bag or nonreactive dish. Pour 1/2 marinade over meat and marinate 2-16 hours refrigerated, turning occasionally. Refrigerate remaining half of the marinade; you will use this to later season asparagus and potatoes.
  3. Remove meat from marinade, pat dry and season both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If time permits, allow steak to stand 1 hour at room temperature. Prepare grill to high heat.
  4. Grill the steak 4-6 minutes (depending on the thickness of steak and heat of grill) on each side for medium-rare; flank steak toughens the longer it is cooked.
  5. Allow the meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing. Slice the meat thinly across the grain at a sharp angle and serve.

Marinate Time: 2-16 hours

Active Time: 10 minutes

Grill Time: 8-12 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Where there’s smoke, there’s challenge.


Think of the challenges in life you’ve faced. Some circumstantial–a restructuring, say, of your job to incorporate skills you’ve never acquired, and never had the desire of acquiring because it’s not your modus operandi. In my case (a typical situation), a superior at work once set me up for failure inserting complex spreadsheet analysis into an otherwise demanding schedule. A challenge, no doubt. Walking out that last day, tail tucked between  legs, the door bashed my spirit on the way out.

And then there are the invited challenges. Resolutions that might, if accomplished, improve your health: avoiding excess sugars, or training and then finishing your first triathlon–challenging yourself to beef your financial situation by acquiring a particular degree or skill set. Or taking on a challenge that might improve your character, your community, hell, maybe you’re that breed of person that takes on a challenge to better the planet.

There are the daily challenges and the life-long. One, for me, has been affording the time to write a novel, indeed, many novels. But that degree in English morphed into a degree in communications.  Ain’t no money tree in my back yard. My first job was as a copywriter in Manhattan for a Public Relations firm. But the itch still itched and I kept scratching.

My first attempt was a book with the working title, “On Heretics and Snails”. But after opening my store, The Back Alley Gourmet, the book never made its way out of the card file. After selling the business, and working odd jobs here and there, I landed contract work writing a weekly food by-line for the Ann Arbor News that morphed into MLive. Loved that job; great fodder for the feeder. Getting close.

I conceived the story, Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice, five years ago after a visit to my family in Alabama. Upon my return to Ann Arbor, I wrote that first, all-important sentence, which is, perhaps, the only sentence that hasn’t altered through years of re-writes. Yesterday I finished my final proof; I’ll be birthin’ a real book soon, Miss Scarlet.

IMG_6000In the meantime, there’s a more immediate challenge: to clear counters of tax-related BS so I can cook. Eating a lot of Tricked-out Ramen these days.

Here a recipe for Caldo Verde, a delicious Portuguese kale and potato soup that I appreciate making during tax season. It doesn’t require much counter space and uses inexpensive ingredients. Alas, it’s time to shore up your money as the tax man’s a comin’, palms outstretched, breathing down your neck.

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup)

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup)


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Turks & Caicos Ceviche! (using fresh conch, scallops or shrimp)


Harvesting conch from the sea.

Lake Michigan, my heart belongs to you. But a trial separation is essential to my well being. You’ve been naughty of late, frozen over in fact, so I’m seeing the Caribbean. When your temperature rises, and not in keeping with that of the North Pole, we can mend our ways.

Yes. It’s cold outside. Yes. I’m fortunate to have escaped; luckier still to have enjoyed a boating trip that explored the islands of Turks and Caicos while we savored the fruits from her seas. Here’s the resulting sea-to-table recipe for conch salad, simply prepared on the boat within minutes of them harvesting the grass beds in shallow waters of the turquoise sea.


Conch shells freshly pulled from the grasses.

You may not have ever tasted conch, but I’m sure you’ve seen the shell; the size of a grapefruit with horned spikes and a pearlescent pink interior. The animal that resides within the confines of this palace is actually a snail, with a meat that is eaten raw in salads, also enjoyed cooked in fritters, chowders and burgers. All parts of the conch meat are edible, but most prefer the white meat that resembles a chicken breast fillet. The dark meat is edible, but often reserved to use as bait or fillers.


Extracting the conch from the shell.

Unless you’re living in southern Florida, South America or the Caribbean, fresh conch is hard to find. But if you’re living in Ann Arbor, you may sometimes purchase fresh conch meat from Monahans Seafood in Kerrytown. I also located a source in Chaleston where you may have it shipped to your home.

Bay scallops, sliced sea scallops or shrimp are excellent substitutes for the conch in the following recipe.

There are as many variations on ceviche as the countries who enjoy it. Fresh ginger is often added to the marinade,  varieties of corn are added in Peruvian recipes–sweet potatoes in Equadorian.

IMG_5684Inject some warmth into a chilly wintry evening. A mojito or margarita would double the fun. Crank up some calypso and  inject a bit of sunshine into your life.

Better yet; table some vacation time for late next November; the 13th annual conch festival will again be held in Turks and Caicos.

       Recipe: Ceviche (using fresh conch, scallops or shrimp)


  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Juice from 2 oranges
  • 1 pound fresh, uncooked cracked conch, scallops or shrimp*
  • 3 scallions, light green and white parts only, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, diced
  • 1 large ripe red tomato, diced
  • 1 habernero or Scotch bonner pepper (optional)**
  • 1/3 cup washed, shopped cilantro or parsley
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Plaintain or corn chips, as needed

*Dice conch; use bay scallops whole or cut in half; slice sea scallops; cut shrimp into 1/3 -inch pieces. Purchase seafood from a trusted sea monger; it must be absolutely fresh or use frozen and thawed.

**These peppers are delicious, traditionally used in ceviche, but may be too hot for a Western palate. Use at your discretion. To handle, wear plastic gloves, cut in half lengthwise, then remove seeds and membranes. The seeds and membranes could burn your skin if you’re not careful.


  • Combine juices and divide in half.
  • Add conch, shrimp or scallops to juices and let sit at room temperature 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in scallions, peppers, remaining juices, cilantro or parsley. Refrigerate and marinate 4 hours or up to 24 hours, refrigerated.
  • Stir in tomato just before serving. Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and hot sauce, if desired. Serve with plantain chips, or best-quality tortilla chips.

Yield: 4 servings

Active Time: 20 minutes

Marinate Time: 4-24 hours

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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