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Blackbird Days

With the cold weather and predictions for snow the best place to be this week may be inside. At least that’s what they think about the end of January in Italy. In Northern Italy the last 3 days of January are called giorni della merla “Blackbird Days”. They are the coldest days of the year and according to an Italian legend the reason is due to the actions of a female blackbird, la merla, who thought she could outwit the god of January.

La merla collected food throughout December to avoid the cold weather of the first month of the year. On the last day of January, the 28th (at that time the month of January had 28 days), she ventured out to confront the god of January saying “I’m so smart and clever. Here it is the end of the month and I didn’t have to go outside and freeze my tail feathers off to collect food. I fooled you!” The god of January was not amused by the impertinence of la merla. He called out to the god of February and asked to borrow 3 days which he added to the end of the month. The pitiful la merla took refuge from the bitter cold in a chimney for the extra 3 days of January. When she flew out of the chimney into February her once beautiful white feathers were black from the soot and smoke, which they remain to this day.

Finish out the month with a winter-worthy spectacular leg of lamb madewith La Favorita Black Olive Crema.

Black Olive Crema Stuffed Leg of Lamb

3 to 4 pounds boneless leg of lamb 1/4 cup La Favorita Black Olive Crema 3 garlic cloves, sliced 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a roasting pan just large enough to hold the lamb. Place a rack in the pan. Unroll the lamb and spread the boned-out side with the crema. Roll up the lamb tightly. Tie it at 2-inch intervals with kitchen twine. With a small, sharp knife, cut slits 2 or 3 inches apart in the top of the roast. Push the garlic slices into the slits. Sprinkle the roast all over with the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast the lamb for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. To check for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. For medium-rare, the temperature should be 140 to 150°F. Cover loosely with foil and let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

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