Menu Ideas

Carla Lalli Music’s Dinner Menu Is Breezy, Elegant & Endlessly Adaptable

The 'That Sounds So Good' author specializes in recipes that let you use whatever you have on hand.

October 22, 2021

Carla Lalli Music is a cooking evangelist. In her new book That Sounds So Good, her mission is to help transform cooking from a chore to a treat. “Some people rollerblade, some foster puppies, some people live life through their travels, and some make music...But everything in my life comes back to food,” Lalli Music writes. The idea is to conjure up menus that aren’t just a way to get you through another mealtime, but something that leaves you feeling excited about dinner. Which made her the perfect person to reach out to for a menu for The Big Feast because when we looked at the cookbook, well, the title is a pretty good summation of everyone’s thoughts.

Not only do Lalli Music’s recipes sound good, she makes them simple to execute with what you have available or whatever food restrictions you’re working with. “Each [recipe] is designed to help remove any psychic and emotional barriers that get in the way of cooking at home,” she explains. “There are no desserts with meticulously arranged, color-coded fruit, and no subrecipes that send you hunting for ingredients at three different specialty stores.”

The three dishes on Carla’s menu are the kind that manage to be impressive without being fussy. Her Cumin-Fennel Lamb Shoulder, inspired by Uyghur lamb dishes, has a coating of crushed, tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns alongside the cumin and fennel to compliment the lamb’s sweetness. It’s also a dish that can be done totally on the grill or in the oven, perfect for months when it’s cozier inside, or a warm weekend with friends drinking a cold drink and chatting as the lamb cooks through, or roasted in the oven in months where it’s cozier inside. Lalli Music offers suggestions for spice swaps too. No Sichuan peppercorns? Use black pepper instead. Throw in a star anise, if you like, instead of the fennel seeds, or replace sesame seeds with caraway.

The Fried Farro with Grated Cauliflower and Shallots is an excellent accompaniment to the lamb or served all its own. Boiling and then frying the farro gives the nutty grain an excellent bite, making for a dish that Lalli Music describes as “somewhere between a stir-fry and a grain salad,” and “equally good hot, warm, or as leftovers the next day.”

Here, Lalli Music keeps dessert simple with Mocha Hazelnut Biscotti, dry and crisp and perfect for dunking into an after dinner tea, coffee or amaro. They’re also convenient for making ahead of time and serving when guests drop in, or for mailing during the holidays. They’re recipes that might inspire you to have a few people over, unprompted, or just make an excellent Sunday supper. But most importantly, they’re recipes that are fun to make with and for other people. “I hope these recipes bring you closer to the people in your life,” Lalli Music writes. And we do, too.

Which recipe from The Big Feast will you be incorporating into your menu? Let us know in the comments!

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Margaret Eby

Written by: Margaret Eby

Editorial Lead of Food, Food52