My Big Fat Greek Dinner: Grilled Spiced Lamb Kefta Skewers

My Big Fat Greek Dinner: Grilled Spiced Lamb Kefta Skewers


Greek Plate

Labor Day is fast approaching and what better way to close out the summer than with a Greek inspired grill party? These Spiced Lamb Kefta Skewers are perfect for the barbeque. Their spice and heat stand up well to the char from the grill, especially when accompanied by a fiery Harissa and a creamy Tsatsiki as condiments. Round out the menu with a Fattoush Salad and Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Mint. By the end of the meal your tastebuds will be singing, and your guests will be begging for more. What else could you ask for? Oh, yes – a nice wine and perhaps a little Ouzo.

Grilled Spiced Lamb Kefta Skewers
Makes 16

16 (8 inch) bamboo skewers

2 pounds ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Exta-virgin olive oil for brushing
Pita bread

Pre-soak bamboo skewers in warm water 30 minutes before assembling kebabs.
Combine the lamb, herbs and spices in a bowl; mix well. Gather a small handful of the meat in your hand and form it lengthwise around a skewer so that the meat is covering 2/3 of the skewer. Place on plate or tray. Repeat with remaining meat and skewers. Lightly brush the kebabs with olive oil.  (Kebabs may be prepared to this point up to 6 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.)
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Grill directly over heat, turning to brown on all sides, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Serve with pita bread, tsatsiki and harissa.

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce

Lamb Mint Feta

Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, than at least in Greece. One of my favorite preparations of lamb is to simply butterfly a leg, smear it with olive oil, garlic and salt and roast it in the oven or on the grill. In this case, I have taken the simplicity of this recipe one sweeping step further to integrate feta, mint and blood orange. A mixture of feta, mint, garlic and blood orange zest is spread on the inside of the leg, which is then rolled up and seared before roasting in the oven. While the lamb finishes in the oven, a sweet-tart reduction is made with blood orange juice, red wine and balsamic vinegar. The final flourish is a garnish of fresh mint and blood orange zest, brightening the entire dish. The angels are singing.

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 garlic cloves; 1 cut in slivers, 2 minced
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar

Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata (see below)

Arrange lamb, fat-side down, on a work surface. Place a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment over lamb. Pound with a mallet or heavy skillet to flatten lamb in thickest parts. Remove parchment. Make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Insert garlic slivers in incisions. Rub lamb all over with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper all over lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine feta, mint, orange zest and minced garlic in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Place lamb on work surface, fat-side down. Spread feta over lamb, leaving a 1″ border all around. Roll up meat to enclose filling, tucking in ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1-2 ” intervals.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb, seam-side down. Sear on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to baking pan. Roast in oven until instant read thermometer reads 140 F, basting occasionally, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.

While lamb is roasting, deglaze skillet. Add red wine to pan, scraping up any bits from lamb. Reduce by half. Add blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Strain. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste.  Discard strings from lamb. Cut in 1″ slices. Scoop up any extra cheese that may have oozed into the pan, and spoon it over the lamb. Serve drizzled with balsamic blood orange sauce and garnished with Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata.

Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata

1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons blood orange zest
1 small garlic clove, minced

Toss the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with lamb.

My Big Fat Greek Dinner

My Big Fat Greek Dinner

When it’s hot outside, the food I crave is Greek. These Greek-inspired lamb kebabs are packed with herbs, spices and the heat of cayenne.  They are positively addictive and perfect for a party and easy entertaining.  Nearly everything can be prepared in advance, and a barbeque is required.  What more could you ask for?  Oh, yes: Good friends, great wine and perhaps a little Ouzo.

To complete the menu, serve these spicy, more-ish kebabs with smoky, Middle-Eastern harissa and creamy, garlicky tsatsiki.  Accompany with a greek salad brimming with garden fresh vegetables, feta cheese and kalamata olives and roasted potatoes. By the end of the meal your tastebuds will be singing, and your guests will be begging for more.

Greek Plate

Grilled Spiced Lamb Kebabs
Makes 16

16 small bamboo skewers

2 lbs./1 kg. ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne

Exta-virgin olive oil
Fresh mint or basil leaves
Pita bread
Tsatsiki
Harissa

Soak bamboo skewers in warm water 30 minutes before assembling kebabs.  Drain.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well.  Gather a small handful of the meat in your hand and form it lengthwise around a skewer so that the meat is covering 3/4 of the skewer.  Place on plate or tray.
Repeat with remaining meat and skewers.  Lightly brush the kebabs with olive oil.  (Kebabs can be prepared to this point up to 6 hours in advance.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.)
Grill on barbeque or in oven, turning to brown all sides, until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Arrange on plates or serving platter and garnish with fresh mint or basil leaves.  Serve with pita bread, tsatsiki and harissa.

Easy Entertaining: Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers

Easy Entertaining: Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers

It’s mid-April, Easter vacation, and when it rains it pours – luckily and figuratively – in the houseguest department.  Who needs to go away during a school vacation, when you live in the San Francisco Bay area?  There is no shortage of beaches and nature to explore, food and wine to taste, museums and city to walk, and it can’t get any better than with the streak of brilliant weather we have had this week.  Besides, if we don’t go away, then those who do go away, come to us.

We are reaching the end of a week of playing tourist in our own backyard, hiking Pacific coastal trails, tasting Napa wine, window shopping in Union Square, and having our senses titillated in Chinatown.  My brother and his family have come and gone and return again this evening after visiting Yosemite National Park for a 3 day excursion. While they were gone, the kids have had friends sleep over, and a good friend from our Geneva days came round for a dinner – she was in town for business and we had the chance to catch up after 10 years over good wine and food.  Next week when we are back to our usual routine I will rest.

As you might imagine, the kitchen chez nous has been busy and continually re-stocked.  And for last night’s dinner I prepared these lovely fish kabobs for easy, elegant entertaining.

Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers
Serves 6

For the marinade:
1/4 cup (60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 medium yellow onion, grated, with juices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 lbs. salmon fillet and halibut filet (thick pieces), cut in 1″ chunks
1 large red onion, cut in 1″ pieces
1 large red pepper, cut in 1″ pieces
1 large yellow pepper, cut in 1″ pieces

Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Soak 12 wooden skewers in hot water 30 minutes before using.

In a large bowl combine marinade ingredients.  Whisk together.  Add fish to marinade and toss gently to coat.  Refrigerate at least one hour and up to 4 hours.
Preheat grill or oven grill.
Remove skewers from water.  Thread 4-5 pieces of fish on each skewer, alternating with pepper and onion pieces.  Grill, turning, until fish is brown and just cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
Arrange on a platter, salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with parsley sprigs.