Tag Archives: lamb

Lambs + Clams: A new contest and a recipe for Moroccan Spiced Lamb

I was delighted to be asked by the folks at The Charleston Wine and Food Festival to participate in a food blog event and contest called Lambs + Clams.  This event will promote the annual festival while celebrating the purveyors and farmers who supply their products to the Charleston region. Four monthly recipe contests will be held in the lead up to the festival which opens February 28, 2013. Each contest will spotlight either lamb, clams or oysters supplied by Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters, both of whom provide their quality products to top chefs and restaurants all over the Eastern seaboard.

I am flattered and honored to be selected to compete with 7 talented food bloggers (listed below) from around the country in this event. By now you should know I love a good challenge, so I did not hesitate to accept. Let the games begin!

This month the contest kicks off with a challenge to create a recipe for a leg of lamb from Border Springs Farm. You can imagine how excited I was to receive my lamb – the anticipation felt like Christmas. It arrived in a BIG box, and I eagerly unpacked a gorgeous, glistening boneless leg of lamb weighing in at 5.4 pounds. Christmas came early this year.

I love to travel, and when I am not traveling, I bring my bucket list of destinations home to my kitchen for cooking inspiration. With that motivation, I decided to create a lamb recipe fragrant with the heat and spice of northern Africa and made a thick fiery marinade heady with Mediterranean spices, garlic, lemon and mint. One deep whiff made my fingers and toes tingle and transported me to Morocco, the sands of the sahara and an aromatic souk. It was all I could do to keep from slurping it up with a spoon.

I smeared and massaged the lamb with the marinade – yes, that’s right: massaging helps to work the spices into the meat. I could also just say “work the marinade into the meat with your fingers” but massage sounds so much nicer. Then came the hardest part – waiting. The longer the wait, the better. The lamb should marinate overnight, or even for 2 days if you can stand it. (When time is truly an issue, 8 hours will do, but overnight is best).

Once you’ve mastered the waiting part, the recipe is very easy to prepare, and the results are outstanding, yielding a succulent, exotically aromatic leg of lamb with a subtle kick of heat. To serve the lamb, I roasted an assortment of late summer vegetables (chinese eggplant, sweet peppers, onions and zucchini) with olive oil, garlic and salt and scattered them around the meat. There was plenty to share, so a few friends joined us as well,  and we all enjoyed this wonderful pre-Christmas gift of lamb.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Lemon, Mint and Yogurt

Ground cumin and coriander may be substituted for the seeds, however the flavor is best if you toast and grind your own seeds. Serves 6 to 8.

Marinade:
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs (or Italian parsley)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon Sriracha or harissa
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-4 pound boned leg of lamb, butterflied

Yogurt Sauce:
1 1/2 cups Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the marinade: Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle and grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add remaining marinade ingredients and whisk to blend. Make small incisions in the fat and meat of the lamb. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, massaging it into the meat and folds with your fingers. Place lamb in a rimmed baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

One hour before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. If grilling, prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the lamb for 10 minutes over direct heat to sear, skin-side down, turning once. Move to indirect heat and grill, covered, turning once or twice, until medium-rare (a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part will read 130 F), 20 to 30 minutes. If roasting, place lamb in a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 425 F. oven, skin-side up, for about 30 minutes for medium-rare, turning once. Finish under a broiler, skin side up, for a few minutes to brown meat. Allow lamb to rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil, before carving.

To make the yogurt sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Arrange the lamb on a serving platter. If you roasted vegetables, scatter them around the lamb. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with the yogurt sauce.

 

Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey

~ Moroccan Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey ~

It’s the time of year when I have an urge to travel. Call it cabin fever, restlessness, or simply the craving to be somewhere different, where it’s warm, spicy and balmy. The sights, smells and sounds of new cultures are revitalizing. Time slows down, and the smallest details are observed and savored  amidst a kaleidescope of impressions. It just so happens that this is also the time of year when my urge to travel collides with real life. It’s the middle of the school year, I have work deadlines, and the contents of my piggy bank were spent at Christmas. So I improvise, and my travels occur in the kitchen, where I replace my passport with the jars in my spice drawer and concoct recipes inspired by the exotic flavors, heat and aromas of far flung destinations.

This lamb stew takes inspiration from a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine and Mrouzia, a rich celebratory stew prepared in the days following  Eid Al Kebir  – or the Festival of Sacrifice. It’s meant to be sweet, enhanced with dried fruit and honey, but I have scaled the sweetness back to my taste while adding tomato paste and carrots for more freshness.  The spice list is lengthy, but attainable. It’s a compilation of spices similar to those found in Ras El Hanout, a spice blend that is a staple in North African cuisine.

Lamb Tagine with Raisins and Honey
Serves 4

1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt
2 pounds lamb leg or shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut in 1 inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger with juice
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 carrots, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

Combine all of the dried spices and 1 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Toss the lamb with 2 tablespoons olive oil in another bowl. Add the spices to the lamb; mix to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot with a lid. Add lamb in one layer in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Add onion, garlic and ginger to the same pot. Saute until fragrant and onion begins to soften, 2 minutes. Return lamb with any collected juices to the pot. Add chicken stock, tomato paste and 1 teaspoon salt. Add more stock, if necessary, to cover the lamb.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is very tender, about 2 hours.
When lamb is tender, add carrots and raisins. Simmer, uncovered, until sauce reduces and thickens to a thick stew consistency and the carrots are tender, about 30  minutes.  Stir in honey. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm, spooned over couscous.

Homemade Merguez

For this month’s Charcutepalooza event, we were challenged  to make our own bulk sausage, either as breakfast sausage, merguez or chorizo. This one had my full attention. If it’s possible to express sentiment over a sausage, then the merguez would be considered my first true love in the charcuterie department.

I first ate merguez when I lived in Paris.  They were unlike any sausage I ever tasted. Finger-thin, lean in fat and fiery red hot, these North African sausages were the wizened angry little men of sausages – taut, feisty and not to be underestimated. They were easily found in the myriad couscous restaurants sprinkled throughout the city, from street vendors and specialty markets. Eaten alone, with couscous, or in a bun with frites and sauce – merguez were the essence of Morocco. Fragrant with cumin, coriander and sumac, dry and hot like the desert heat, and fiery red with harissa – one bite and you were transported.

Since then, and following moves further north in Europe and to the U.S., those merguez have become a food memory, frequently reminisced at the dinner table and used as a point of comparison (without success) when encountering other sausages calling themselves merguez. So far, nothing I have eaten replicates the North African merguez I tasted in France.

So, this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was particularly exciting. Why not try to make my own merguez? While I had no illusion of immediately recreating my distant memory of perfection, I would use the bulk sausage challenge as an opportunity to tinker with flavor, spice and heat before any fussing with stuffing the casings. I would form simple patties which I would stuff in pita bread. While the patties may be the lazy oafish cousin to the taut, skinny merguez sausage, the hope was that the taste would be undeniably related.

Merguez Bulk Sausage

I followed the technique for making bulk sausage from Charcuterie and formed the meat into small patties, or keftas. As for the spices, I concocted a heady mix of harissa, coriander, cumin, fennel and sumac. If needed, I planned to add lamb fat rather than pork fat, since the merguez I ate in France were Halaal. This proved unnecessary, however, since lamb shoulder provided enough fat for my taste.

1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground lamb shoulder
Olive oil

Toast fennel, coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle or spice grinder, and grind until fine. Combine in a bowl with all of the remaining ingredients except the lamb. Stir to form a paste. Add lamb and thoroughly mix together with your hands. Form into 1 1/2 inch patties. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add patties, without overcrowding, in batches. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and keep warm. Repeat with remaining patties.
Serve with pita bread, harissa sauce, Greek style yogurt and fresh mint leaves.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

Crushed dried porcini mushrooms tossed together with finely chopped rosemary create an umami-rich crust for meat. This is a method I often use with beef. Then a good friend told me about a similar recipe she loves with lamb. So I had to try – especially since spring is the season for lamb.

I used a food processor to blitz the mushrooms before continuing to chop them by hand with the rosemary, resulting in a coarser rub. A spice grinder will create a finer crust.

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

This recipe is also delicious prepared on the grill. Makes 8.

8 lamb loin chops, each about 1 inch thick
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely ground dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and the garlic in a bowl and smear all over the lamb. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Thirty minutes before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator. Combine the mushrooms and rosemary in a small bowl. Coat both sides of the lamb with the rub and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the lamb to the pan without overcrowding. Cook until brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to oven. Bake until cooked to your desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before serving

 

Moroccan Lamb Stew and a recipe for Ras el Hanout

Still fixated on warming stews, I recently prepared this lamb stew which not only has heat but the heady aroma of exotic spice. Its secret ingredient is ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend which may include upwards of 50 spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, clove, turmeric and cayenne. The name, translated, means head of the shop, meaning the best on offer. Like many spice blends, there is no one way to make it, and variations exist from home to home, merchant to merchant.

At first, I made a version of this stew without the addition of ras el hanout, and it was very good. When I added ras el hanout to the recipe, the stew was excellent. You can find ras el hanout in the spice section of your supermarket or specialty stores. If you cannot locate it, then I encourage you to try to make your own version – it’s easy to do.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs

The lamb is coated and marinated in a spice paste. As the meat browns in the pot, the spices will also brown and cook, adding a rich flavor and color to the stew.

Serves 6-8.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe below)
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.
Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.  Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. (Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, about 2 hours.
Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot. (May be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven.)
Serve with prepared couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

Ras El Hanout
adapted from The Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos

Be sure to use very fresh spices, or grind the whole dried spices.

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
(Recipe may be halved.)

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.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Lemon Mint Salsa Verde and Flageolets

Lamb Chops

You say spring and I say lemons. I also say lamb – and mint. Put all of that together, and you might end up with this lamb dish. It’s a bright and assertive variation on a classic combination of ingredients, with the added kick from the salsa. I like to serve this dish with flageolets, another traditional complement to lamb. The flageolets offer a homey, mellow palate that gently offsets the lamb and the piquant salsa verde.


Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Lemon Mint Salsa Verde and Flageolets

This recipe is quick and easy to prepare – perfect for a weeknight dinner. Serves 4.

8 lamb loin chops
4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
3 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
3 anchovy filets, rinsed and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Flageolet beans – optional (recipe below)

Arrange lamb in one layer in a deep dish or pan. Coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle on all sides with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature while you prepare the Salsa Verde.
Combine mint, parsley, green onions, anchovies, garlic, capers, lemon zest and crushed red pepper in a bowl. Gently toss to blend well.
Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a small bowl. Pour over the salsa. Toss to combine.
Heat a cast-iron grill pan or a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add lamb in one layer. Brown on both sides, turning once, about 6 minutes for medium rare. Remove from pan.
If serving with flageolet beans, spoon beans into center of plate. Arrange lamb over beans. Top with Lemon Mint Salsa Verde.

For the flageolets:
2 cups flageolet beans, picked over and rinsed
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
1 onion, peeled, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, cut in large chunks
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Place the beans in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; boil one minute. Turn off heat. Cover and let beans sit at room temperature for one hour. Drain and rinse.
Place drained beans, garlic, onion, carrot, thyme and bay leaf in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, 1-2 hours, depending on age of beans. Remove from heat. Stir in one teaspoon salt. Let beans cool in liquid. (Beans can be prepared one day in advance. Refrigerate in cooking liquid.)

To serve, drain beans, reserving liquid. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add beans and cook, stirring to coat until beans are heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup reserved liquid and heat over medium-low heat. Before serving, stir in chopped parsley.

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.

Lamb Kefta and Vegetable Couscous

Lamb Couscous

This recipe is inspired by the flavors of Morocco. Ground spiced lamb patties are oven-grilled, then added to a rich stew of winter vegetables infused with cinnamon, cumin and coriander. Served on a bed of couscous, this warming dish is heady with exotic flavors and spice – perfect for a winter dinner.

Lamb Kefta and Vegetable Couscous

While this recipe has several steps, it is easy to prepare. The lamb keftas may be assembled in advance and broiled at the end while the stew is simmering. Feel free to improvise with the vegetables for the stew. Pumpkin is a nice substitute for rutabaga, and cauliflower is interchangeable with broccoli romanesco, as pictured above. Be sure to serve the couscous with lots of the sauce from the stew. Serves 4-6.

For the Lamb Keftas:
1 1/2 lbs. (750 g.) ground lamb
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for brushing
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

Prepare:
Combine lamb and all other ingredients except cilantro leaves in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix to combine well. Stir in cilantro leaves. Form 2″ patties. (Keftas may be prepared to this point up to 6 hours in advance. Place on plate and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before broiling.) Place keftas on lightly oiled broiler pan with tray. Lightly brush lamb with olive oil. Broil in oven until dark golden brown, turning once.

For the vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut in 1/4″ slices
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, cut in 1″ pieces
1 small head cauliflower or broccoli romanesco, broken in 1″ florets
1 red pepper, cut in 1/2″ pieces
2 teaspoons dried cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups chicken stock
1 – 14 oz. (400 g.) can plum tomatoes with juices
1  – 15 oz.(425 g.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups Swiss chard leaves, rinsed, chopped in 2″-3″ pieces

For the couscous:
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish
Harissa

Prepare:
Heat olive oil in deep sauté pan or stock pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté one minute. Add carrots, rutabaga, cauliflower and red pepper. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, coriander and cinnamon and stir to combine with vegetables. Add chicken stock and tomatoes with juices. Simmer until vegetables are tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Stir in chick peas and Swiss chard. Cover pot and simmer until chard is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes.

While stew is simmering, prepare couscous. Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, olive oil and salt. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

To serve, spoon coucous onto large serving platter or individual serving plates, leaving a well in the center. Pour stew into the center, reserving some of the broth. Place Lamb keftas over stew. Pour extra broth over lamb and vegetables. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve with Harissa on the side.

Lemons and Lamb

Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere – or so the calendar says, for those who seem to be experiencing extended winter weather this season. Here is a favorite menu I like to serve for friends and family, that uses some of the wonderful fresh produce appearing in the markets and gives an excuse to dust off the barbeque from its winter sleep.

Thursday Asparagus

Asparagus with Lemon and Olive Oil:

A simple and elegant way to serve either green or white asparagus.  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough outer skin away from the white asparagus. Serves 6.

2 pounds asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Steam asparagus or cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender.
Drain; transfer to a large serving dish.  Cut lemon in half.  Squeeze juice from one half lemon over.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt.
Cut remaining lemon half in slices and arrange over asparagus as garnish.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic:

Ask your butcher to bone and butterfly the lamb. Serves 6 – 8

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 5-6 lb. (3 kg.) leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

Place lamb in a wide bowl or dish.  Combine olive oil, mustard and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over lamb and distribute evenly with hands. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Allow to sit and marinate at room temperature for one hour.  (Can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before grilling.)
Prepare barbeque. Grill lamb, turning, until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of meat registers 130 F. for medium-rare, about 25 minutes.  Alternatively, roast in a pre-heated 425 F. oven approx. 30 minutes. Transfer meat to cutting board, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest 10 minutes.
Cut lamb in slices and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Steamed New Potatoes with Italian Parsley:
Fresh, fast and deliciously simple – it doesn’t get easier than this.

3 pounds new potatoes, washed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed

Steam the new potatoes until tender. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (or toss with butter, if you prefer.) Sprinkle with sea salt.
Toss with parsley and serve.

Lemon Cheesecake

Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberries
An easy version of a timeless classic.  Prepare this cake one day before serving.

Serves 10 – 12

For the crust:
8 ounces graham crackers or digestive biscuits, in pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
20 oz. (1 1/4 lb.) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz. (1/2 lb.) Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 tblsp. fresh lemon juice

For the strawberries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap a 9 inch springform with foil.
Combine graham crackers and brown sugar in bowl of food processor and finely grind.  Add butter and blend using on/off turns until crumbs are moist.  Press crumbs onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of springform pan.  Chill while preparing filling.

Make filling:
In a bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add Mascarpone cheese; beat until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each.  Mix in lemon zest and juice.

Pour filling into crust.  Bake until cake is puffed at edges and center moves slightly when shaken, about one hour.  Transfer to rack and cool completely.  Cover and chill overnight.

Make strawberries:
In a bowl toss strawberries with sugar and lemon juice.  Allow to sit one hour before serving.  (Can be prepared 3 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.  Serve at room temperature.)

To serve cake, run knife around sides of pan to loosen.  Release pan sides.  Place cake on plate and cut in slices.  Serve with strawberries.