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.

Leg of Lamb with Feta, Mint, and Blood Orange Sauce

Lamb Mint Feta

Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, then 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 and Pistachio Gremolata
Serves 6

2 1/2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, divided
XX ounces crumbled feta cheese, about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme 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
1 thyme sprig
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 thyme sprig

Pistachio-Mint Gremolata:
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
1/2 cup (packed) Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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 the flatten lamb in the thickest parts. The goal is to have as uniform a thickness as possible. Remove the parchment and make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Cut 2 garlic cloves in slivers and insert a sliver in each incision.

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, the cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Rub the oil mixture all over the lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before proceeding.)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the feta, mint, thyme, orange zest, 1 minced clove garlic, and the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl.

Place the lamb on a work surface, fat-side down. Spread the feta over the lamb, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2-inch border clear on all sides. Starting with a long side, roll the meat up to enclose the filling, tucking in the ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1 1/2 to 2-inch intervals.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, seam-side down. Sear until well marked on all sides, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a baking pan and roast in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 140 F, about 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, deglaze the skillet. Add the red wine to the pan, scraping up any bits from lamb, and reduce by half. Add the blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until slightly reduced, about XX minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste and strain (optional).

Combine the mint, parsley, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil, zest, salt, and pepper, and pulse to blend without forming a paste. The consistency should be finely chopped with a crumbly consistency.

Discard the strings from lamb. Cut in 3/4-inch thick slices. Serve on warm plates, drizzled with the balsamic blood orange sauce and sprinkled with the gremolata.

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, pre-soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Lamb kebabs:
2 pounds 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 cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing

Garnishes and accompaniments:
Fresh mint leaves
Pita bread
Tsatsiki
Harissa sauce

Combine all the kebab ingredients in a bowl and 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. (The skewers can be assembled up to 6 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.)

Grill the skewers over medium-high heat or broil in the oven turning to brown all sides and cooked through the centers, about 10 minutes. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve with pita bread, tsatsiki, and harissa sauce.

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.