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

 

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Egg and Chick Peas

Yes, I know it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s also hot in Tunisia, from where this recipe gets its inspiration. Shakshuka is a traditional Tunisian breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for me, I’ll take anything spicy for the sake of spice, regardless of temperature and geography – especially when it’s screams comfort food like this. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, kale and chickpeas (why hold back?) and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce and yolk. For a complete meal, spoon prepared couscous into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and and egg into the center of the couscous. All you need as an accompaniment is green salad, chilled wine – and a fan.

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste
1 small bunch tuscan or green curly kale, tough stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan, but do not rinse out the skillet.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return the sausages to the pan and add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and salt. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add the harissa or hot sauce to taste.
3. Simmer the ragout, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the kale and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
4. Make an indentation or well in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl and gently slide the egg into the indentation. Repeat with the remaining eggs, taking care to not overlap the eggs. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat. Serve family style or spoon the ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

 

Pearl Couscous Salad

Pearl Couscous Salad

If you haven’t met pearl couscous yet, then it’s high time you did. Despite its name, pearl couscous differs from the finely-grained North African semolina couscous, typically served with tagines. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is made of baked wheat instead of semolina, and its granules are much larger in size, similar to fregola sarda. It retains it’s shape while cooking, and, before simmering in liquid to soften, it should be sauteed in olive oil which imparts a lovely golden hue and toasted flavor. It’s delicious simply tossed with olive oil and lemon, or as a component of a chopped salad. Serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish, or dress it up with chopped vegetables and herbs from the garden and sprinkle with feta for a vegetarian option.  Continue reading Pearl Couscous Salad

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

~ Quinoa Tabbouleh ~

I love a good tabbouleh. For the uninitiated, tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad chockablock full of grains tumbled together with fresh herbs and diced vegetables coated with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s infinitely satisfying – hearty and fresh at once. It’s also agreeably flexible, allowing for a variety of ingredients, including the choice of grain. Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur or couscous, but quinoa is a tasty and gluten-free alternative. I like to serve tabbouleh as a side to grilled meat and fish, or as a light vegetarian meal accompanied by pita bread and hummus.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa is a South American grain, originating in the Andes. It is complete in protein, rich in phosphorous, magnesium and iron, with a nutty flavor. Quinoa is a healthy alternative to rice, couscous and bulgur – and it’s gluten-free. When cooking quinoa, be sure to cook it long enough for the germ or tiny tail to release from the grain. Serves 4.

1 cup quinoa (I used a combination of white and red quinoa)
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded, membranes removed, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red jalapeno or serrano chile pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch cilantro (or parsley), chopped

Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed and the germ, or tail, is released from the quinoa, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients except for the mint and cilantro. Toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 4 hours to allow flavors to develop. Before serving, stir in the mint and cilantro.

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad

~ Fattoush Salad ~

I don’t know about you, but I think I ate a month’s worth of meat over the weekend. With July 4th falling nicely on a Monday, it meant a 3 day weekend was entirely devoted to barbecues. Our house, friends’ houses, the beach: all locations involved a fire and platters of smoked and grilled ribs, steak, chicken, salmon. Now it’s time for a little break.  To begin this short week, I will invoke a brief barbecue time-out. Dinner tonight will be light, fresh and vegetarian – a Fattoush salad.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern garden salad with pita bread. Day old pita is toasted, crumbled and tossed with greens in a vinaigrette, adding texture and substance to the salad, while the dressing softens the bread. Extra Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, feta, mint and sumac (a dried Middle Eastern spice with tart lemony notes) make this salad special and addictively good.  When the weather is warm, this is a perfect easy meal and a nice break from the grill – at least for a day.

~
Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
2 large pita breads
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arugula leaves
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, leaves torn in pieces
1 small bunch Italian parlsey leaves
1 small bunch  fresh cilantro leaves
1 small bunch  fresh mint leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Mix all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, together in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified.

Prepare salad:
Preheat oven broiler. Brush pita bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Cut each pita circle in 6 triangles.  Toast in oven, turning once, until crisp and light golden. Remove from heat and cool.  Break into pieces.
Toss the pita pieces with the arugula, romaine, parsley, cilantro and mint in a large bowl. Scatter the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta over the salad. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to combine. Add additional vinaigrette to taste and toss again.  Serve garnished with extra feta.