Archive for the ‘lamb’ Category


my love affair with middle eastern food continues… kefta is a classic middle eastern dish of spiced lamb and beef [or just lamb or beef], and is found in countries all over the middle east. variations occur in north africa, the mediterranean, central europe, asia, and india. kefta can be prepared as burgers and cooked with olive oil in a pan, or it can be patted onto skewers and grilled. i made burgers, since although it would have been great to pat the ground meat mixture onto skewers, it would have been difficult to photograph alone. i mixed my own seven spice blend from whole spices which i roasted then ground, it made a huge difference in the depth of flavor. often kefta is served in pita bread as a sandwich with a yogurt sauce and tomatoes; we had it as small burgers with a cucumber yogurt dressing and sliced tomatoes.


the seven spices in this blend are allspice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, fenugreek, ginger, and nutmeg [this is different than chinese 5- spice]. to make the spice blend, combine equal amounts of the whole spices [allspice, cloves, black pepper, and fenugreek] into a pan and put on medium-low heat to toast. i used 2 heaping tablespoons of each. the fenugreek is smaller and heavier by volume and will sink to the bottom. it also burns quickly, so watch it closely and stir constantly. when it starts to get hot it will smoke a bit; remove from the heat immediately and pour spices into another bowl that is not hot and stir to cool the spices. put the spices into a spice grinder; a small, dedicated coffee grinder is perfect. grind spices until they are very fine. put back into the bowl and add the ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg [2 T each]. mix well and put into an airtight container. keep in a cool dark place.


to make the kefta, combine one pound each ground lamb and 90% lean ground sirloin. you can use varying amounts of lamb and beef, some use 1/3 lb lamb to 1 lb. beef. i like more lamb. add 3 T finely chopped parsley, one very finely minced *very small* yellow onion [or 1/2 normally small onion], 2 finely minced cloves of garlic, 1 t of the 7- spice blend, 1/2 t sumac, 1/4 t ground nutmeg, 1/2 t sea salt, and ground pepper to taste. mix well with your hands. you can refrigerate the meat at this point if you are not ready to cook.

when you are ready to cook, shape the meat mixture into oblong burgers. if you want to grill on skewers, a traditional preparation, take each oblong burger and squeeze it around a wood or metal skewer. squeeze the meat at the bottom, moving it little by little up the skewer until it is evenly distributed in a long cigar shape. i stole the photo below from another blog.

pan- fry in some olive oil or grill the kefta until medium. i like it medium- rare, but it is traditionally cooked more to medium.

i served the kefta with sliced tomatoes, and a cucumber yogurt condiment [below].

combine 1 cup of plain yogurt with 1/4 cup sour cream [i used low fat]. you can use just the yogurt, but the sour cream adds a little depth and richness and mellows the sour taste of the yogurt. add about 5″ of an english cucumber, diced, zest from 1/2 a lemon [wash it], 1 T of lemon juice [about 1/4 lemon], chopped parsley or cilantro, 1/4 t sea salt and freshly ground pepper.


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rosemary rack of lamb

this is a pretty traditional way of preparing a rack of lamb. it’s easy and really impressive; perfect for having guests over. i made this for my mom on the last night of my visit to tucson.

a rack of lamb is usually 7 to 8 ribs. each rib is cut apart to make a single chop, although you could cut two at a time for a thicker chop. one rack will serve two people.

you want to trim some of the fat from the rack. don’t trim all of it, you want a little left on. you do want to get as much of the silver skin off as possible. the silver skin is a sheath on the muscle that is fibrous and tough; it’s not as bothersome on larger cuts of meat, but when the width of the muscle gets smaller, as in the loin, you want to trim as much as you can. if it’s difficult to trim without losing a lot of meat, at least take your knife and score it in places. as the meat cooks, the silver skin will contract and pull the rack into a curve, and it will cook unevenly.

peel about a half of a head of garlic. in a food processor, put the garlic, a couple large sprigs of rosemary with the leaves stripped of it’s stem, a large hand-full of italian flat leaf parsley, a small hand- full of raw almonds [optional], sea salt and pepper to taste, a couple tablespoons of mustard and honey, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.

puree until the ingredients are well- incorporated and emulsified. slather the mixture on all sides of the lamb, and allow the lamb to sit about an hour.

to cook the rack of lamb, i used a gas grill. you could use a charcoal grill, but you want to make sure you have sufficient heat. you can also use a very hot oven; as hot as you can stand it. if you have a good exhaust fan, you can roast it at 500 degrees. if you don’t, try about 425.

the best way to tell when the rack is done is to feel it with your fingers or tongs. when you initially put the meat on the grill, it will feel floppy. as the meat cooks, the outside will become firm, but the inside will still feel soft. take your index finger and push it into the fleshy part of your palm [on the same hand] under your thumb; this is how your meat should feel. take it off the heat and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. the meat will finish cooking, and the juices will be reabsorbed into the meat. if you cut it right away the juices will spill out and be lost. after 5 minutes, take a sharp knife and cut each chop off, inserting the tip firmly in-between each rib.

whenever you are cooking meat, pay close attention to how the meat feels by touch in relation to how it’s cooked when you serve it, and how you like it. i have found this technique to be better than testing for temperature. first, you may not always have a thermometer on hand. second, as the outside of the meat caramelizes the meat will cook progressively faster. if you go by temperature your meat will overcook by the time it is done resting. you can try and figure out how to time it, but each piece of meat is a different size, shape, and thickness; it’s easier to just learn how your meat should feel for the way you like it. as your finger pressed against your palm under your thumb feels the way a piece of ‘rare’ meat will feel, your middle finger pressed against the same spot will feel like ‘medium’, and the ring finger as ‘well- done’. i can’t even get my pinky to push into the same spot, which obviously means your meat should never be that well- cooked.

i like this with wilted spinach with garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar; or cold friseé with a vinaigrette. this is great with a light red wine, pinot noir or a beaujolais nouveau.

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i made this for my 40th birthday. i had a few friends over for a small get together.
my friend michelle always makes an amazing birthday cake, and this year was no exception; chestnut cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. i don’t bake a lot, but michelle does. she turns out many stellar cakes, year after year from
The Cake Bible.


the lamb stew is a variation on a stew i have done before with ethiopian spices.
the berbere spices are such a great mixture for any stew or chile, and other ingredients
can be added to it to give it more dimension. this recipe will serve about ten people.

trim and cube [about 1″ cubes] a medium- sized leg of lamb. dredge in flour and brown. brown them a few at a time, not allowing them to touch. scoot cubes over to the side of the pan and add more until they are all browned. add two large yellow onions, diced.

after the onion has softened a bit, add about 1/4 cup of the berbere spices. if you do not have access to a blend, you can make your own from ground chile [ancho works well], coriander, fenugreek, a little cumin and cardamom. in addition to the berbere spices add 1 T dried mustard, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 T unsweetened cocoa, ground pepper and
1 t salt. add 6-8 cloves of peeled garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 small can of tomato paste, 2 cans of fire- roasted chopped tomatoes, and 1 cup dry red wine. fill the pot with water until the lamb is covered. put the pot, with a lid, in a 325 degree oven for about 3 hours. taste and season if necessary. you should not need much salt, the spices are intense enough.


i love gnocchi, but had never attempted to make it fearing complete failure. i’ve had amazing gnocchi, and i’ve had horrible gnocchi, it seems like something that could so easily go wrong. so i did my homework. many recipes use eggs, but traditionally there is no egg; it’s used as a binder and supposedly makes it easier to make. i made mine without and it was easy. adding egg can make it tough. i originally wanted to make sweet potato gnocchi, but sweet potatoes are so wet that i thought it might not have the texture i wanted. this recipe is kind of a an adaptation of a few recipes and techniques i read about, and it turned out great.

bake 3 large russet potatoes, and one medium sweet potato. allow to cool completely, then peel off the dark skin with a knife. there will be kind of a tough outer layer of potato left, leave it on and remove the pieces left at the end, it will help you grate the potato without it totally falling apart. the sweet potato will just come right out of it’s skin; just do your best pushing it through the grater. grate the potatoes with the coarse side of a grater.

after the potatoes are grated, add 1/2 lb grated grano pedano cheese, 28 oz whole milk ricotta, 1 1/2 t salt, 3 1/3 cups flour [all purpose is fine], ground white pepper, and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. mix with a large fork until the ingredients are combined. try to be gentle, the dough will form large chunks in the bowl.

pour the dough out and knead it briefly until it forms a solid mass. this took about 30 seconds. handling the dough too much develops the gluten and will make the gnocchi tough.

take a bench scraper or a knife and cut off a chunk. form it into a sausage shape, then roll out into a rope. many people roll into a small, 1/2″ size rope, which is fine, but i wanted mine bigger. once they have butter and grated cheese on them, i didn’t want them to be too rich. cut each rope with the bench scraper into 3/4″-1″ lengths. arrange on a cookie sheet or somewhere to rest. we made layers on the cookie sheet separated with plastic wrap. parchment or a cloth would work just as well i think, but this being my first attempt, i wanted to make sure they did not stick to stuff.

boil the gnocchi in salted water in batches. make sure they do not initially stick to the bottom. they will float to the top after a minute or so and puff up a bit. treat them gently. if you are making smaller gnocchi, poach for about 3-4 minutes; for larger, about 5 minutes. don’t let them overcook, they will fall apart. drain with a large slotted spoon, and transfer to a baking dish that has been greased lightly with melted butter. you will need two large dishes, this makes a lot of gnocchi. once they are closely arranged on the dish, brush with butter, sprinkle with 1/2 pound of grano padano cheese [split between dishes], and drizzle in a little cream, about 1/3 cup all together. put under the broiler on high until it is bubbling and brown. congratulations… you just made gnocchi, easy.

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i love ethiopian food, especially when seasoned with the traditional berber spices. berber is a blend of spices that differs village to village and even family to family, but it is traditionally a blend of cumin, cardamom, allspice, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, ginger root, turmeric, salt, paprika and cinnamon. in cleaning out my spice drawer i came upon a small tub of it and thought it would use it to make a stew of my leftover lamb from christmas dinner. i am lucky enough to have an ethiopian grocery store in portland. if you are not as fortunate,
try buying it online, it’s worth it.

keep in mind when reading this recipe, that the lamb was well seasoned prior to being reincarnated into stew.

there was probably about two pounds of lamb remaining from the roasted lamb dinner… brown cubed lamb in a medium sized, oven- proof [with lid] pot in about 2 T canola oil. when well caramelized, add one large, chopped onion and continue to stir until the onion just starts to cook. add 2-3 T of the berber spices and cook another couple of minutes. add a large can of diced tomatoes and stir, then fill pot with water or stock until the lamb is well covered.

add a can of cannallini beans [rinsed and drained], 1/2 can tomato paste, 1/3 cup brown sugar [this makes it pretty sweet, start off with less if you like], 1 t dried mustard, salt and pepper to taste, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 cup of bourbon. yes, bourbon. of course it would be even better with beans and tomatoes you cook yourself. make sure the liquid covers the stew, add more if needed.

bake, with lid, for about 2 hours in a 350 degree, preheated oven. serve on rice or lentils if you want. raw or wilted winter greens make a great side.

my blood orange and pomegranate salad would be a fresh, sweet contrast.

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roasted lamb

it’s christmas day, 2010. i am not used to cooking without my father on the holidays,
i miss him so much. everything i do today, i do with him in mind. i light a candle in the kitchen…

i am making a boneless leg of lamb roast, baked baby onions, mashed potatoes, sauteed greens, and gourgéres a la tartine bakery, san francisco. for dessert i am serving the pear- almond tart [see previous post] and alice water’s flourless chocolate cake [substituted ground coffee beans for almonds for my allergic friend, alissa].

trim the boneless leg of lamb of most [not all of] of the fat. roughly chop about 6 cloves of garlic. add 1-2 T of coarse, smoked salt and continue to chop. i like to chop garlic with salt; it keeps the garlic from sticking to the knife as much, and really marries the flavors. i used alder wood smoked salt.

cut the zest from an orange, avoiding the orange pithy part. chop fine, add to salt and garlic, and continue to chop everything together. quarter the orange and squeeze over the lamb as you continue to prepare the salt rub mixture. i imagine that the orange juice puckers up the meat and allows the herb and spice molecules to better penetrate the meat, but i’m sure that’s not the case. anyway, keep chopping… rub the salt mixture all over the lamb, then liberally drizzle with olive oil. don’t rub it around, just let it be.

allow lamb to rest for a couple of hours. roll and tie the roast into a ‘roast’ shape;
try and make the thickness consistent from end to end. then put roast in a 440 degree, preheated oven for 25 minutes. turn down the temperature to 325 and roast until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the roast hits about 135- 140. it will continue to cook a bit after removing it from the oven. let sit 15-20 minutes before serving. i had inserted a bogus oven- proof thermometer and nearly overcooked it. you should have a thermometer you trust as much as your boyfriend. more than your boyfriend.

i served the lamb with a mint sauce that was 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, boiled [simple syrup], with 1/2 t sea salt, 1/4 c honey and 4 T chopped fresh mint. boil the sugar and water, then add the rest of the ingredients when you take it off the heat.

[see next post for onions]

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