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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2023, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loved every chapter.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the minuscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Lamb, on October 19th, 2013.


That’s a huge leg of lamb (8 1/2 pounds to be exact) we made for our Israeli dinner recently. The darkened patches are the spices that were used in the marinade. It’s oven baked. Since it’s not roasted on one of those unique vertical spits, it’s not an authentic Shawarma, but it’s close enough for government work, as they say. I suppose I should call it Shawarma for the home kitchen.

As I just mentioned a few days ago, my DH loves-loves lamb, and would happily eat it about once a week if I’d prepare it. But lamb is a very saturated fat – and I don’t just mean because it’s a red meat – I mean that lamb in and of itself is a very fatty meat, comparing it with beef or pork. It’s hard to realize it unless you read the nutrition info on lamb recipes, or even when you look at those cute little lamb chops in the grocery store, or at the slices of lamb cut from the above leg. Even when I cut up the meat from this meal later (as leftovers) I could hardly SEE any fat in it. But it’s there. Hence I buy leg of lamb very rarely. And not only because of the high fat, but also because I never seem to be very happy using up the leftovers. But oh, this time, I’ve got a winner of a recipe to share – in a day or two – a soup I made with the bones and lamb meat.

The recipe for this came from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The authors provide lots of details about the origins of the spice mixture ((Lebanese) and about ways to serve the lamb.schwarma_spices

Aren’t the colors beautiful? Seeing this plate reminds me of our trip some years ago to Turkey (in 1997). We visited an underground ancient city in Cappadocia that provided a safe haven for Christians when the Romans were trying to arrest and kill them all. The Christians lived and hid there for months, some for years. There was even a morgue that could be sealed up with a stone (because of the smell, I suppose) because no one could go above ground during that time. Considering this was about 2000 years ago, they had a very sophisticated ventilation system too, so they wouldn’t be found from any little twists of smoke emanating through the rocks hiding the entrance at ground level. In one of the subterranean rooms was a kitchen and a big stone sat right in the middle of this room – the top was flat with a myriad of little 2-4 inch round indentations.  It was their kitchen spice cabinet, so to speak. When the underground caverns were discovered centuries later, there were still remnants of the herbs and spices in the little cups. At left you can see an example of one (from tryanythingonce blog). Those cups would have held all of the spices you see on the plate above. At right is a photo from the underground caverns (from the The cavern we visited went down something like 8 stories below ground. It was an ever-winding spiral, down, down, down. Only the top 3 “floors” closest to the surface were open to the public and some of the connecting tunnels were very narrow and low. My DH, who is tall, got stuck in one of them as he bent over trying to move forward, and had to be pushed slightly from behind to get through the passage. Scary for him, as he gets claustrophobic. The picture here shows very wide and tall tunnels. Not so in the one we visited!

Anyway, back to this lamb. . . all those spices were toasted and ground up in my spice grinder. If you happen to look at the plate and wonder about the cinnamon – it’s from Penzey’s. They sell it in chunks like that – you can easily use a cinnamon stick – I just happened to have the chunks in my pantry. So the spices were combined with some peanut oil, salt, fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro and lemon juice. I spread it all over the outside of the lamb, puncturing numerous slits in the meat and pushing the mixture into them as well. Into a large plastic bag it went and refrigeratedlamb_shawarma_wet_rub

overnight. Most of the marinade stuck well to the lamb, so once it went into a baking pan (on a rack, my turkey roaster actually) it was easy to go right into the oven. The lamb was roasted at a low temp for about 5 hours (part of the time covered with foil). I allowed a little extra time because the lamb leg was bigger than the recipe indicated. The meat wasn’t falling off the bone, really, as some commenters mentioned on other sites where I found the recipe online, but it was quite tender.

shawarma_condimentsTraditionally this dish is served in either pita bread or some kind of soft foldable flatbread with condiments like chopped tomato, chopped cucumber, onions and definitely some sumac to sprinkle on top. I did the same.

We had fresh sangak bread on hand and I tore it up into hand-sized portions and placed the slices of lamb on the bread. The tray was passed at the table for people to add condiments of their choice. The recipe also mentioned a spread to put on the bread or pita – a mixture of canned tomatoes, harissa, tomato paste, olive oil, salt and pepper. So I spread some of that on each piece of sangak bread as it was served. The harissa added some heat – everyone noticed that. I liked it, actually. The only thing missing in my book was some fresh Greek yogurt to dab on the hand-sandwich. The recipe didn’t indicate it, so I didn’t put it out, but I think it would have been a nice addition.

What’s GOOD: loved the spices in this – warm and cozy. The lamb was not difficult, but was a bit time consuming and I needed to be near the oven periodically over the 5 hours to keep water in the pan below the meat (so it wouldn’t dry out). It made a gorgeous presentation. Meat was well done, obviously. Not dry, though and was still relatively tender. Made a very spectacular centerpiece of a meal.
What’s NOT: it’s a fair amount of work, as I mentioned above. If you have an Alligator 11-1/4-Inch Dicer with Collector, it’s quick work to make the condiments you see above. If you don’t own all the spices already, it could be a bit expensive to buy them all.

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Lamb Shawarma

Recipe By: From Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Ottolenghi & Tamimi
Serving Size: 8

2 teaspoons black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 whole star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 whole nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon sumac
2 1/2 teaspoons Maldon salt — or regular salt
1 ounce fresh ginger — grated
3 cloves garlic — crushed
2/3 cup cilantro — chopped stems and leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup peanut oil
5 1/2 pounds leg of lamb — bone-in (5.5 to 6.5)
1-2 cups of water added to the roasting pan to keep the lamb moist
2/3 cup chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup sliced onions
1 1/2 tablespoons sumac
Lemon wedges to squeeze over the sandwiches
2/3 cup canned tomatoes — drained, chopped
2 teaspoons harissa
4 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pita pockets or thin soft flatbread for serving

1. Put the first 8 ingredients in a cast-iron pan and dry-roast on medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the spices begin to pop and release their aromas. Take care not to burn them. Add the nutmeg, ginger, and paprika, toss for a few more seconds, just to heat them, then transfer to a spice grinder. Process the spices to a uniform powder. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in all the remaining ingredients, apart from the lamb.
2. Use a small sharp knife to score the leg of lamb in a few places, making 2/3-inch-deep slits through the fat and meat to allow the marinade to seep in. Place in a large roasting tin and rub the marinade all over the lamb; use your hands to massage the meat well. Cover the tin with foil and leave aside for at least a couple of hours or, preferably, chill overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the lamb in the oven with its fatty side facing up and roast for a total of about 41/2 hours, until the meat is completely tender. After 30 minutes of roasting add about a cup of boiling water to the pan and use this liquid to baste the meat every hour or so. Add more water, as needed, making sure there is always a little in the bottom of the pan. For the last 3 hours, cover the lamb with foil to prevent the spices from burning.
4. Once done, remove the lamb from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Per Serving: 756 Calories; 59g Fat (69.9% calories from fat); 46g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 170mg Cholesterol; 856mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, on October 13th, 2013.


The cooking class I went to recently was all about SAUCES. We had 4 sauces altogether: two on meats (pork tenderloin and this lamb), one on a chicken breast, another on salmon, plus a chocolate caramel sauce on a dessert. And none of them was ordinary. They all started from some basic sauce, but each had something unique or different about them. That’s why I took the class!

Do you ever eyeball those lovely lamb racks at Costco? Or the frozen ones at Trader Joe’s? They’re pricey, no question, but for a special occasion, I’ll splurge and get one. My DH really loves rack of lamb and I don’t fix it anywhere near often enough for him! Maybe twice a year. I think the ones from TJ’s already have a rub or herbs on them – you won’t want to buy that as this recipe has a light flavoring to put on it as well. But this recipe is all about the sauce.

Ancho chiles are a favorite of mine because they are mild. They impart lots of flavor, but not much heat. Now occasionally you may find one with some heat, but usually not. Anchos are dried poblano chiles, same thing. At left you can see the dried anchos (thanks to photo at Freida’s Produce). At right is a photo of a fresh poblano. We can buy them fresh at almost any grocery store here in California.

The lamb is rubbed with a mixture and allowed to sit out at room temp for about 45 minutes; otherwise, make it several hours ahead and just put it in the refrigerator until 30 minutes or so before you’re ready to bake. The lamb is browned well on as many sides as you can manage (they’re a bit awkward to brown, I admit), then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 15-20 minutes. They also need to rest for 5-8 minutes afterwards to let all the juices re-absorb before you cut them into little ribs and serve.

Meanwhile, you make the sauce. Have everything all ready to go – once you start the lamb browning and baking, you’ll want to be on a time line. Have your meal all ready (except plating) and do serve this with some kind of carb so you can soak up any errant sauce. You’ll want to get every bit of it! Anyway, the ancho chiles need to be soaked (do this ahead), then they’re whizzed up in the food processor with some of the soaking liquid. It makes a puree that gets added to the sauce later on.

The  usual flavor mixture starts with celery, carrots and onion, then peppercorns, port wine, red wine, cranberry juice concentrate (great flavor), the ancho puree, some brown sugar and chicken broth. You boil it until it’s reduced by half, then you season it and add fresh blackberries. At the very last minute you add a couple T. of unsalted butter and season it if needed. Serve with that carb, and garnish with at least one pretty blackberry. This makes a fairly thin sauce – if you want something thicker, remove a bit of the liquid, cool and add some flour. Do this after you’ve reduced the liquid by half.

What’s GOOD: Well, the sauce first and foremost. It has wonderful flavor. If you enjoy lamb, this will be a fabulous meal.
What’s NOT: the sauce does take a bit of time to make – this would be a special occasion kind of meal.

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Rack of Lamb with Ancho Chile Blackberry Port Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 9/2013
Serving Size: 8

3 pounds racks of lamb — (two 1 1/2 lb racks)
4 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons cilantro — chopped
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — (or vegetable oil)
3 whole ancho chiles — (dried pasilla)
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — divided use
2 celery stalks — finely diced
1 medium carrot — finely diced
2 small yellow onions — finely diced
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup Port wine — (use Ruby port)
1 cup red wine
1 cup cranberry juice concentrate
1/2 cup ancho chile puree (recipe included here)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup blackberries — fresh (remove 6-8 of them for garnish)

1. LAMB PREP: Unwrap lamb and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the garlic, cilantro and oil, mixing to form a paste. Rub all over the lamb and let stand at room temp for 45 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
2. ANCHO SAUCE: Combine the ancho chiles and water in a small bowl and let stand 1 hour. Drain well, reserving the soaking liquid. Remove the seeds and stems and puree in a food processor with the garlic and about 1/2 cup of the liquid, or more if needed.
3. PORT SAUCE: Melt HALF the butter in a medium non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Cook the celery, carrot, and onions until soft. Add the peppercorns, port, red wine, cranberry juice concentrate, ancho puree, brown sugar, and stock and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Strain into a clean pot, add the blackberries, and cook over medium heat until the blackberries are warmed through. You may crush them with the back of a fork if preferred. Season with salt, to taste. Add the remaining butter in little pieces and allow it to melt without bringing it to a boil. The sauce is on the thin side – if you prefer a thicker sauce, remove a little bit of the sauce after you’ve reduced it by half, allow it to cool and shake it up in a sealed jar with about a T. of flour. Add into the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes before finishing with the butter.
4. LAMB ROASTING: Preheat oven to 425°F on convection/bake if it’s available. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the lamb racks with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides, fatty side first. Transfer lamb to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 120°F. If you prefer it medium, cook it until it reaches 125°-130°. Remove pan from oven and tent with foil, allowing it to rest for 5-8 minutes before cutting the chops individually and serving onto hot plates with a fresh blackberry for each serving. Do serve with a carb (rice, mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta) to soak up the sauce.
Per Serving: 735 Calories; 55g Fat (72.9% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 116mg Cholesterol; 1197mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, Pasta, on May 27th, 2013.


I’ve re-named this dish slightly from the original recipe over at Food52. I didn’t have orzo pasta for one thing, and I thought describing it as a Ragu might give you a better idea of what it is. And you just need to know that this is fabulous. Absolutely drop-dead fantastic. If you enjoy lamb (ground), and pasta, with Feta, lemon and Kalamata olives, well this is right up your alley.

You’ve heard it here before, that when I see other bloggers use superlatives when they describe a dish, I pay attention. Not only did the originator, Emily at fiveandspice wax glorious about it, but Amanda & Merrill at Food52 did too. That was enough for me to decide to make it. What clinched it was seeing a package of ground lamb at the market and that was that. The original called for fresh spinach. Well, I had arugula instead, but I doubt that would have made much of a taste difference. And, as I mentioned above, I used different pasta (farfalline instead of orzo). The original title is “Greek” Lamb with Orzo. The Greek part is all the Greek-style additions: Feta, olives, lemon juice, oregano, but otherwise it’s an Italian style ragu. The back story of the recipe is just the kind of history I love. The recipe came from Emily’s mother, from a magazine, and it was a family favorite. Here’s what she said: It was also the recipe she sent to each of us [kids], successively, when we needed something easy but impressive to cook for friends in college. It’s still one of my favorite meals, and a wonderful way to easily serve a crowd. Of course, as I’ve evolved, my lamb with orzo has evolved as well, gathering additional ingredients and spices like a glacier gathering stones. . . . I loved that last phrase Emily wrote – gathering ingredients and spices like a glacier gathering stones. I think Emily needs to be a writer . . .

The sauce is relatively easy to make – lamb browned, most of the fat drained, onions and garlic added, then tomatoes, seasonings (including some cinnamon and ground coriander, which are different). The pasta is made and tossed with some oil and lemon juice. When you spoon the ragu on top of the pasta you garnish with Feta cheese crumbles and Kalamata olives. Done. Serve.

What’s GOOD: I refused to put down my spoon until every single morsel was slicked off the plate. Does that tell you how good it was? The other great thing? One pound of lamb makes enough sauce to serve 8, supposedly. Hungry eaters? Well, maybe 6 then, but it’s very filling and comforting food. A definite make-again dish. My DH thought it was fabulous too. It’s going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list, in case that is any additional motivation for you to make this!
What’s NOT: nothing, other than you will dirty up a fair number of dishes, pots and pans in the making of it. Worth it, but then I don’t wash the dishes, my darling DH does. He did complain a bit.

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“Greek” Lamb Ragu on Pasta

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 8

1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion — finely chopped
6 cloves garlic — sliced thinly
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
28 ounces whole tomatoes — drained and smooshed with your hands
14 ounces canned tomatoes — chopped/diced
5 ounces fresh spinach — chopped [I used arugula]
1 pound pasta — orzo suggested [I used farfalline, and I used 3/4 pound]
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper — to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives — pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese — crumbled [I used more]

Note: If you have hungry young people, maybe you’ll use all the pasta – I think 3/4 pound of pasta is sufficient for the volume of sauce. I also used more Feta than indicated.

1. In a good sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat the one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is nicely browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
2. Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Then, stir in the smooshed tomatoes.
3. Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
4. Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you’ll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness).
5. While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like sea water, basically) to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes, usually. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
6. Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.
7. Spread the orzo out on an enormous serving platter. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives. Pass the dish around the table and relax. A good red wine, on the dry side, is a highly recommended companion here.
Per Serving (you do pour off excess fat, so this is a bit high): 513 Calories; 24g Fat (41.7% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Lamb, on January 7th, 2013.


What a special treat – loin lamb chops grilled and served with a sauce (dried tart cherries, rosemary, dry Marsala wine, shallots and butter). All of it delish.

Visiting Costco recently I noticed a gorgeous package of 7 lamb chops. Little things, beautifully trimmed, ready for the grill. The recipe came from the New York Times, but I’d read about it in my favorite cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser. This is her recipe that was published in 2001. A winner.

It took a few minutes to make the sauce, and my DH did the chops on the outdoor grill. The sauce has a bunch of ingredients, but it wasn’t difficult – chopped shallot, garlic, fresh rosemary, some chicken broth, the dry Marsala, salt and pepper, plus some unsalted butter and oil. Have all the remainder of your dinner all ready to go so when the chops are done and the sauce is thickened just so, you’re all ready to serve it!

What’s good: the meat was delicious – tender and juicy – and the sauce was unusual (from the tart cherries) but complemented the meat perfectly. It would make a lovely company meal.
What’s not: nothing at all.

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Lamb Chops with Cherry Marsala Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from New York Times, 2001 (Amanda Hesser)
Serving Size: 4

2/3 cup dried tart cherries
8 lamb loin chops — about 1 inch thick (about 1 pound)
salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup shallot — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup Marsala wine — dry if you can find it

1. Place dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 15 minutes, then drain. Pat lamb chops dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add oil and sauté chops for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare, swirling pan occasionally to make sure chops stay in contact with oil. Transfer chops to plate and tent with foil.
2. Turn off flame under skillet. Wipe with paper towel (lightly and carefully, so you don’t burn yourself—it doesn’t need to be oil-free) and return to medium heat. Melt butter in pan and sauté shallots until just tender, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add garlic and rosemary to skillet and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add broth and Marsala to skillet. Stir in cherries and scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
3. Divide lamb chops between two plates. Spoon sauce and cherries over and around chops. Serve.
Per Serving: 832 Calories; 64g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, on November 18th, 2012.


It seems like lamb shanks are a real treat. You don’t see them at Costco, and rarely at a traditional grocery store, either. I never seem to think of making them, although my DH will order them at a restaurant any time he sees them on a menu. The day I made these it was rainy and almost stormy, certainly a fall-like day, so these just sounded so “right.”

Sometimes when lamb is cooking, it isn’t very appealing to me. The smell. I suppose that’s the part that’s almost like mutton. It must be the fat, which has a distinct taste. So I decided I’d make this in the pressure cooker. That way I wouldn’t have to hover over it so much or smell it all that long, either. I’d found a recipe over at, and it was really quite easy.

The lamb shanks were well-browned in a skillet first (at least that’s how I did it) in a bit of grapeseed oil. A whole bunch of whole garlic cloves were added later and sizzled just until they were light golden brown. Into the pot went chicken broth, Madeira (the original recipe called for Port, but I didn’t have any), dried rosemary, a bit of tomato paste, salt and pepper. Then the lamb shanks. That’s it. It rattled away for 35 minutes while I did other things. I made a green salad and some steamed broccoli and cauliflower too.

Once the meat was cooked, and the pressure released, I removed the shanks and to the small amount of liquid in the pot (which contained a lot of fat, I’m certain) I added a bit of fig balsamic vinegar. Probably plain balsamic would work too, but I thought a fruity balsamic would enhance the flavor a bit more. With the left overs I poured the sauce into a container, expecting I’d be able to remove the fat. There wasn’t any. I suppose that means the sauce was kind of homogenized, so it didn’t separate. Serve this on heated plates and drizzle the gravy on top and let it pool around the shank. You might want some bread too, to soak up any of that very tasty, garlicky, boozy gravy. Just sayin’.

What’s good: how easy it was to make – the pressure cooker just got dinner on the table in a bit less than an hour. The meat was tasty and meltingly tender. The gravy made itself, really – I didn’t have to reduce it at all – I merely added the balsamic vinegar and it was done. Easy meal beginning to end.

What’s not: if you watch calories and fat, well, you may want to give this one a miss. I was astounded at the statistics in this dish, although I’ll say in my own defense, there probably isn’t more than about a heaping 1/4 cup of meat on a lamb shank. Well, at least the ones we had were quite stingy with the meat. But that made each bite worth savoring.

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Lamb Shanks With Garlicky Madeira Gravy – Pressure Cooker

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe on
Serving Size: 2
NOTES: You could easily cook this on the stove top – for about 2 1/2 hours, covered, adding more liquid as needed. Don’t allow pan to dry out. The fat didn’t separate when I made this – perhaps the mashed garlic and tomato paste allowed it to homogenize.

2 pounds lamb shanks
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 whole garlic cloves — peeled and left whole
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup Madeira — or Port
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar — fruit type (like fig or orange)

1. Trim excess fat from the lamb shanks and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Add the shanks and brown on all sides. (I did this in a wide nonstick skillet).
3. When the shanks are completely browned, remove to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic cloves and stir quickly until they are lightly browned but not burned.
4. To the pressure cooker add the stock, Madeira, tomato paste, and rosemary, stirring so the tomato paste dissolves. Add lamb shanks.
5. Close the pressure cooker and bring up to full pressure (15 pounds).
6. Reduce heat to stabilize pressure and cook for 35 minutes.
7. Remove from heat and let pressure release naturally.
8. Remove the lamb shanks, set aside and cover loosely with foil.
9. If you have a gravy separator (and have the time) allow gravy to sit for 10 minutes so you can drain off the tasty gravy without all the fat. If liquid is more than about 1/2 cup, simmer at a low boil until the mixture has reduced and slightly thickens.
10. Add balsamic vinegar, stir, then mash the garlic cloves with a spoon.
11. Serve the sauce over the lamb. If desired, sprinkle the top with some grated orange peel.
Per Serving (these numbers astound me – it must assume there was a lot more meat on the shanks than we had – or maybe there is something wrong with the numbers – I’m glad I only ate a few bites of it!): 1071 Calories; 68g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 86g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 299mg Cholesterol; 947mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, on July 2nd, 2012.


Something totally different – Moroccan marinated lamb with a fantastic yogurt sauce that contains harissa (a spicy pepper condiment), cumin and coriander. And garlic. I swear I could eat it with a spoon, but it’s ever so much better with a little bit of lamb, or chicken or fish with it. Or pita bread.

harissa_sauce_320Many cultures have some kind of hot sauce associated with it – like salsa, or sambal oelek, that really hot chile pepper mixture from Indonesia. The Vietnamese have their hot sauce too – we fondly call it rooster sauce because it has a picture of a rooster on the bottle. A big jar lives in the door of my refrigerator. In this case it’s harissa, a briskly hot condiment from Morocco. There you can see it right out of the jar – thick and spicy. You don’t want to use much – the amount I spooned up for the picture would be way too much for a standard sauce. Harissa originally came from Tunisia, but has been adopted by many cuisines of the region, Morocco among them. They’re much the same – red chiles, cumin, coriander, garlic and a little bit of oil to smooth it out. You can make your own easily enough too. That jar will likely last me the rest of my life because you don’t use much of it in any one dish, and I don’t make Moroccan, Tunisian or Libyan food with any frequency!

lamb_kebabs_skewersNow then, back to the meal – the lamb. It was marinated overnight in a variety of things like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, coriander, cumin. Most of the lamb soaked up the marinade – how can that be? But it did. We actually served the lamb two ways – butterflied and grilled, and also cut into cubes and threaded onto flat-bladed skewers as kebabs.

harissa_yogurt_sauceThe Harissa Yogurt sauce was ever so simple to make – jarred roasted red bell peppers were whizzed up in the food processor along with garlic, oil, cumin, coriander, Greek (thick) yogurt and seasoned with some salt and the harissa. That’s it. Chill until ready to serve. The sauce will keep for a week or so and could be used on other proteins too.

onion_kebabs_grilledTo round out the meal I highly recommend you also make the side skewers too – red onion wedges and whole dried apricots. I wouldn’t have believed that grilled dried apricots would make such an impression on me – they were wonderful. During grilling the edges get charred, and that caramelized them, of course. Delicious. And the onions – crunchy just a bit and a great accompaniment. They need to be grilled first since they take about 10 minutes longer than the lamb – once done just move them over to a cooler part of the grill while you grill the lamb. Serve with rice or couscous.

Because I had a lot of sauce left over (I made a double batch – far more than needed) I used it about a week later this way, pictured below. This was the broiled lemon salmon recipe that kind of goes with the asparagus pesto – I served it with some freshly made wild sockeye salmon and our dinner guests had a choice of either or both sauces..

What I liked: well, first and foremost I loved the sauce. Did I mention I think I could eat it with a spoon? Yes, well, it’s good! Loved the skewers of onion and apricots too. All worth doing.

What I didn’t like: nothing, really. Delicious meal beginning to end.

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Moroccan Lamb Kebabs with Harissa Yogurt Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, 2012 (also from Food Network)
Serving Size: 8

3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, minced — minced
2 tablespoons mint — chopped
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper — thawed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 pounds boneless leg of lamb — cut in 2″ cubes
16 metal skewers (12″ long)
32 dried apricots — whole, not halves
4 large red onions — each cut in 8 wedges, with some of root end attached
1/4 cup roasted red peppers — jarred, drained
1 clove garlic — minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — plain

1. Combine in a large heavy-duty plastic bag: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, salt, emon zest, pepper, coriander and cumin. Squish it a little then REMOVE 1/2 CUP to use as a basting sauce.
2. Add lamb to plastic bag and toss. Marinate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, refrigerated.
3. Yogurt Sauce: place red bell peppers, garlic, hot chili paste, olive oil, cumin, coriander and salt in food processor and puree. Stir this mixture into the yogurt. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving. Will keep for 2-3 days.
4. Preheat grill. Remove lamb from marinade and drain on paper towels. Thread lamb cubes onto 8 skewers, dividing them equally. On the other skewers thread the apricots and onion chunks alternately. Brush all the skewers with some of the reserved marinade. Sprinkle the onion-apricot skewers with salt and pepper.
5. Grill onion-apricot skewers until onions begin to soften and begin to brown, turning and basting with marinade. Move skewers to cooler part of barbecue if necessary to keep apricots from burning, about 10 minutes. Grill lamb skewers to desired doneness, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Serve meat with Yogurt Sauce.

Posted in Lamb, on August 4th, 2011.

lamb in milk fennel

As usual, it’s difficult photographing brown food. It was dinnertime with waning sunlight coming in through the kitchen window, so I finally took the bowl there and snapped this photo. It doesn’t begin to do justice to the dish. It’s hard to see the meat – I did prop up one piece (at 11:00 in the photo) so you could at least see a piece of the meat that wasn’t completely enveloped in the milky sauce. But with the shadow, it’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

It’s not really the season for stews and braises, but I had a 2 1/2 pound chunk of leg of lamb in the freezer that needed to be used. We’ve agreed to buy 1/4 of a Berkshire pig this summer, through our friend who has 4H boys and girls using her farm pens. So I need to make room in the garage freezer. I have some room, but perhaps not enough, so I need to get busy using up some of the larger type pieces in there.

Actually I have a 6 pound pork roast in there and it needs to be used too. Soon, since the Berkshire pig will go to slaughter this next week. They’ll deliver it probably at the end of next week (I’m writing this a couple of weeks ago . . .).

lamb_milk_braisingfarro_cookedAnyway, back to lamb here. I’d copied off a recipe over at Simply Recipes a couple of years ago. Elise said it was based on a Mario Batali recipe, and she raved about it. Indeed, this dish IS really delicious. For a summer evening, it was coolish as we sat outside having dinner, so it ended up being a great night for a lamb stew. I made farro also, which Elise recommended. All I did to that was add in salt and some broth (rather than straight water) to the cooking water. The lamb I made according to the recipe with no variations. It’s quite simple – I actually made it in my crockpot, but am not sure I’d do that again – FYI: 6 hours on low was too long. So, just use the recipe below. The use of milk (and a little bit of cream) makes a fantastic creamy sauce to go with the lamb, and gives it lots of luscious stuff to go along with the farro too. Kind of like mashed potatoes and a milky chicken gravy, except this was farro and lamb.


The lamb cubes need to be browned sufficiently to generate some good flavor, then everything is put together for the braise. After the meat is done, remove it and boil down the juices. They’ll look kind of awful – most things made with milk will separate – but boil it down anyway, then puree in a blender to smooth it out. Add back into the pot with the lamb and heat through. And serve!

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Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel

Recipe By: Simply Recipes blog (adapted from a Mario Batali recipe)
Serving Size: 6
NOTES: The farro will make enough to serve 6 people, maybe with a little bit left over. Farro is a type of wheat. Substitute brown rice if you can’t find the farro.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder — boneless, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 fennel bulb — diced
2 garlic cloves — minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley — finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds — crushed (use mortar and pestle, or chop finely with a chef’s knife)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups farro, dry — or substitute brown rice

1 In a large (5 to 6 quart) thick-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high. Pat dry the lamb pieces. Season well with salt and pepper. Working in batches, place lamb pieces in the pan (do not crowd). Do not stir. Turn only once a side has browned. Brown all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
2 Reduce heat in pan to medium. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the diced fennel and cook a few minutes until softened, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Add the garlic, parsley, crushed fennel seeds.
3 Add the meat back into the pot. Add the milk and cream. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, add the sprig of rosemary, cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until meat is tender.
4 While the lamb is cooking, prepare the farro (or brown rice). The farro will take about 45 minutes to cook, after which it can be kept warm, so time accordingly. Rinse farro through a sieve until the water runs clear. Add it to a large, thick-bottomed saucepan. Cover with about two inches of water and add about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, partially cover and let cook for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain of excess water and set aside until you are ready to use it.
5 Once the lamb is tender, remove the pieces from the pot and set aside. Discard the rosemary. Bring the milk cream sauce to a boil over high heat and reduce to about 2 cups. Working in batches, purée in a blender (or with an immersion blender) until smooth. (When puréeing hot liquids in a blender it’s best to work with relatively small amounts, filling just maybe a quarter of the blender. Otherwise the pressure can blow the top off the blender and make a hot mess.) Return the sauce and the lamb to the pot and if needed heat until warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Before serving, stir in the fresh chopped parsley. Serve the braised lamb over warm farro.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 51g Fat (75.7% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 146mg Cholesterol; 162mg Sodium.

Three years ago: Vinaigrette
Four years ago: Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake

Posted in Grilling, Lamb, Miscellaneous, on July 28th, 2010.

Ah yes. You will believe me when I say it was delicious, right? When all you can see is the pitiful bone left after serving a big dinner to guests? And you’ll forgive me for not taking a photo of the finished roast? I hope so!

If it were cooler weather I’d have made some kind of soup with the bone, but alas, it’s too hot in the kitchen or our outdoor patio dining area to make or eat hot soup. So this bone got chucked in the trash. But the meat that came from it was quite good. Good enough that I’d make it again. Easy enough too.

I turned to one of my favorite barbecue cookbooks of late, Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue! Bible. You don’t find all that many recipes for barbecued lamb anywhere. Raichlen has several in this book (well, the cookbook has 500+ barbecue recipes). Anyway, I had all the ingredients on hand  (always a good sign). All it took was to buy a bone-in leg of lamb and making the relatively simple marinade. And cutting a bunch of slits in the meat to stuff in little slivers of garlic and fresh ginger.

There you can see all the little studs of garlic and ginger. And the Worcestershire and soy marinade. The meat sat in the frig for about 8 hours with the marinade. Once drained, it went onto the barbecue with indirect heat (no searing of any of the meat) with a drip pan below the grates. It stayed there for about 2 hours, until the meat thermometer hit 160°.  This meat wants moderate heat, not high heat. It’s a roast, you know! It sat for about 10 minutes lightly tented with foil before we sliced and served it.

With the pineapple relish stuff Raichlen recommends in the book. Raichlen has traveled the world over for ethnic recipes, and he certainly adheres to the adages in the book, The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. If you haven’t read it, Thomas Friedman dissects how, in our global economy, we can so easily buy (now) a Thai urn, kites from China, saffron from Spain, lentils from Morocco. Or talk to a computer expert in India as if he or she is 20 miles away. And the products are all available at our local stores. In this case Raichlen doesn’t care that the meat preparation is a South African method, and the relish served with it is Vietnamese. And he suggests it be served with Persian-steamed rice. I don’t actually know what that means, Persian rice that’s steamed, or is it a particular cooking method that makes rice steamed in the Persian style. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t serve it.

Back to the Achar. It’s a relish composed of fresh, diced pineapple mixed with a bit of Vietnamese fish sauce. Now, I can already see you turning up your noses! Here in Southern California we’re used to fish sauce because we have a sizable Vietnamese community near us. And oodles of Vietnamese restaurants too. We’ve learned to appreciate all the different foods from that country. But almost everything is seasoned with fish sauce. It’s even standard in regular (non-ethnic) grocery stores. It’s like soy sauce to the Japanese, paprika in all forms to the Hungarians (they don’t even put black pepper on the table, just salt and paprika), salsa or pico de gallo to the Mexicans. So, there’s fish sauce for the Vietnamese. It’s a condiment served on every Vietnamese table. And it doesn’t taste like fish. You’d think it would, being called “fish” sauce and all, but it’s a salty liquid that comes from anchovies. In the picture, the bottle of fish sauce is there in the background. In the center of the bottle label is a graphic of three crabs – Anglos call it the “Three Crabs” fish sauce. It’s the premium brand. Below you can see the relish – with the chiles and sugar. This mixture doesn’t require any marinating time – just mix it up and serve it.

It went really well with the lamb, even though it IS a Vietnamese relish served with a South African barbecue lamb dish! The only thing I’d change next time – I think I’d do a butterflied leg of lamb instead. There wasn’t enough meat on the roast I bought. I know that the bone-in is a better way to roast, but the boneless is so much easier.

printer-friendly PDF for the lamb and pineapple achar

Lamb Leg Capetown Style

Recipe: Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue! Bible
Serving Size: 12

7 pounds leg of lamb — bone-in
6 whole garlic cloves — cut into thin slivers
6 slices fresh ginger — cut into thin slivers
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice — and zest
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
salt & freshly ground black pepper — to taste
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice — or more, to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups fresh pineapple — diced
1 whole jalapeno chile pepper — seeded, ribs removed, finely minced

1. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, make slits about an inch deep all over the surface of the lamb, spacing them about an inch apart. Insert a sliver each of garlic and ginger into each slit.
Place the lamb in a non-reactive roasting pan and set aside while you prepare the Marinade.
2. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sugar, both the mustards, lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, red pepper flakes,coriander, and cumin seeds in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Pour half the cooled marinade over the lamb in the roasting pan, brushing to coat on all sides. Cover and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 3 to 8 hours.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (check in the grilling forum about inderect heat). placing a large drip pan in the center, and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, place the lamb on the hot grate over the drip pan and brush with more glaze. Cover the grill and cook the lamb until done to taste, 2 to 2 1/2 hours; an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg (but not touching the bone) will register 16Q`F for medium. Brush the leg with glaze two or three times during cooking. If using a charcoal grill, add 10 to 12 fresh coals per side every hour.
5. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and brush one last time with marinade, then let stand for 10 minutes before carving. While the lamb stands, heat any remaining marinade to serve as a sauce with the lamb.
PINEAPPLE ACHAR: Combine in a bowl all ingredients and taste for seasoning, adding more fish sauce, sugar or lime juice. The mixture should be sweet, fruity, tart and a bit salty. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (assumes you eat all the meat and pineapple): 578 Calories; 40g Fat (62.3% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 144mg Cholesterol; 576mg Sodium.

One year Ago: Peach Cobbler
Two years ago: Barbecued Beans
Three years ago: Crisp Apple Pudding (my all-time favorite, my mother’s recipe)

Posted in Grilling, Lamb, on July 12th, 2010.

Sandwiches? Well, I use that term loosely. They were gorgeous, thick double baby lamb chops, seasoned with a Moroccan rub, grilled, served on/in sangak bread (it could be pita also) with two side relishes – one a tomato and the other shallots. We did end up cutting the meat off the bone and cutting the little fillets into slices and laying them in the bread you can see there underneath them, with the delish relishes. The wraps were a little unwieldy and drippy, but oh—so very good. Then after our plates were nearly slicked clean we picked up the lamb rib bones and gnawed away to get the last of that grilled protein.

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Posted in Lamb, on April 20th, 2010.

Oh yes, yummy this was. When we got to our second home in the desert last week, after eating out for more than a week, I was looking forward to making a home cooked meal. I enjoy glancing through the cookbooks I keep there since they don’t get as much use as the ones at home, and some of them I’ve not explored very much. As I looked through Marcella Hazan’s book, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, this recipe talked to me. Lamb shoulder, onions, braised, baked, combined with cannellini beans with some pungent raw garlic and chopped parsley on top. Yep. Sounded like a winner, and it was.

We visited Bristol Farms (an upscale market that has a great meat department, with great expensive prices for everything on their shelves). But I wanted good, meaty lamb shoulder and I wasn’t even sure any of the supermarkets would HAVE lamb shoulder. Anyway, I made the cannellini beans myself rather than use canned. No reason why, just that I had time to do them, and I prefer the texture of homemade simmered beans rather than the almost mushy canned ones.

The recipe is relatively simple, really. The lamb pieces are floured and browned in vegetable oil, then set aside. A generous amount of thinly sliced onions are sautéed, then you add some white wine and beef broth, with tomato paste and fresh sage. That’s about it. The cannellini beans were made separately, with some garlic and fresh sage added to the water. Then, in Marcella’s recipe she said adding the raw minced garlic as a garnish is an important element – not cooked garlic – but the raw stuff. Gives it some bite. You can, if you study the photo at the top, see a few little snips of garlic. I saved a few of the cannellini beans out to add to the top of the finished dish – just because I wanted a bit more contrast in the photo. The mixed-in beans you’ll notice are darker with the extra-tasty sauce. Don’t skimp on the salt – the beans require a good measure of it. Do taste the finished dish and perhaps sprinkle a bit of salt all over the top. Delicious, all of it.
printer-friendly PDF

Braised Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans

Recipe By: Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen
Serving Size: 6 (not huge portions)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds lamb shoulder, bone-in, cut in 3-inch pieces
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups onions, sliced thin
6 fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup beef broth, (use a concentrate with water)
1 1/2  cups cannellini beans, dry
4 cups water
2 whole garlic cloves, sliced in half
3 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish for meat:
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

1. Pour enough vegetable oil into a skillet to cover the bottom completely and turn on the heat to medium high.
2. When the oil is hot, dredge the lamb pieces in the flour, one by one, and add gently to the pan. Do not crowd the pieces. Brown the meat on all sides, then transfer the to a plate, adding more lamb pieces, until all the lamb has been browned. Pour off the grease but keep the fond that’s on the bottom – add that to the stew once it’s mixed and ready to go in the oven.
3. Preheat oven to 350°.
4. Choose a large, lidded pot (large enough to hold all the meat and the beans), and preferably one that can go from oven to rangetop. Into this large pot add the olive oil, sliced onions, and sage. Turn heat to medium and cook onions, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a light brown (but not burned).
5. Add the meat, turning it 2-3 times and heat until the meat begins to sizzle, then add salt, some grindings of ground black pepper and the white wine.
6. Meanwhile, dissolve the tomato paste in the beef broth and set aside. Simmer at medium-high heat the onions and wine and when almost all of the wine has boiled off, add the beef broth mixture and the fond from the frying pan. Bring back to a simmer, then cover and place the pot in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, removing it every 30 minutes and stirring it.
7. Meanwhile, prepare the beans: Add the beans to a stockpot, add water to cover and bring to a boil, turn off heat and let sit for an hour. Drain beans, then add twice as much water as you have beans (I’ve estimated at 4 cups, but it might be more). Add the garlic cloves and sage leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a low simmer for about an hour, until the beans are just barely cooked through. Don’t over cook them or they’ll be mushy.
8. Drain the beans and taste for seasoning (salt and pepper). You’ll find these need more salt than you think. Pour the beans into the lamb stew pot and gently stir. Cover and bake another 15 minutes, until the mixture is warmed through. Remove any of the bones that have loosened completely and discard.
9. Pour the stew out onto (or into) a large heated platter or bowl and sprinkle top with the raw garlic and the chopped parsley.

A year ago: Chewy-Crispy Choc Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Pork Tenderloin with Figs & Port Wine

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