The other red meat: lamb on the grill try culture

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  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Lamb and vegetable kebabs are quick and easy, but the trick is to give your veggies a head start on the grill.

The arrival of spring signifies the start of the outdoor barbecue season after a long winter of indoor cooking. For most people, this means getting out the same old burgers, sausages, and hot dogs. But if you’re looking for a break from the monotony, lamb is an easily accessible alternative to standard garden grills, even for the faintly adventurous cook.

Lamb is the often overlooked other red meat. But it is plentiful, aromatic and versatile. Personally, I can’t get enough lamb. I eat more lamb than beef or pork in the spring and summer and have converted more than a few skeptics over the years.

People who say they are concerned about trying lamb for the first time are often surprised to learn that they have already had it and enjoyed it. These gyros at Greek dinners and food festivals? Lamb. It’s more common than you might think. Lamb is a common staple food in some parts of the world. The cultures in the UK, Spain, Greece and North Africa all have excellent and varied methods of cooking lamb, and some of the best lamb comes from Australia and New Zealand.

I had my first experience with lamb as a child when I tried Greek and Mediterranean foods. I loved sitting in a restaurant and ordering a gyro or souvlaki with spanakopita and watching the waiters nod their approval. As I got older, I began to appreciate the wonders of grilled lamb and the variety it can bring to any meal.

Properly cooked and seasoned lamb is tender like veal, but has a smoother taste profile. Lamb is nutritious, rich in protein, high in good types of fat (such as omega-3) and contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. Lamb is also mostly raised organically.

So spice up your spring barbecue routine and keep your cardiologist happy with these dishes.

click to enlarge

  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Grilling lamb chops and coating them with mint chutney is just one of the ways to cook the versatile, but often overlooked, meat.

Lamb chops with homemade mint chutney
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
8-12 lamb chops on the bone
olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

For the mint chutney:
2 jalapeño peppers (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 wrapped cup of fresh mint leaves (stem removed)
1/4 wrapped cup of fresh coriander (stems removed)
1/4 wrapped cup of fresh baby spinach (stalk removed)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of water
Olive oil (optional, mustard seed oil also an option)
Salt & pepper to taste

Step 1: make the mint chutney
Carefully wash the mint, coriander and spinach, drain and pat dry. Combine with the jalapeños, lemon juice, water and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender.

If the setting is low, pulse until the mixture has the desired consistency (thick or thin), fine-tuning with small amounts of olive oil if necessary. I recommend leaving the mixture thick enough to spread over the lamb without it dripping over the sides. This chutney can be prepared a day in advance and frozen in small quantities for future use.

Step 2: grill the lamb
Wash the lamb with cold water at room temperature and pat dry.
Gently rub olive oil over each individual chop and season with salt and pepper.

Start your grill on high heat, sear the chops on both sides and reduce them to medium heat (if using gas) and let them cook to the power you want. Ideally, you want the chops to be seared nicely on the outside, very rarely in the middle. The cooking time depends on your equipment. A good rule, however, is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. So if your chops are about 1 inch thick, they will take about 5 minutes on each side.

Let rest 5 minutes before serving, cover the lamb chops and garnish the top with a dash of mint chutney. Goes well with grilled asparagus, yellow pumpkin and eggplant.

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Cut into large cubes, a leg of lamb without the bone is a tasty accompaniment to grilled mushrooms, pumpkin, onions, zucchini and eggplant.  - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Cut into large cubes, a leg of lamb without the bone is a tasty accompaniment to grilled mushrooms, pumpkin, onions, zucchini and eggplant.

Lamb & Vegetable Kebabs with Lemon and Ras el Hanout
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2-4 lbs. Leg of lamb boneless (cut into large cubes)
1/4 cup of Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
1 fresh lemon (cut into quarters)
* Ras el Hanout (to taste)
olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 lbs. of mixed grilled vegetables cut into cubes such as: mushrooms, yellow pumpkin, red onion, zucchini, eggplant
* Ras el Hanout is a fragrant North African spice blend commonly available in grocery stores and on-site at Niblack Foods (900 Jefferson Rd. # 6).

NOTE: If you are using wooden or bamboo kebab sticks, be sure to soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before preparing the kebabs.

Step 1: prepare the lamb
Starting at room temperature, mix the lamb, parsley, yogurt, Ras el Hanout, and salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Let the mixture sit for at least 15 to 30 minutes (or overnight in the refrigerator) before cooking.

Step 2: prepare the vegetables
In a separate mixing bowl, mix the vegetables with a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Step 3: kebab assembly
Using kebab sticks or skewers, thread all of the meat and vegetables separately onto the sticks. It’s important to keep the meat sticks separate from the vegetable sticks as they have completely different cooking times. Avoid the urge to put meat and vegetables on the same stick.

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Skewer meat and vegetables and place over a bed of couscous and olives.  - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Skewer meat and vegetables and place over a bed of couscous and olives.

Step 4: grill the kebabs

The vegetarian kebabs take about twice as long to cook as the meat kebabs. So timing is important and depends on how infrequently you want your lamb. Start your grill on high to medium heat, cook the vegetable skewers on one side for about 10 minutes, then flip each vegetable skewer and add the meat skewers. Cook the meat skewers for about 5 minutes on each side (10 minutes total) and both should be ready at exactly the same time.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving and top with a pinch of lemon. Fits nicely over a bed of golden couscous with green olives.

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Crumbled feta cheese mixed into the patties really makes these lamb burgers pop.  - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Crumbled feta cheese mixed into the patties really makes these lamb burgers pop.

Greek lamb burger with feta and homemade tzatziki
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2-4 lbs. Ground lamb
Greek feta cheese (crumbled)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
1-2 egg yolks
Salt & pepper (to taste)

For the tzatziki:
2 cups of regular low fat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of water
1 English cucumber (peeled, pitted and diced)
Salt & pepper to taste

Step 1: making the tzatziki
Carefully wash the parsley and dill, drain and pat dry. Mix with cucumber, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse on a low level until the mixture has the desired consistency (thick or thin). Fine-tune with additional yogurt or water as required. This sauce should be prepared at least 30 minutes before cooking and left in the refrigerator before serving. Tzatziki can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Step 2: prepare the burger
In a mixing bowl, mix the minced lamb, feta cheese, egg yolk, parsley, and salt and pepper and mix well. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight) before cooking. Shape into 1/4 to 1/2 pound patties before cooking (depending on preference).

Step 2: grill the burgers
Start your grill on high heat, fry the burgers on both sides and reduce them to medium heat (if using gas) and let them cook to the degree you want. Ideally, you want them to be nicely seared on the outside, very rare in the middle. The cooking time depends on your equipment. A good rule of thumb, however, is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. So if your burgers are about 1 inch thick, they will take about 5 minutes on each side.
Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Best with lettuce, tomato and onion on a roasted potato roll with a dash of tzatziki between the burger and the topping. Goes well with roasted Greek potatoes and sauteed spinach and beetroot greens.

J. Nevadomski is the author of the long-standing series “Highlife for Lowlifes” and contributes to food and culture in CITY. For more information, visit: highlifeforlowlifes.com, instagram.com/jnevadomski and facebook.com/highlifeforlowlifes. Feedback on this article can be directed to Rebecca Rafferty, CITY’s Life Editor, at becca@rochester-citynews.com.

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