“Lamb-y” Lamb

This is not a political statement, and maybe it’s all in my head, but I think American lamb is much less “lamb-y” then imported Australian/New Zealand lamb.

This can’t be a crazy concept since all naturally grown/cultivated things tend to pick up the influences of the local “terrior.” Maybe there is something about the Australian/New Zealand countryside that helps contribute to that strong “game” taste in the meat that I am not a fan of.

However with enough garlic and lemon any lamb is bound to taste great! Typically I cook my lamb with a heavy greek-style red sauce, with plenty of garlic and some cinnamon undertones. Recently I was inspired to lighten things up and keep it light with a flavorful marinade of lemon, garlic, rosemary and my-not-so- secret lamb seasoning blend.

I marinated a small (2lb) boneless leg portion of lamb overnight in this flavorful marinade. Patted it dry without scraping off too much of the seasoning and sprinkled it with fresh salt and pepper. After leaving it out for 30 mins or so to get the chill from the fridge off, it I roasted it at the usual 20 mins/lb in a preheated 400 degree oven. Use a thermometer and trust it. 145 degrees internal temperature is considered medium well* and if you pull it out and it’s reading 140 degrees – trust your self and keep it out, lightly covered with foil to finish while resting. It should continue and come up about another 10 degrees. DON”T put it back in the oven “for just a few extra minutes” like I am always tempted to do. And do.

The line between “medium-well” and overdone is a thin one. As is often the case and becuase I am such a worry-wort about the cooking temperature, I may have crossed over that line. Oops! The meat was still tasty and tender and my husband didn’t mind but I probably should have skipped those last few minutes in the oven and left well enough alone! ( or in this case left “medium” alone!)

well done lamb

I did serve it with spinach rice (“Spanakorizo”) and a simple, chunky red sauce made from canned tomatoes poured around the lamb in the beginning, mixing with the roasting juices in the pan.

 *Author’s Note:   I prefer my lamb medium to medium-well but if you like yours a little less done, 120-130 degrees internal temperature is where you want to be for “medium-rare.” However don’t go by me, as I am not official – go to the FDA website!

 

 

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A Greek “Affair”

This time of year there are all kinds of “fairs” happening – craft sales, church penny sales, country fairs and my favorite… the Greek fair!

As fate would have it we were just too busy to even squeeze this fair in but I had to satisfy my hankering for some lamb somehow. So I carved out a few minutes to get some lamb on the grill.

I coated the meat in some olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning from Penzeys. The blend is perfect not only on lamb but beef too! (And Penzeys – if your reading this feel free to send me a year’s supply for my free advertising! )

Grill until done to your liking – I like mine medium to medium well and served with a Greek pasta salad with feta cheese. Since the grill was on I tossed on  sliced zucchini and yellow squash too. You can use the spice blend to make up a light salad dressing, use your favorite bottle or simply use an olive oil, red wine vinegar mix with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Served family style "ompah!"

Served family style “ompah!”

 

Note: use gluten-free pasta if desired!

Demand & Supply

One thing about my local grocery store is that they rarely stock ground lamb. Sometimes around Easter I can get it but most of the year – very tough to find. Since I live in the metroboston area my “local” grocery store that is only 2 blocks from me is not my only option. I can get in the car and actually drive about 2 miles to another grocery store that is much more diverse in their meat selection and they reliably supply ground lamb any time of the year due to the demand created by the crowd that shops there.

However for the last 6 weeks or so that hasn’t been possible because the store has all but shut down.

Call it a Greek tragedy or maybe just a family feud, but obviously I must be talking about Market Basket!

While they were closed/striking the other, closer grocery store decided to step up its service and selection – a fact that I appreciated since they are only 2 blocks away. That is how I happened upon the ground lamb one day. And well-priced to boot! That immediately became the catalyst for lamb burgers on the grill.

closeup burger

Seeing that it was lamb, it definitely needed a homemade Tzatziki sauce (made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, lemon etc) to bring it to perfection. Served along with a side salad made simply of tricolor garden cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta with a drizzle of good olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper.

While I am excited that the folks at Market Basket won their battle, and soon I will be shopping there again, I am interested to see if my closer, local market continues to supply the demand, even if the demand dwindles – probably not. But it was yummy and close by while it lasted!

lamb burger dish Production Notes

I simply mixed in a heaping teaspoon of Penzeys Lamb Seasoning per pound of meat along with a teaspoon of salt at the same ratio and formed patties perfectly sized for grilled English muffins.  Use more seasoning if you want things a little zestier but I wanted the flavor and richness of the meat to shine through.

(and no I didn’t receive any compensation from Penzeys for mentioning their product but if they are reading they can feel free to send me some product!)

Spana-what?

Spanakopita.

As a child growing up with a very progressive and adventurous mother, I assumed everybody was eating Spanakopita AKA “spinach pie”.  (I also assumed everybody was eating Tabbouleh too but that is another posting, for another day.)

What? You weren’t? Well you were missing out. This is probably where my insane love of Feta cheese started. And my love of  “Phyllo dough” sometimes spelled “Fillo.”  Since I am not Greek, I have no idea what is correct or not correct. But you can check it out here.

So when fate dealt me an excessive amount of spinach in my fridge, and of course I am never without a large supply of Feta, I immediately decided it was time to try my hand at making my own “spinach pie.” I had also recently watched an episode of “The Chew” where Michael Symon made it look so easy.

I have trouble following directions, so I had to tinker with the recipe.

I decided to add a sliced tomato!

And while I was adding tomatoes, why not throw in all the extra fresh basil leaves I still had? ( I can hear the Greek readers gasping right now!)

I didn’t have the fresh dill that most variations of the recipe called for, so I decided to use the dried dill that I had on hand. (more gasps) It worked great. To be honest in all my millions of times consuming Spanakopita, I had no idea dill was in it – but it definitely is. In fact,  I think that’s the “spana” in the “kopita!”

Just kidding.

Anyway, an hour later and more melted butter than I care to admit to, I had a beautiful pan of spinach, basil and tomato pie!

The Recipe

16 sheets of Phyllo dough – there is aprox 20 sheets in one of the two rolls that come in a 16oz box of Athens brand® – you may have mishaps or tear one – so the extra 4 sheets will come in handy – you could put an extra sheet in the middle or on top if you feel strongly about it, but not on the bottom or it will be too thick. Save the 2nd roll for another day. READ the box about storing and handling this delicate dough.

1 small onion finely diced – feel free to substitute garlic here or leave out the onion altogether. (you know who you are)

1 lb +/- fresh spinach leaves, de-stemed, washed and roughly chopped

2 Tb butter + 1 stick melted for brushing the layers of dough

2 cups (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves, no stems

1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese

1 Tb dried Dill

10 oz crumbled Feta cheese

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

juice of half a lemon

Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Brush a 9×12 (or some size close) baking dish with some melted butter or cooking spray. Saute the onion in the 2 tb butter until soft. Add the spinach leaves turning to coat and cook. Add the basil leaves, continuing to coat and cook a couple of minutes more. Add dill. Turn off heat and let cool a bit. It is okay if there is “liquid” in the pan from the greens. Add both cheeses, lemon juice and pepper. Stir and taste for seasoning. Set aside.

Assembly: in the bottom of the baking dish – carefully layer 8 (no more – no less) sheets of Phyllo dough, brushing each sheet after it it’s laid down with copious amounts of melted butter. After the 8th sheet is down. Spread half of the filling evenly across. Now layer 4 (3 would be okay here) sheets of Phyllo dough with the melted butter on top of each. Spread the other half of the filling on top. Layer on the sliced tomatoes. Layer 4 more sheets of Phyllo dough with the melted butter treatment on each sheet.

Bake for 30-35 mins until top is golden brown and flaky. It will be REALLY hard to wait for it to cool but I HIGHLY recommend you wait until it is almost room temperature to cut it or it will fall apart. This is great served room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.

It Only Takes A Little…

…steak to make a satisfying sandwich. A little inspiration from your own crisper drawer. And the best of all, a little early season oregano surprising you in the herb pot in the backyard!

Really, it all started with the tomato, green bell-pepper and some little cukes in the crisper drawer that were leftover from last week’s lunch fixings. All that just instantly screamed Greek salad at me. Which of course started a craving for feta cheese. (When don’t I crave any kind of cheese!) So the other night, I  strolled the meat department looking for the perfect sandwich meat and came upon a tiny (.68lbs) sirloin steak. For just a few bucks (3 to be exact) I could have a nice hearty Greek salad with steak on a sandwich. Now if only I had remembered to buy a red onion while I was at the store….

The Technique

I cut the little steak into small cubes (1/2″ or so) and marinated them in a little olive oil, red wine vinegar and plenty of oregano for a few hours. I got the fancy v-slicer out and sliced all the veggies really thin, except the tomato. I cubed the feta. I sprinkled long rolls with olive oil, broiled them until hot and then rubbed them liberally with a cut garlic clove while they were piping hot. After carefully drying the marinated cubes and discarding the marinade, I pan sautéed the steak cubes over a med-high heat to sear them. (They cooked in like 3 mins.) I piled all the items on the rolls and drizzled a freshly made mixture of the same olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh chopped oregano and some salt/pepper over the top.

If I may say so myself, these were damn good sandwiches. Hearty, fresh and honestly I could have portioned out 3 servings. So it just proves that you don’t have to have a ton of expensive, diet-busting steak on your plate to feel satisfied.

Special thanks to the hubby for stopping off on the way home for that red onion.

“Fill in the Blank” Stuffed Peppers

How do you turn this…

into this oven-ready dish below?

by taking this …..

…and adding some S&P, chili powder, paprika,cumin and Adobo peppers.

… and cooking it all together! like this…

I LOVE to stuff things- peppers, zucchini halves, turkeys, mushrooms, you name it!

When it comes to peppers, I like to surround mine with some red sauce, put the lid on and bake it at 375 degrees till peppers are tender (35mins?) I usually serve the peppers and red sauce with pasta but for this special “southwest style” edition I served white rice instead. (let’s hear it for the rice cooker!)

What makes these “southwest”? The fact that I threw in some frozen corn kernels, the seasoning choices and 1-2 chipotle peppers in Adobo. (That is the labeled freezer container from the picture  – once I open a can, I freeze what I can’t use) Substitute the ground beef for black beans if you want total vegetarian.

But these could easily be “greek” style with ground lamb and lots of peppers/onions, feta cheese and oregano – serve with cooked Orzo! (or leave out the lamb altogether!)

Or they could be “South of France style” – stuffed with bread crumbs, diced summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms, capers and some Herb de Provence seasoning. Serve with roasted fingering potatoes on the side for a complete meal or serve as a side dish to a great piece of fish!

P.S. It seems kinda complicated; but stuffed peppers are really an easy make ahead and cook later for Wednesday night dinner!