I’ve written about fun things we’ve cooked with fenugreek leaves before, but always using dried, which is all we’d been able to find at our usual haunts. On a recent foray to the Lynnwood H-Mart for kimchi supplies, while hunting through the vast produce area for scallions and ginger, Jon spied pre-packaged bunches of fresh fenugreek. We bought a pack (only 99 cents!), immediately searched through our cookbooks to find an appropriate recipe, and the following evening we made a curry of cubed lamb simmered with warm spices and the fresh fenugreek, served with rice and fried red onion slices. It was SO GOOD.
The lamb, simmering in its gravy, was one of the best-smelling things we’ve ever had in our kitchen, and that’s saying something. Fenugreek is one of those things that makes curry taste like curry, and the overall effect was of wonderful savoriness. Continue reading
We finally got around to visiting the Copper Hog pub in Bellingham. Not a bad place at all! Large and bustling, nice decor, lots of natural light, and alarmingly polite service. Good food and beer, too. It made an especially strong impression on us after our disappointment with the Fish Tale Brewpub a couple of weeks ago.
For one thing, we got to sit by a window.
The view was made extra amusing by the fact that some sort of commercial was being filmed on the premises, and groups of people wearing sports scarves were running around screeching for the camera. Even without that, though, it was a nice place to sit.
The beer selection here is pretty ace. I tried the “Copper Hog Red” made by Flyers in Oak Harbor, and really liked it. Dry and bitter, but with lots of flavor.
It was a forgone conclusion that one of us would get the lamb burger, and Jon won the draw. I got the fish and chips instead, and was happy enough. I was a little put out by the size of the fish fillet – most places would have cut this into two or three pieces. It was so big, and so blazingly hot, I had to eat it with knife and fork, which seemed kind of silly. The schmear of pureed peas on the side was a peculiar but pleasant touch. And the fries were fantastic – hot, salty, nicely crispy on the outside but buttery-soft inside. And served in a reasonable quantity, so I didn’t hurt myself by eating all of them. Not too much, anyway.
The lamb burger was excellent. It was on a good bun, the meat was juicy and nicely cooked, and it had a big blob of chevre on top and a lot of pickled beets. I love pickled beets. It was by far the best lamb burger we’ve had lately.
This was a really successful variation on our favorite lamb pizza. I topped it with the usual mix of ground lamb and sweet onions, flavored with cinnamon and tamarind, but then added butter-soft, long-cooked broccoli rabe. A recent issue of Saveur had a feature on vegetables cooked until very soft and sweet, and it occurred to me that bitter greens done this way would be a fantastic pizza topping, especially paired with the richness of lamb. I added mozzarella as well, but it would have been equally good with feta or no cheese at all.
The weather has been abysmal here for the last couple of weeks, not that this is unusual for Western Washington in springtime. There have been a few sunbreaks, where it actually gets brilliant and warm and you can feel the grass growing under your feet…but then it clouds over, plummets back down to 48° and starts raining again. Despite this, we decided we just couldn’t wait any longer to get started on grilling season (it’s spring, dammit!) so last week Jon went out in raincoat, hat and gloves and cleaned the rust off the grill.
I had gotten a pack of lamb chops out of the freezer several days before, and started tabouli that morning, so we were committed to this particular dinner. We could have pan-seared the chops, but it wouldn’t have been the same – lamb is really at its best when grilled. I also picked up a bunch of not-very-local asparagus and I sorely wanted them grilled instead of roasted. We had hoped the rain would ease off, but nope! Fortunately our grill is under the deck, so although it’s drippy under there it’s not torrential. And both the chops and the asparagus cooked quickly. It was not a lovely evening for sitting in the garden, but the food all had that wonderful smoky edge to it. We brought it all inside, opened some wine, closed our eyes and pretended it was summer.
Another dinner inspired by my culinary hero David Tanis and his book Heart of the Artichoke. In the past I haven’t much gone for prunes in savory dishes (I was traumatized by a pork-prune empanada at an impressionable age), but since David was pushing it I finally decided it was time to give it another try. This lamb shank tagine converted us, completely.
We still had all four shanks from the lamb we bought from Martiny Suffolks last summer, and I wanted to be sure we ate them while the weather was still good for braising. My biggest error in the past with lamb shank has been not cooking it long enough, so I started early in the day to make sure it reached the fall-off-the-bone stage. The dish starts (as most tagines do) with onion cooked in butter, then adds garlic, fresh ginger, powdered ginger, coriander seed, cumin seed, saffron, and rather a lot of cayenne. Lamb shanks, prunes and sultanas nestle into the flavorings with a topping of chicken broth and tomato puree, then braise gently in the oven for over two hours. A final handful of prunes go in near the end, before taking the lid off the pot and simmering it at higher heat for a few minutes.
The house smelled incredible. The tagine was both savory and sweet, with a cayenne kick that was never quite too much. The lamb collapsed with a mere touch of a knife. The prunes melted into the gravy, giving it an incredible silken mouthfeel. To go with it, I cooked couscous with chicken broth, sauteed chard and spinach, and made a platter of borani: pan-fried eggplant slices topped with yogurt-garlic sauce. We licked our plates.
It was hard to know what to eat after getting home from Duckfest. We’d eaten so much good food, I found myself wanting meals relatively light on carbs but not too depressingly healthy. I didn’t want to give us whiplash, after all.
This was a dinner that really hit the spot. Jon made up his favorite recipe for kofte kebabs with a mix of beef and lamb, but turned it into meatloaf instead of individual burgers or kebabs. I roasted a panful of cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, cumin seed and mustard seed, and stirred up some yogurt with fresh garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper.
It was the perfect combination of comforting, spicy and virtuous.
After the usual holiday diet of chocolate, too much coffee and a lot of salami and cheese, it’s always a good idea to have something solid in mind for dinner. I can hardly imagine a more perfect dish for Christmas day than long-braised leg of lamb. Get it going after breakfast, peek at it occasionally throughout the day, pull it out in time for dinner. The only downside is that it takes up oven space that you might want for, say, baking pie, but the braise can easily be moved to the stovetop (which is what we ended up doing).
The lamb braises in a wine-tomato-stock mixture, but then you get to fill in the space around it with whatever veg you like. The original recipe recommends turnips, onions and carrots; we left out the onions and threw in parsnip and fennel. The long, slow braising makes the vegetables incredibly tender while still retaining their shape, so they can be scooped out of the broth and served alongside the meat.
When you have a really high-quality ingredient, there’s always the risk of not using it to its full potential, or ruining it. Like accidentally burning a panful of hand-gathered wild mushrooms, or insufficiently brining, then overcooking, that free-range organic turkey you ordered specially for Thanksgiving. Or even just making something really boring with a fabulous piece of filet mignon. It’s depressing. So when I got the two shanks out from the half lamb we bought last spring, I felt some pressure to do them up right. After all, there are only two – I couldn’t start over if I messed them up!
Thank God for Molly Stevens. I (loosely) followed her recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks Provençal, and as usual with her recipes, it came out delicious. The meat fell off the bone into the unctuous, lemony sauce, and we muddled it all up on our plates with soft buttery polenta and sauteed spinach. These lamb shanks could not have asked for a better fate. Continue reading
Do you like beer and fries? How about mussels? Or single malt Scotch? If any of the above catch your eye, Brouwer’s is the place you’ve been dreaming of.
Located in an unlikely building that looks like a cross between a castle and a warehouse (and feels that way on the inside, too), Brouwer’s is a Belgian-inspired bar and restaurant in the Center of the Universe (otherwise known as Fremont to you non-Seattleites). We’ve gone many times (as have my parents) and are constantly blown away by the length of the beer list, the quality of the fries, and the astonishing tastiness of the merguez lamb burger.
Last weekend we were delighted to have the chance to visit Martiny Suffolks, the farm from whence comes the lamb we’ve been eating all summer. As part of the Skagit Festival of Family Farms, many small farms up and down the valley opened to the public for the day, including great places like Taylor Shellfish, Golden Glen Creamery, and Gordon Skagit Farm (to see the festivities at Gordon’s, check out this post at Willow Basketmaker). There were all sorts of activities, but we were there for the free samples and to give a few sheep noses some scritches.
We probably would never have ended up as customers if Linda Martiny (who owns the farm along with Mike Donnelly) hadn’t decided to try running a booth at the Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market this year. We saw the sign for local lamb on the first day and made a beeline, immediately buying a selection of chops and ground meat. We ended up buying half a lamb, and I suspect it will only be the first of many.