the best greens ever

Tuscan kale

We got a lovely bunch of Tuscan kale at the market last weekend – the first we’ve seen in some time. We love kale and eat it all sorts of ways, but my very favorite thing to do with it is to braise it in the cooking liquid from a pot of white beans. The recipe is from a Paula Wolfert cookbook called Mediterranean Grains and Greens, and it is pure genius – the bean liquid, flavored with garlic and bay, gets absorbed by the greens and also reduces to a thick sweet glaze that enhances the sweetness of the kale. The beans and greens are served together, and are particularly good alongside lamb chops or steaks, with a nice earthy red Italian or French country wine.

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garlicky lamb sandwich

lamb sandwich

Just a quick one today (then you can get back to your 4th of July preparations – we hope to be barbecuing, if it doesn’t rain too much). It may be only a sandwich, but it’s a sandwich worth talking about, and we’ve had it for lunch twice this week ’cause it was so good.

We had leftover grilled lamb from earlier in the week, leftover piquillo peppers from a salad we had made, and pesto made from the last of the garlic scapes. I sliced the lamb nice and thin, and piled it and the peppers on a fresh soft ciabatta roll with some mayonnaise and pesto, and it became an amazing, savory, garlicky lunch. I can’t think of a thing that would have improved it, except maybe a salad of baby greens and a glass of rosé. Mmmm.

a cheering supper

evening on the patio

Coming home a bit late one evening, I was tired and slightly grumpy at having spent much of a lovely afternoon indoors. We were hungry and wanting to make the most of the remaining evening, but there was no food at home. We thought quickly and did a fast swing through the grocery store before heading home and bought ground lamb, whole wheat pita breads (from a local company!) and a fresh cucumber – I had recently been reading through my copy of My Bombay Kitchen and had some idea of making parsiburgers with lots of fresh mint. J, however, wanted to try a recipe from his Street Food book, packing spiced lamb onto skewers and grilling it.

lamb kebabs
lamb kebabs

The kebabs were a mixed success – they were very very delicious, but the soft lamb mixture didn’t want to cling to our narrow metal skewers and threatened to fall off every time they were moved. Continue reading

summer for a day


Our much-anticipated heat wave hit this weekend, much to the delight of all of us here in gray and mossy Skagit County. It’s been a long, dark, irritating wet season, and everyone was very ready to get out the summer clothes and try being too hot for a change. We celebrated by hauling out the patio furniture, opening a bottle of rosé and eating dinner out by the grill. The air was warm, the wisteria was blooming, and I had put the tabouli together earlier, so I got to sit back and watch my husband cook.


Dinner was grilled lamb chops, grilled eggplant, tabouli, grilled bread and a Graham Beck pinotage rosé. What can I say, but mmmmmm. It’s summer. Continue reading

lamb pizza

lamb pizza with pine nuts and mint

My favorite pizza dough recipe of all time (so far) is from the book Home Baking by Alford and Duguid. It’s just the perfect blend of white and whole wheat, with just the right amount of chew and crispiness and not at all doughy. The recipe I got it from, however, isn’t a traditional pizza – it’s a middle-eastern lamb flatbread often made as a street food.

In the original recipe, the pizzas are cooked one at a time as small, personal-size breads in a skillet, then finished under the broiler, rolled up like burritos and eaten immediately with mint and yogurt. This time, though, I wanted to have it all done at once so we could sit and enjoy our pizza together. So I followed my usual pizza-making format and baked two pizzas at very high heat, adding the toppings at appropriate points. It worked! The other way is good, but this was very, very tasty. And I was so excited to find a little bit of fresh mint in my garden to sprinkle on top!

While we were eating, I was reminded of a pizza that my friends and I often got in college – the “gyros pizza” from the two local Greek-owned pizzerias (run by competing brothers). I don’t remember the exact toppings, but it was a spiced beef or lamb pizza that always came with a container of tsatsiki sauce. It was delicious. You could definitely do the same sort of thing here, just by crushing some garlic into a bowl of yogurt, maybe adding a bit more mint. Yum. Continue reading

kebab b'il karaz

lamb meatballs with sour cherry sauce and spinach

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather for various reasons (hence the much less regular posting – sorry), but I’m finally managing to get back gradually to real food and wine. The other night J decided to break out one of our new cookbooks, Street Food by Tom Kime, and make Turkish lamb meatballs with sour cherry sauce, called kebab b’il karaz.

We had ground lamb in the freezer and plenty of dried tart cherries on hand, but we did not have any pomegranate molasses, which forms the basis of the sauce. After calling around to local specialty stores, none of whom had even heard of pomegranate molasses, J decided to make his own by boiling down pomegranate juice into syrup. It worked great!

The original recipe suggested serving the kebabs as one of many dishes, with lots of flatbread. J made chapatis, and we put the hot meatballs and sauce on a bed of fresh spinach, which went beautifully with the cherry sauce. The flavor is very rich, dark, sweet and spicy, so it’s good to have something to contrast. Couscous would be good, too.

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Lamb-apricot tagine with Lebanese couscous

Lebanese couscous

Saturday was another nasty, cold, wet, blustery day – perfect for a stew. We had some lamb in the freezer, already cleaned and cut up for braising, and I felt moved to make a tagine. A few years ago I bought J a copy of Claudia Roden’s book on Middle Eastern food, but we’ve actually made very little progress through it with the exception of two tagine recipes, one with preserved lemon and one with apricots. They’re both excellent, so maybe someday we’ll try something else from the book.

 Anyway, this time I felt like making the apricot one. I got started shortly after 4:30 pm when we got home from errands, and dinner was ready around 7 – not really a workday dinner for us, but fun for the weekend. The tagine is really straightforward: I began by sauteeing a chopped onion in a glug of olive oil for awhile, until soft but not browned. I added cinnamon, cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper, then added sliced ginger, garlic and the defrosted lamb chunks and salted and peppered them liberally. Once they were browned I added water just to cover, brought it to a simmer and covered the pan. It burbled away on the lowest heat setting for about an hour while I did other things. Then I tossed in about a half pound of whole dried apricots, stirred it up and covered it again. About 20 minutes later I added a can of chickpeas, left the lid off so the liquid could boil down slightly, and started on the couscous. Continue reading

Cheese puffs and khachapuri

Friends came over for dinner on Saturday. The weather was actually decent enough that we fired up the grill one last time, producing some truly excellent lemony lamb kebabs and spiced eggplant (I have no pictures, sorry – we ate everything). To go with the lamb and eggplant I whipped up a batch of Khachapurikhachapuri, Georgian cheese-filled yogurt flatbreads (again, forgot to take any pictures before they were gone, but here’s a borrowed image that looks similar). The recipe for these is out of Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and they were described by our friend as tasting like “Mac and cheese in a bun!” I assume that’s a good thing – anyway, I like them. Come to think of it, they’d be really good stuffed with eggplant. Or lamb. Continue reading

Lamb & couscous

lamb chops, couscous and broccoli rabe

This was one of those surprisingly wonderful Wednesday night dinners. I mean, I always hope that my cooking is going to turn out well, but sometimes it just seems like everything comes together particularly nicely – and when it does, it makes even a normal worknight seem like a special holiday.

 In our weekly browse through the grocery store meat case we found some exceptionally nice looking lamb loin chops – we buy these often for weeknight dinners when they’re available, but they’re not always worth the money. I got them seasoned before I left for work in the morning – I trimmed off the outer fat, rubbed them with kosher salt and pepper, and tossed them in a ziploc bag with olive oil, garlic and oregano. I’ve found that the preseasoning really helps the flavor of the meat, instead of just the outside crust. Continue reading