Category Archives: Lamb

Spiced Meatballs and Tomato Crostini {CtBF}

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This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Spiced Meatballs with Sriracha Sauce.  The meatballs are made from a highly-spiced mixture supposedly similar to merguez sausage.  I don’t think I’ve ever had merguez so can’t compare.  When I described the recipe to my sister Jane, she said “It sounds like it uses everything in the pantry!”

Lots from the pantry, but not everything

Lots from the pantry, but not everything

It didn’t need everything in the pantry, but the ingredient list is long indeed.  Coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, and sumac from the pantry plus garlic, cilantro, and Sriracha.  All these seasonings are mixed together with ground meat.  I opted to use ground lamb.  We had a beef-heavy week, and my palette longed for something different.

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This recipe is intended as an appetizer, but I decided to turn it into a meal.  For carefree cooking, I ended up baking the meatballs while I prepared the rest of the menu.  The North African meatballs with the two sauces were delicious with couscous and sautéed greens on the side.  All the different flavors came through.  The meatballs were moist and complex with a bit of a kick, but not too spicy.

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I thought the Sriracha sauce might be too spicy for Howard so I also made the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.  I don’t know whether this is true at all grocery stores, but when I tried to buy a small (individual) sized tub of plain yogurt, I discovered that the yogurt section at my local store is at least 90% Greek yogurt.  Any available tubs of the thinner “regular” (non-Greek) yogurt I was trying to buy were fruit-flavored.  No worries: Greek yogurt works just fine.  And, much to my surprise, Howard preferred the Sriracha sauce while I was on Team Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.

I was away the week of our last CtBF post.  Howard and I spent a fun-filled week in Québec.  We enjoyed wandering in both Montreal and Quebec City.  The food we ate everywhere, highbrow and low, was amazing.  In Quebec City, we ate at Restauarant Toast! whose tagline is the name of my blog, in French!

A Plateful of Happiness

A Plateful of Happiness

I didn’t get a chance to make the Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Cheese until after our return.  I’m sorry that I procrastinated.  I loved every part of the crostini, separately and together.

For the herbed cheese, I already had Greek yogurt (cow’s milk) so I didn’t bother to seek out goat’s milk yogurt.  And I skipped the straining step since the Greek yogurt has already been strained.  The yogurt is flavored with garlic and assorted fresh herbs which is a delicious spread, not only on the crostinis, but also alone on crackers.

The cherry tomato topping was also fabulous.  My cherry tomato has been slow to ripen, but I found a colorful assortment at a local farm. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes concentrated during roasting and melded with the fragrant herb sprigs for a meltingly wonderful mélange.

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Toasted rustic bread (I used ciabatta) is the base for a layer of herby cheese crowned with roasted cherry tomatoes.  It’s summer on toast.

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I liked the topping so much that I have plans this weekend to make another batch for a savory tart.  Can’t wait.

Click these links, if you’d like to read about others’ experiences with spiced meatballs or tomato crostini.  To make them yourself (which I highly recommend), you can find the meatball recipe on page 74 and the crostini recipe on page 110 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

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lamb and dried apricot tagine {ffwd}

Lamb Tagine

It’s hard to believe that French Fridays with Dorie has less than two dozen recipes left to complete cooking all the way through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. Some of the ones left are amongst the less appealing, but there are still a smattering of recipes that are tempting, as with this week’s Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine.

I’ve been a loyal participant, barely skipping any recipes. I do have a handful, about half a dozen, that I need to catch up on so that when we pass the finish line this spring, I will have a full sense of accomplishment about this project.

Lamb tagine is the perfect thing to make when the weather outside is frightful, and you don’t want to leave the house. When your kitchen smells like distant sunny places, you just know that dinner will be warm and hearty which makes it easier to get through a gray and dismal afternoon.

As with most stews, whether pedestrian or exotic, making tagine is simple, especially if you start with boneless meat. Alas, I can never find boneless lamb shoulder. Between the blades and joints, shoulders have many odd shaped bones and a ton of fat. So I just cranked up the podcast playlist on my phone and worked away with my knife. The perfect podcast was in my lineup: Dorie herself was being interviewed (along with Christine Muhlke, executive editor at Bon Appetit) on one of my new favorite shows, Radio Cherry Bombe with Julia Turshen from Heritage Radio.

That's a lot of onions!

That’s a lot of onions!

Once I’d transformed a pile of shoulder chops into a pile of boneless lamb chunks, the rest was smooth sailing. First, the lamb is browned. Then, the sauce gets started. Chopped onions and garlic are softened, canned tomatoes are added, then some stock. Finally, an array of Moroccan spices are stirred into the pot: a chile pepper, cracked coriander seeds, grated fresh ginger, a couple pinches of saffron, cumin, cinnamon, and some chopped cilantro.

Before...

Before…

Browned lamb and dried apricots are layered on top of the sauce before sealing up the pot and popping it in the oven. Now the hardest part is waiting for the fragrant pot to simmer and do its magic while the aroma from the oven makes you dream of a shopping expedition in a faraway souk.

And after...

And after…

And it is worth the wait. I served the tagine over couscous and sprinkled with more fresh cilantro and some toasted almonds. It was fantastic! I was able to continue my Moroccan fantasy over dinner.

Of course, anyone who follows my blog might anticipate how this went over with Howard, the man who won’t eat fruit in savory dishes. I was hopeful because his sister makes a delicious lamb stew with prunes which he has previously eaten and enjoyed. However, at our house, he picked the fruit out and added them to my plate. When I asked him how it liked it, he said, “Well, if you’d used carrots, I’d give it 5 stars, but with apricots, it only gets a 3.” That’s promising and a good idea for a future riff on this dish. Next time, I’ll try substituting some thickly sliced carrots for half of the apricots, adding a similar burst of orange color and, because I’m eating all the apricots, keep the proportion of fruit I consume the same. If serving to company, I would just add carrots and use the original amount of apricots.

To see what the other Doristas thought of the tagine, check out their links here. To make it yourself, the recipe can be found here or in the book.

Thanks to everyone for your delightful birthday wishes. With each thoughtful message received from my friends and family, my day was made that much more special. I enjoyed a multi-day celebration, filled with good company and delicious food. I LOVE birthdays, mine or anyone else’s!