Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Spring lamb can jump right into your kitchen

North Dakota may not have many people but those that choose to live there come up with some amazing ideas and make them work. I read recently that through their 4-H programs and perhaps the association of lamb growers and I believe the state university they have a program encouraging young 4-H'ers to raise sheep by giving each a lamb.

As a lamb lover (both of the wool and of the meat) I would dearly like to see some American lamb on our tables. There is nothing wrong with the lamb that most of us are eating from New Zealand and Australia, but it has traveled a long way to get to my kitchen and the price tag reflects the cost of travel.

Once it has arrived here are interesting ways to prepare it. There are three flavors that lamb seems to love: rosemary, mint and garlic. Most recipes call for at least two of the three. We probably all remember when you never served lamb without mint jelly or mint sauce. Minted green peas and tabbouleh salad made with bulgur wheat are both very good company for lamb dishes.

The important thing to remember is that lamb is usually served pink. It is easily overcooked.

Rosemary-Garlic Leg of Lamb

Slivers of garlic pressed into the lamb enhance the flavor.

1 leg of lamb, 4 1/2 pound bone-in
3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, very soft
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

With the tip of a knife, make 1/2-inch deep slits all over the lamb. Insert garlic slivers. Place lamb in roasting pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend butter, lemon juice and rosemary; rub all over the lamb. This can be done the day ahead if you cover the leg well and refrigerate. Preheat oven or grill to 450 F. Roast lamb uncovered, or on a spit, for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 F. Continue to roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 130 F. Let lamb rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes before slicing. Makes 8 servings.

Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

White beans are another natural mate for lamb and shanks are a less expensive way to enjoy the flavor of lamb. Canned beans can be substituted for dried.

1 1/2 cups dried cannelloni beans, or other white beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb shanks, 1/4 to 1/2 pound each
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Sort through beans and rinse. Place in bowl and add water to cover by 3-inches; soak overnight. In a Dutch oven; warm the olive oil. Add shanks, a few at a time and brown on all sides. Remove meat from pan and sauté onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally until tender. Add garlic and cook a minute or two. Drain beans, rinse and add to pot along with wine, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf; stir to mix. Add lamb shanks, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until beans are tender and meat is nearly falling off the bone, 3 to 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper; remove and discard bay leaf. Garnish with lemon zest and parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Well spiced lamb chops

Serve these pungent chops with couscous or bulgar wheat flavored with grated lemon peel and cooked vegetables. Or serve with a cold minty salad like tabbouleh.

1 1/2 teaspoons ground toasted cumin seeds*
1 1/2 tablespoons ground toasted coriander seeds*
8 lamb chops each about 4-oz., fat trimmed off
Olive oil

*To toast the spices stir in a frying pan over medium heat, until aromatic. To grind the spices use a clean electric coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Combine the toasted and ground seeds. Rinse chops and pat dry. Sprinkle generously on both sides with salt and pepper, then coat both sides with spice mixture, patting so it adheres. Pour a tablespoon of oil into an oven-proof frying pan and when oil is hot set lamb chops slightly apart in pan; cook until well browned on both sides. (Be careful not to scorch the spices.) Place pan in 325 F. oven or place lamb chops on a grill. Cook until lamb reaches 125 F. for rare or 135 F. for medium rare. Makes 4 servings of 2 chops each.

Lamb is worth waiting for.


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