My husband is a lamb fiend. Have I mentioned that before? When I don’t have a meal plan already in the works and ask what sounds good to him, the inevitable answer is “lamb.” Last week we went to the grocery store for some bread and came home with lamb chops. This weekend we went out to get milk and yogurt, and came back with ground lamb. I don’t think I had ever even tasted it before I met Jeremy, but I’ve been getting an awful lot of practice cooking it, and I’m finally coming to terms with its ideal degree of doneness, which is a lot less done than I typically want my meat to be. So here are a few “finger blistering” lamb meals we ate this weekend, Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Chopped and Choked

Baby artichokes

When I think of lamb chops, for some reason I immediately think of Rome and artichokes. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Molto Mario… Fortunately, I found some baby artichokes at the Lake Oswego farmer’s market, and snapped them up at 9 ‘chokes for $2. Quite a bargain, especially when you consider that there is less waste in prepping baby artichokes, as they’re all heart, so to speak, or nearly so. Not a prickly choke in sight. Mario has given me considerable confidence in the preparation of artichokes, which had previously been intimidating and unmanageable (they were never on the menu when I was growing up in Colorado, even in canned form). Now they’re no problem, and I keep wishing there was an artichoke stall at the Salem market. I got them prepped and floating in acidulated water (which Jeremy noted immediately; he’s been watching Mario too!), and decided to simply saute them a la Elise.

Chops and chokes

As for the lamb chops, which were nice and thick, I went the pan-searing route. After seasoning them with salt and pepper, I heated my cast iron skillet on the stove-top, and the oven to 350F. I quickly rendered some of their fat by rubbing the edges of the chops against the skillet, then pan-seared them to a nice golden brown. After that, they spent a few minutes finishing up in the oven while I sauteed the ‘chokes and put the finishing touches on some mashed potatoes. Somewhere in the vicinity of 10 minutes later, they were temping out at about 155F and approaching medium done. Jeremy thought I overcooked them a little, but I found them just perfect: tender and juicy, but without looking all raw.

Fresh from the Fat

Fresh from the fat

A few months back, I tried my hand at a Greek meatball recipe, subbing in ground lamb for the pork and beef called for. The result was absolutely succulent meatballs, crispy and golden from frying, but moist and tender inside. It was definitely time to make more, and they were just as good as we remembered. Jeremy ate over a dozen of them, I think. And as a bonus, I now know a good way to get that unpleasant frying smell out of your house after making a batch of kefthedes: varnish your floors afterwards, and that charming scent with knock the fry smell right out the windows. 🙂

This time, instead of lemony Greek potatoes, I tried my hand at another recipe in my Greek cookbook: fresh green beans slowly simmered with tomato, onion and cubes of potato. While it cooked, I did some gardening (basil! cardoons!) and took the puppy for a brisk walk to dry her off (let’s just say she found the water I was sprinkling on my herb garden very refreshing).

Kefthedes and Greek Green Beans

I had about half a pound of green beans for the two of us, so I reduced the recipe accordingly, estimating amounts according to what I had available. There was part of a can of diced tomatoes and juice leftover from the gemelli shrimp dish, so I used that, crushing the pieces a bit as I put them in. I also used red potatoes, cut them in eighths, and didn’t bother peeling them. There was plenty of liquid the whole time, and I actually removed the lid and increased the heat near the end to boil off the extra.

Fassolakia Yiahni
(Fresh Green Bean Ragout)

1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh green beans
1/4 C olive oil
2 medium to large white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 to 5 plump ripe tomatoes, peeled and cored (not chopped)
1 to 2 small hot red peppers (optional)
1/4 C water, or more if necessary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Feta cheese (optional)

Wash and clean beans. Snap or cut off tips and remove stringy fiber along seams with a sharp small knife. Wash thoroughly.

In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute onion until translucent. Add green beans and potatoes and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes, until vegetables are coated in olive oil. Add garlic and stir once or twice.

Squeeze tomatoes into pot. Add hot pepper and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if necessary, until beans are very tender and potatoes cooked.

Serve warm or cold, topped with feta if desired. Yield 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from The Food and Wine of Greece, by Diane Kochilas

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