Saturday, May 27, 2017

ARTICHOKES, SIMPLIFIED

Two tall artichoke plants in my garden are sending up buds. The buds are the edible artichokes. My local market has bins brimming with this very special thistle. 


The artichoke is the edible bud of a kind of thistle.

I love artichokes! Fresh ones have a sweet, earthy flavor and a meaty texture, somewhere between a firm mushroom and a boiled potato, that seem to be lost when artichokes are frozen or packed in jars. So I go a little crazy during artichoke season.

But, artichokes really are a pain to prep—stripping away outer leaves, trimming the bottoms, cutting off the tops, scooping out the fuzzy chokes. Artichokes thus stripped of their prickly exteriors need to be bathed in lemon juice to prevent their turning dark.

Rather than forego artichoke pleasure, my solution is SIMPLIFY! Cook the whole artichokes without all that prepping (no lemon juice needed) and let the people at the table do it themselves. Kids love dismantling whole artichokes, dipping the leaves in mayo and scraping the fleshy leaves between their teeth.

All the prepping necessary: cut off the stem, snap off a few outer leaves. No lemon juice needed, because inner leaves are not exposed. Drop the whole artichokes into salted boiling water.

After cooking, open up the leaves of the artichoke, exposing the tip of the choke in the center.

Use a spoon to scrape out the fuzzy choke--or let each person do it for herself.

Fill the center with a blob of mayonnaise (homemade or straight from the jar) or just drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

To eat: pull off a leaf, dip it in mayo and pull the leaf through the teeth to extract the fleshy bit. Discard the leaf. (Yes, you'll need a plate for the leaf debris.)

The heart of the matter: when all the leaves are stripped away, sprinkle the heart (also called the artichoke "bottom") with a little salt and eat it all.


Even when I'm cooking artichokes with other ingredients, such as in this cazuela of rice with fish, I do a minimum of prepping—snap off a few outer leaves, cut the artichokes in quarters and add them right to the oil in the cazuela. Then, it’s hands on. You pick up the artichoke by the inedible leaf tips and bite off the tender heart, discarding the leafy “handle.”  Accompany with paper towels for finger wiping.

Rice with Fish and Artichokes in Cazuela
Cazuela de Arroz con Pescado y Alcachofas

Savory rice cooks with artichokes and other vegetables and fish. Shrimp garnish the finished dish.

Pick up the cut artichokes by the tips and bite off the tender heart. Provide paper towels for hand wiping!

Cut immediately before cooking.

Prepare the artichokes immediately before adding them to the pan. Cut off stems, snap off a few outer leaves and cut them in quarters. You can also nip out the chokes with the tip of a knife. Drop the artichokes, cut sides down, into the hot oil.


Sauté the cut artichokes in oil with the beans.


Monkfish is a meaty fish that won’t disintegrate with cooking. Sautéeing the shrimp in the oil at the start flavors the oil. In the spirit of “simplify,” chicken broth stands in for fish stock. You can easily turn this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the fish and shrimp and using water instead of chicken broth. Feel free to add other vegetables.

As for paella, use medium-short-grained Spanish rice or substitute Arborio rice. The cooked rice should be meloso, a little juicy, not dry like paella.

Serves 4

Ingredients for rice with fish and artichokes.

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 large shrimp, not peeled (about 4 ounces)
¼ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium artichokes, quartered
1 cup sliced green beans
1 pound monkfish fillets, cut in bite-size pieces
2 teaspoons pimentón (paprika)
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón
½ cup grated tomato pulp
1 ½ cups medium-grain rice
4 cups hot chicken broth
Salt
¼ cup cooked peas
Strips of red pimiento


Heat the oil in a cazuela or deep skillet. Add the unpeeled shrimp and cook them on medium heat, turning once, until they are cooked. Remove the shrimp and reserve them.

Add the onion and garlic to the oil in the pan. Add the artichokes and beans. Sauté until artichokes begin to brown. Add the pieces of fish and the two kinds of pimentón. Immediately add the tomato pulp. Fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice.

Add the broth. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce heat so it bubbles gently. Taste and add salt if necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until rice is al dente and artichokes are cooked, 10 to 12 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Place the reserved shrimp on top. Sprinkle with peas and add strips of red pimiento. Allow the rice to set for 5 minutes before serving. 





More recipes with artichokes:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DINNER, OFF THE SHELF

What’s for dinner? I’ve got a couple of chicken breasts in the fridge, but chicken breasts can be pretty dull without something to jazz them up. Here’s an open can of piquillo peppers, a jar of anchovy-stuffed Sevilla olives, most of a can of chopped tomatoes, an open bottle of Manzanilla Sherry---  Sounds like a plan! Chicken breasts, Sevilla style, with olives. Cans of olives on the pantry shelf provide the perfect way to jazz up foods from chicken to meat to fish to vegetables to salads to grains.

 

Chicken breasts finish cooking in a sofrito of red peppers and olives.


The recipe, chicken breasts Sevilla style, takes the name of Sevilla because that province in Andalusia (southern Spain) is a top producer of table olives, which are widely used in the traditional cooking. (Spain, according to ASEMESA ,  the Association of Spanish Table Olive Exporters, is the world leader in table olive production.)

I served the chicken with a side of quinoa, which, incidentally, also is produced in Sevilla province.

Chicken Breasts with Sevilla Olive Sauce
Pechuga de Pollo a la Sevillana

Slice large breasts and serve with some of the olive sauce.

Quinoa is a nice side with the chicken and tangy olive sauce. Beans from the garden.

Use small chicken breasts, one per serving (about 5 ounces each), or two or three larger ones. Small ones can be served whole; large ones need to be sliced before serving. Adjust cooking times for size. Breasts can be skinned or not, as you like.

Use Sevilla-style pitted manzanilla olives, preferably stuffed with anchovies. Use the brine from the olives as part of the cooking liquid. Manzanilla is fino Sherry from Sanlucar de Barrameda, down the Guadalquivir river from Sevilla. Any dry Sherry can be substituted. No canned piquillo peppers? Use any roasted and peeled red pepper or fresh bell pepper.

Serves 4.

20 ounces boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped piquillo peppers or red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/3 cup fino Sherry manzanilla
1/3 cup olive brine
Sprig of thyme
1 cup drained and pitted manzanilla olives, sliced or coarsely chopped


Sprinkle the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper and allow them to come to room temperature.

Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the breasts on both sides. Remove them from the pan.

Add the onion, peppers and garlic to the skillet and sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and tomatoes, turn up the heat and fry until tomatoes are slightly reduced, 5 minutes.

Add the manzanilla, olive brine and sprig of thyme. Simmer about 8 minutes. Return the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook, covered, until they are just cooked through, about 10 minutes for large, thick ones.

Add the olives to the pan and cook 2 minutes longer.

Slice chicken breasts to serve.

Remove the breasts to a cutting board. Allow them to rest 5 minutes, then slice them on the diagonal. Serve the chicken with the olive-pepper sauce.

Olive and red pepper sauce.




"HAVE AN OLIVE DAY!"  By coincidence, my recipe using table olives coincides with the launch of a campaign to promote Spanish table-olives in the US. Chef José Andrés, Michelin-starred restaurateur and recipient of a 2015 National Humanities Medal in the US, unveiled the campaign at Spanish restaurant, Toro, in New York on May 17. Sponsored by the Spanish Inter-Professional Table Olive Organization from Spain, the campaign will run through 2019 and will educate US consumers on the different variations of olives and their culinary uses.”

Some more recipes with olives, to see you through the next two years of “olive days”:

Milled Olives.
Marinated Bonito with Olives.
Grilled Duck Breast with Olive Sauce.
 Black Olive, Corn and Avocado Salsa.
Potato-Olive Salad.
Málaga Salad with Oranges and Olives.
Olive Bread with Sardines.
Olive-Cream Cheese Dip.
Olivada Spread.
Black Olive Tapenade.
Green Olive Spread.
Salt-Cod Ajoarriero with Black Olives.
Tagine of Chicken with Olives.

About Manzanilla: http://mykitcheninspain.blogspot.com.es/2015/07/herbal-refreshment.html







Sunday, May 14, 2017

TOFU, OLÉ!

I’m trying to get tofu to speak Spanish. The truth is, I eat tofu on average every couple of weeks. It’s a way to not eat meat, poultry or fish. I always turn to a few favorite Asian recipes—Stir-fry with Snow Peas, Seared Tofu with Green Beans and Coconut Sauce, Noodle Salad with Tofu and Peanut Sauce.


Now I’m trying to figure out how to use tofu in some typical Spanish recipes, turning them, not just vegetarian, but vegan as well. In Spain, where even vegetable, legume and grain dishes usually contain a little ham, pork fat or salt fish, vegan is not an easy call!

Mushrooms to make a typical Spanish tapa, sautéed with garlic and, in place of ham, diced tofu, on the right.

Tofu—a non-dairy “cheese” made from pressed curds of soy milk—has long been available in Spain in “health food” stores. Now it’s also common to find it big supermarkets, in several “flavors.” Besides plain, there are smoked tofu, tofu with Italian herbs and olive-almond tofu. The plain one is almost tasteless, but soaks up flavors with which it cooks. I particularly like the bacon-y smoked variety.

Tofu is a fresh and perishable product. Keep it refrigerated and use by expiry dates. 

Here are a few of my tofu Spanish interpretations.

Mushrooms and tofu al ajillo--sautéed with lots of garlic.


Tofu and black-bean burger with red-pickled onions and piquillo pepper ketchup.

Fideo noodle paella has tofu instead of seafood.

Mushroom and Tofu Sauté with Garlic
Champiñones y Tofu al Ajillo

Serve the mushrooms and tofu as a tapa or side dish. Serve with bread to soak up the juices.
Garlicky sautéed mushrooms are a favorite tapa bar dish in Spain. It usually includes diced ham or bacon. Smoked tofu, diced and fried, is the perfect substitute.

Serves 4 as tapa or side dish.

6 ounces smoked tofu
1 pound mushrooms
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced crosswise
Red pepper flakes or sliced chile
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup dry Sherry
Chopped flat-leaf parsley


Cut the tofu in 3/8-inch dice. Spread it on a layer of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels and press to remove as much moisture as possible.

Clean the mushrooms in running water and pat them dry. If they are large, cut them in half through the stems, then slice them thickly. Small mushrooms can be quartered.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the diced tofu and fry it, turning, until golden. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until garlic begins to turn golden, 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue sautéing, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and Sherry and cook 6 minutes longer. Stir in the parsley. Serve the mushrooms hot. 

Tofu-Black Bean Burgers
Hamburguesas de Tofu y Alubias Negras

Flecks of tofu, black beans and vegetables show in this juicy burger.

Tofu is especially suited to grinding up with garlic and frying in olive oil, as if it were ground beef. With the addition of smoked pimentón (paprika), it’s a perfect stand-in for chorizo. Cook it with tomato to make a Bolognese sauce for spaghetti. Here, the ground tofu is combined with black beans to make really good burgers.

4 ounces firm tofu (plain, smoked or with herbs)
¼ cup parsley
1 clove garlic
1 carrot
½ medium onion
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 cups cooked black beans, well drained
¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs or oat bran
Oil for frying the burgers
Buns for serving
Condiments such as Piquillo Pepper Ketchup and Red Pickled Onions to accompany the burgers (see below for links to these recipes)

Process tofu until crumbly.
Pat the tofu dry. Break it up and place in food processor with the parsley and garlic. Process until the tofu is crumbly. Set aside.

Process the carrot, onion, zucchini and mushrooms until finely chopped. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the vegetables until they are somewhat softened, about 8 minutes. (Carrots should still be a little crunchy.) Stir the tofu into the skillet and sauté it with the vegetables for 1 minute. Season the mixture with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, pimentón, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes. Scrape the vegetables and tofu into a bowl.

Process the black beans, leaving them a little lumpy to give the mixture texture. Add it to the bowl with the bread crumbs or oat bran. Mix well with the hands. Chill the mixture.

Shape the tofu-bean mixture into patties. These are before cooking.
Shape the tofu-black bean mixture into 4 large or 6 small patties. Heat oil in a heavy skillet or plancha and cook the burgers until they are browned on both sides and heated through.

Fideo Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables
Cazuela de Fideos con Tofu


This noodle dish, usually cooked with fish and shellfish, is also known as “pasta paella” or “fideuá.” It occurred to me to make it with tofu because the chewy, white tofu sort of reminded me of pieces of squid or cuttlefish. To give it a taste of the ocean, I made a vegetable stock using kombu, edible sea kelp. (Spain has become one of the world’s top producers of algae and seaweed products.) If you like, cut the cooked kombu in thin strips and add it to the noodle dish. If you don’t want to bother with the kombu, just use any vegetable stock.

Fideos (fideus in Catalan) are thin, round noodles, like vermicelli. They range in thickness from threads of angel’s hair to spaghetti-like cords. I’m using short ones that have a pin-hole through the middle. If you haven’t got fideos, use spaghetti broken into two-inch lengths.

Fry the noodles in oil until toasted.

Spanish fideos are cooked differently than your usual pasta. For one thing, the dry pasta is first toasted in olive oil. Next, instead of cooking the pasta in a pot of boiling water, then saucing it, the fideos cook right in the sauce, soaking up the flavors, much as rice is cooked in paella.

The starting point is a good sofrito—onions, peppers and tomatoes fried in olive oil. This can be prepared in advance or all in one go.



For the sofrito:
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika, not smoked)
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
¼ cup white wine or Sherry
½ teaspoon salt


Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion, pepper and garlic until onion is softened, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pimentón and cumin. Return to heat and immediately add the chopped tomatoes. Cook on high heat for 3 minutes. Add the wine or Sherry and salt. Let the sofrito simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. 

For the tofu and noodles:
8 ounces firm tofu
¼ cup + 3 cups kombu or vegetable stock (kombu recipe follows)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups fideo noodles (14 ounces)
1 ½ cups shelled fava beans or peas
Sofrito
3 cups kombu or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprigs of mint to garnish
Strips of kombu to garnish (optional)


Cut the tofu into strips about 1 ½ X ½ inch. Pat them dry. Place the tofu in a small bowl with the kombu or vegetable stock, salt, vinegar, and crushed garlic. Allow to marinate 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a paella pan or cazuela. Add the noodles and toss them in the oil until they begin to turn golden. Drain the tofu and add the pieces of tofu to the pan and fry them briefly. Add the fava beans or peas. Stir in the sofrito. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to set 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with sprigs of mint and thin strips of kombu, if desired.

Kombu comes dried.
For the (optional) kombu stock:
2 ounces kombu (dried kelp)
8 cups water
¼ onion
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
Bay leaf
Sprig rosemary
½ teaspoon salt


Wash the leaves of kombu. Place them in a pot with the water, onion, celery, carrot, bay, rosemary and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. 

Add strips of cooked kombu to the noodles if you like.

 
Strain the stock in a colander, saving the cooked kombu, if desired, to add to the fideo noodles..












To accompany the burgers:

More vegetarian recipes:

Recipes for the non-vegetarian originals: 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

FAVA FINALE

While picking the last of the fava beans, I vowed to plant fewer next year. I like favas just fine, but day in and day out is a lot of beans. I had to stretch to find some new ways to cook them, beyond my favorite salteado—sauté of favas with serrano ham.


Favas beans of various sizes, ready for picking in my garden.

I also missed the springtime paean to fava beans by market maven, Russ Parsons, former food editor of the Los Angeles Times. He reliably activated the dispute about whether or not favas should, after shelling, be peeled as well. He came down firmly in favor of double-peeling, shells and skins (read Russ Parsons on fava beans here). I stubbornly stuck to no-peel, the traditional Spanish way.

But, here I was, with heaps of favas. Might as well have a go at peeling some of them. (Shelling and peeling was accomplished while watching Rafa Nadal win the Barcelona tennis final last Sunday.)

Fat favas, middle-sized and baby, plus small pods to cook in their shells.
To shell, break open the pods and squeeze the beans out of the pods. I separated them into tiny ones, called habas “baby” in Spain, middle-sized beans and big fat ones. The tiny ones were my private lunch—quickly sautéed with serrano ham and an egg. The big ones I bagged and refrigerated for making a purée another day. The mid-sized beans I decided to skin. The small (3- to 4-inch) pods with undeveloped beans I set aside for cooking “in their britches,” shells and all.

After blanching, pinch out bean.

To skin the favas, place in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove and drain. As soon as the beans are cool enough to handle, pinch each bean, breaking the outer skin and popping out the inner green bean.

The three minutes in boiling water cooked them enough for me. I finished by sautéing them in olive oil with a handful of chopped scallions and serving alongside an ibérico pork chop.




Double-peeled favas. Three minutes blanching cooks them sufficiently.
The double-peeled beans were delicate and tender, but, in my opinion, rather blah. I quite like the textural contrast of the somewhat chewy skins and soft, tender inside bean, all in the same bite.

Here are some of the other ways I cooked fava beans this week. As you can see, fresh mint and wild fennel greens are typical with Spanish fava dishes. Parsley, cilantro or tarragon are good alternatives.

Favas in their "britches," cooked without shelling.

Silky-smooth purée of cooked favas that have been sieved.

The fava purée becomes soup with additional veggies.

Raw fava beans pounded with bread, olive oil and garlic, a rustic peasant dish called porra.

Favas in Their "Britches"
Habas con Calzón

A garlicky dressing with bacon tops the unshelled favas.

Small favas can be cooked without shelling. They need only 10 to 15 minutes to cook. Cut the potatoes in small pieces so they cook in the same time.

Serves 4 as a starter or side dish.

½ pound small fava beans in their shells
½ pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 ½-inch chunks
¼ onion
Salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ounce diced bacon (optional)
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
Chopped mint to serve

 
Break off the ends of the fava pods and pull off any stringy bits. Snap them in half. Place in a pan with the cut-up potatoes, onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until beans and potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, saving some of the liquid. Place the beans in a serving bowl and keep them warm.

In a small skillet, heat the oil and fry the bacon, if using, with the sliced garlic, just until garlic begins to turn golden. Add the red pepper flakes. Remove from heat and add the pimentón and ¼ cup of the liquid in which the favas cooked. Pour the dressing over the beans and potatoes. Garnish with chopped mint to serve.

Fava Bean Purée
Crema de Habas

Serve this purée as a side dish.
Serve the fava purée as a side dish or turn it into a soup by combining it with stock. For a silky-smooth purée, after blending, sieve the purée. You’ll lose about a third of the mash—all the skins. For the soup, it’s not necessary to sieve the purée.

If using the optional serrano ham bone, blanch it in boiling water before cooking with the favas.

This recipe works equally well with peas.

Serves 4.

5 cups shelled fava beans (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 (2-inch) piece serrano ham bone, blanched (optional)
1 carrot
½ onion
3 cups water
Salt

Place the favas, ham bone, if using, carrot, onion, water and 1 teaspoon salt in a pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until favas are very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, saving the broth. Reserve the carrot. Discard the onion and ham bone.

Place the favas in a blender with ½ cup of the reserved cooking broth. Purée them until very smooth.

For the purée:
Cooked and blended favas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Chopped fennel to garnish

Press the purée through a sieve, discarding the pulp that remains.

Add oil, cream, pepper and salt. Heat gently. Serve the purée garnished with reserved cooked carrot, cut in small dice, and chopped fennel leaves.


Combined with broth and vegetables, the purée becomes soup.

For the soup:
Use the liquid in which the favas cooked plus enough additional chicken broth to make 5 cups.

Cooked and blended favas
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup each diced carrot, celery and leek
Diced cooked ham (optional)
Pimentón (paprika) to garnish


After blending, reserve the purée without sieving.

Combine the reserved broth in which the favas cooked in a pan with chicken or vegetable broth to make about 5 cups.  Add the diced carrot, celery and leek. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Whisk in the fava bean purée and diced ham, if using. Heat gently. Serve the soup sprinkled with pimentón.

Fava Bean Cream
Porra de Habas

Garnish the fava cream with strips of ham and cooked egg.
Traditional porra, a peasant dish of inland Málaga province, is made of mashed bread, garlic and olive oil with the addition of tomatoes—a thick, gazpacho cream. This one, which probably pre-dates the tomato version—is made with raw fava beans. It’s also known as ajo blanco con habas—white gazpacho with favas—although the color is a pale green.

The porra traditionally was made in a dornillo, a wooden bowl, and mashed with a porra, or “club,” a large wooden pestle resembling a cop’s baton. It’s quickly made in a blender. The favas should be freshly shelled, but size doesn't matter. They needn’t be skinned and the cream is not sieved. All the nutrients go into it.

Use fruity olive oil.

Use best quality extra virgin olive oil, as the oil both flavors and emulsifies the cream. I chose a fruity Hojiblanca varietal oil, so typical of Málaga province.

Serve fava cream as a dip.
The fava cream is served as a starter. But it also makes a fine party dip, accompanied by crunchy crackers and vegetable dippers. It can be garnished with either bacalao, salt cod, or strips of serrano ham as well as chopped egg.

Serves 4 as a starter.

4 ounces crustless stale bread (about 4 slices)
½ pound shelled fava beans
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
Salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Thinly sliced serrano or ibérico ham, cut in strips
Hard-cooked egg, chopped


Break the bread into pieces and put in a small bowl. Cover with water and allow to soak for an hour. Squeeze out as much water as possible and place the bread pulp in a blender.

Set aside a few favas to garnish the finished cream. Place the rest in the blender with the bread, garlic, vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend to make a smooth purée. Blend in 5 tablespoons of the oil. Taste the mixture and season with more salt and vinegar if needed. Chill the cream.

Porra can be served as a starter. Finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Serve the fava bean cream in a bowl or individual bowls. Scatter the reserved favas on top and garnish with strips of ham and chopped hard-cooked egg. Drizzle additional olive oil on the surface of the cream.

More recipes for porra:

More recipes with fava beans:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

ROAST LAMB, A SMALL FEAST


Buying a leg of lamb, on a whim, I asked the butcher to bone it for me. He removed the long leg bone without opening out the meat, leaving a pocket for stuffing. Now, what to stuff it with?


I recalled many years ago hosting a mechoui party. Mechoui is the Moroccan roast lamb. I bought a whole lamb and my friend, Dominique, who grew up in Morocco, was in charge of roasting it.

We stuffed the lamb’s cavity with a mixture of cous cous and parsley, maybe some chopped onions. I don’t remember exactly. Once sewed up, the animal was trussed, brushed with olive oil and positioned on a stout stick over smouldering coals. This was an August afternoon. Dominique and his pinche, Mark, turned the lamb for hours, basting it occasionally with salt water to keep the skin crisp. Dripping with sweat, Dominique stripped to his skivvies and turned the garden hose on over his head.

The meat was succulent and deliciously wood-smoke flavored. I served an array of Moroccan and Middle Eastern salads and vegetable dishes to accompany the lamb. What a feast.

Dominique is French photographer Jean Dominique Dallet (http://www.jddallet.com/) He grew up in Fes (Morocco), studied and worked in France and Denmark, before setting up home base in southern Spain, where I got to know him. Dominique clocks around 100,000 miles a year, traveling in search of new images, on assignment for magazines and books worldwide. I rode shotgun on several of Dominique’s forays through La Mancha, where we collaborated on magazine articles.

Traditional mechoui, whole lamb roasted in clay oven. (Photo by JDDallet)

Dominique tells me that traditionally mechoui was cooked (no stuffing) in a vertical clay oven, “until the meat is falling off the bones, so that you can eat it with your fingers, without a knife.” Men cook the mechoui, women serve it. Kebabs of liver wrapped in fat might precede the lamb, Salads are the only accompaniment to the roast lamb.

Today in Morocco, he says, a typical mechoui is sent to roast in the neighborhood  bread oven.

Whole roast lamb--mechoui--with accompanying salads. (Photo by JDDallet)

It was the memory of that mechoui party that inspired me to stuff the leg of lamb with cous cous. Here's my version, boned leg of lamb stuffed with cous cous, chard and pistachios.


Boned leg of lamb is stuffed with cous cous, chard and pistachios.




Roast lamb, a small feast.


Stuffing soaks up meat juices. You may need a spoon to serve it.





Roast Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Cous Cous
Cordero Asado Relleno con Couscous

My boned leg of lamb weighed about 2 ¾ pound. (In the US, lamb is marketed much larger, so a boned leg might weigh more than 4 pounds.)

The meat has a deep pocket where the bone was pulled out. Another way to bone the leg is to butterfly it, by cutting it open, removing the bones and cutting horizontally through the thick sections to create a slab of meat that is more or less of equal thickness. The stuffing is spread on the meat and rolled up. Either way, the meat must be tied to keep the stuffing in and give the roast shape.

Cous cous and chard stuffing.
For the stuffing:
½ cup cous cous
½ cup boiling water
2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped chard or spinach (to make 1 cup cooked)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
¼ cup seeded raisins
¼ cup shelled pistachios
¼ cup chopped parsley or fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Press stuffing into pocket of lamb.

For the lamb:
2 ½ - 3 ½ pounds boned leg of lamb
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Place the cous cous in a heat-proof bowl. Pour over the boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons oil and salt. Cover and let steam until cous cous is tender, 10 minutes. Fluff the cous cous with a fork.

Cook the chard or spinach in a little water until it is tender. Drain, well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Sauté the onions and garlic until softened, 8 minutes. Add the chard and sauté until moisture evaporates. Add the raisins, pistachios, parsley or cilantro, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and lemon zest. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the steamed cous cous.

For the lamb:

Combine crushed garlic, salt, coriander, cumin, black pepper and 1 tablespoon oil. Rub this mixture on the lamb, inside and out. 

Stuff the lamb pocket with the prepared cous cous and chard. (Or, if using butterflied leg of lamb, spread the stuffing on the meat and roll it up.) 

Turkey skewers and twine to close the pocket.
Use skewers and kitchen twine to close the pocket’s openings. Tie the meat so that it keeps its shape.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place the lamb in the oven and lower temperature to 350ºF. Roast the lamb, basting occasionally. Use additional olive oil for basting if the lamb does not have much fat. The lamb is done (medium-rare) when it reaches an internal temperature of 140ºF when tested with an instant-read thermometer. (My 2 ¾-pound roast needed only 50 minutes; a larger piece of meat will take longer.)




Roast vegetables with the lamb.

Allow meat to rest before slicing.

Remove lamb to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before cutting in thick slices. The stuffing will be loose and may need a spoon for serving.




Thanks to my friend Dominique Dallet for his photos of traditional Moroccan mechoui. See more of his work at http://www.jddallet.com/.


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