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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beat the Heat with Leg of Lamb

As much as I enjoy working in my kitchen, when the dog days of summer hit, I can't stand the heat and I become obsessed with avoiding it as much as possible. I'm also always looking for ways to get more than one meal out of anything I cook. I have never been keen on what most of us think of when we hear the word "leftovers," you know, the sad, soggy repeat of last night's supper, warmed over with the Reheat button on the microwave. Yuck. Then, a few years ago, as an exhausted, pregnant, soon-to-be mother of two, I began to develop a sort of mad genius for creating what I called "leftovers by design." These days, I almost never cook just for one meal. I'm always scheming for ways I can take a little extra leftover this or that and turn it into something new. Kinda like those crafty folks who turn old wool sweaters into felt handbags.

So, here's what heat intolerance and an obsession with leftovers look like at our house. When we fire up the grill, we cook enough meat and vegetables for that evening's dinner plus sandwiches and salads later in the week. Also, I can frequently be found in the cool of the morning cooking a big batch of potatoes, grains, or legumes to use as a base for salads that we'll dip into for several days. Because they generate heat and humidity, my crockpot, steamer, and dehydrator all go to work outside during the summer, on a table set up temporarily under the eaves behind our house. The food processor is one appliance that keeps its place indoors and I use it almost daily to julienne vegetables for salad, make up a batch of cold soup, or whip up mayonnaise that makes ordinary canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, and garden tomatoes so finger-lickin' good.

Recently, Mike butterflied a leg of grassfed lamb (from our homesteading friend Mary), rubbed it with a mix of Indian-inspired spices, then marinated it in homemade yogurt over night. He grilled it, along with several zucchini, over a low fire until the meat was cooked rare, while a pot of basmati rice cooked in the steamer outside and I put together a quick raita with cucumbers and mint inside.

A couple mornings later, I prepared fava beans (making a couple extra pounds for a half-batch of Alice Waters' Fava Bean Puree) and stored them in the fridge until it dinner time. I sliced the leftover lamb into bite-size pieces, seeded and sliced a cucumber, and tossed the lamb, cucs, and favas with a couple shakes of curry powder, juice from half a lime, and enough yogurt to cover, and announced that dinner was ready. Fava beans are a bit of trouble to prepare, but I find their fresh pea flavor and creamy texture worth the effort. If you have young kids, get them into the act of popping the blanched beans out of their jackets. Just make sure you prepare some extra to make up for what your little laborers eat in the process!

The leftover zucchini made their way into my standby grain salad, the Lemon-Garlic Quinoa Salad from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family or I could have easily tossed them into a Wheat Berry Salad or this lovely French Barley Salad. Grain salads are filling, pack easily, and keep well in the fridge for a couple days.

Mike's a great cook; he learned from his mom and French grandma what flavor combinations work, but he doesn't work from recipes--it's all improv--and with his ADD, there's no remembering just what he did. Drives me just a little nuts, but I'm used to it by now. I'm not so good at the keeping-track-of-what-I-done-in-the-kitchen thing either, so I really have no business complaining. Anyway. I have adapted a recipe I found online that looks like it will give your similar results.

Grilled Leg of Lamb Marinated in Yogurt with Indian Spices (adapted from Basic Recipes)

2 cups of plain yogurt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of ground fenugreek
6 pounds leg of lamb, butterflied

Mix yogurt and spices. In a shallow glass baking dish pour yogurt marinade over lamb and turn several times to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours. Light a charcoal grill or preheat a stovetop grill until very hot. Add lamb and grill, 25 to 30 minutes, or until an instant-reading thermometer registers 130 to 135ºF for rare meat, 140 to 145ºF for medium. Remove to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice thinly to serve.

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