Category Archives: Lamb

Broccoli, Carrot and Lamb Stir-Fry

broccoli beef blog

Are you a big fan of the Chinese take-out staple Broccoli Beef? That simple, yet delicious mix of tender beef strips and broccoli, soaking up a subtly sweet-salty-umami sauce, served over steamed rice is a delicious and popular choice. Of course, if you must follow a gluten-free diet, Chinese take-out is no longer an option, as most of the recipes are made with regular soy sauce, which is made with wheat.

Did you know that it’s easy to make at home?

This version, as the title suggests, is made with lamb instead of beef, but beef could easily be substituted. (We had an abundance of lamb steaks in the freezer, and I was looking for unique ways to use them.) If you have venison steaks, I imagine they would be divine in a recipe such as this as well. I’m a fan of substitutions, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Anyway, back to Broccoli Beef. Or lamb. Whatever. Typically, Broccoli Beef has soy sauce, and possibly oyster sauce, both of which have wheat in the ingredient list. But what if you could make a sauce without gluten that’s just as simple, and just as delicious? You can! And the beauty of stir-fry is that it takes no time at all. After a quick chop of veggies, the actual cooking time is less than 5 minutes. How’s that for fast and easy?

My husband and I gobbled this up last night for dinner. And I happily took leftovers for lunch. (Although if I’m being honest, it was hard for either of us to leave any leftovers!) This is definitely going on the “keeper” list, not just because I have more lamb steaks to use, but most especially because it was so simple and delicious. In fact, I think I’ll add the other ingredients to the grocery list right now!

Print Recipe

Broccoli, Carrot and Lamb Stir-Fry (gluten-free, dairy-free)

For the marinade:

1 1/2 t gluten-free soy sauce (I use San-J)

2 t tapioca starch

1/2 t sesame oil

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 lb thinly sliced lean lamb steak (or beef steak, such as skirt steak or sirloin)

Whisk together the soy sauce, tapioca starch, sesame oil, and ground black pepper in a medium bowl. Add the lamb steak and toss to coat well. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.


For the stir-fry sauce:

2 T gluten-free fish sauce (almost all brands are gluten-free, but check the label. I like Thai Kitchen)

2 t rice wine

2 t balsamic vinegar

1 t gluten-free soy sauce

2 t agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup

Whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
For the dish:

12 oz fresh broccoli, cut into florets

1/2 c thinly sliced carrots

1 T olive or coconut oil

1/2 t grated fresh ginger

2 T minced onion

1 T minced fresh garlic

In a large skillet or wok, add about an inch of water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and carrots, cover with a lid, and steam until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain and set the vegetables aside.

Dry the skillet and return to the stove. Turn to medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the ginger, onion, and garlic and sauté for about 20-30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the marinated lamb and spread out into a single layer and allow to cook, undisturbed, for about 30-45 seconds. Stir and cook another 30-45 seconds to brown well, and then add the stir-fry sauce. Bring the temperature down to low and toss the meat with the sauce, allowing it to simmer and thicken. (This should only take a minute.) Once the sauce is thick, add the carrots and broccoli and stir well to coat and warm the vegetables.

Serves 3.



Balsamic Lamb Heart Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette

Hold on, hold on…hear me out. I know that titling a blog post with “lamb heart” is likely to instill fear in many readers, or at the very least, cause them to leave and hope that more Ding Dong recipes come their way soon. I promise, I’ll be sure to share more desserts again shortly. I can’t stay away from them for long.

But for now, let’s talk about lamb heart.

Still with me?


Heart, along with many other offal (organ) meats, are quite nutritious. Over at Mark’s Daily Apple, he discusses the benefits of eating all sorts of offal. Heart in particular is an excellent source of lean protein, thiamin, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, CoQ10, and several B vitamins. I’m no stranger to offal, and I’ve posted about making barbacoa and liver and onions before. We eat liver and onions fairly often at our home, and it’s one of my husband’s favorite dishes. Lamb heart (or the more easy-to-find beef heart) is not as common, but after this salad, it very will could be.

As far as the flavor of heart is concerned, it’s definitely more approachable than many other cuts of offal. Many newbies to organ meats try it by grinding it along with ground beef and serving it in hamburgers, thus “disguising” it. I promise you, heart is so mild, if you wanted to start by taking that route (use a 1:4 ratio of heart to ground beef), you’d never notice you were eating it. To me, though, eating heart even in this salad isn’t too “weird”. Heart is tender when cooked quickly and left at a medium or medium-rare temperature, and nearly has the taste and texture of a super-lean steak. There is no “livery” taste or texture to it, which is what tends to turn people off to much offal. And when combined with some strongly flavored greens, spicy radishes, and a creamy vinaigrette, it’s simply heaven. This is the kind of thing I could eat every day – no joke.

I opted for lamb hearts because that was what was easy for me to obtain from my local farmer, and honestly, I find lamb heart and lamb liver to be milder in flavor when compared to beef. You could certainly substitute beef for the lamb in this recipe and it would be delicious as well.

The list of ingredients might seem a tad long on this recipe, as you’re making a marinade, a dressing, and a salad, but in all honesty, it doesn’t take long to come together. The marinade takes moments to make, as does the dressing and the salad. The last time I made this, it was on a weeknight and I served it with sweet potato and rosemary flatbread. It was an easy and delicious dinner. In fact, as we were starting to eat, my husband confided to me that he’d been looking forward to it ever since the previous time I’d made it. (He also mentioned that he preferred this vinaigrette over ranch dressing, which in my book is a definite WIN.) I think it’s time to order more lamb heart, so we can experience it one more time.

Print Recipe

Balsamic Lamb Heart Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, sugar-free)

For the lamb:

1 lb lamb hearts, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (can substitute beef heart)

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 t freshly picked thyme leaves

Combine all of the ingredients in a plastic zip-top bag and toss to coat evenly. Allow to marinate, refrigerated for at least 8 hours.

For the dressing:

1/2 c mayonnaise (I love to make my own using this recipe)

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

1 t honey

1 t sherry vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar)

1 1/2 t Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.

For the salad:

1 head of green leaf lettuce

1 bunch watercress

1 c flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

1 c celery leaves

A handful or two of alfalfa sprouts (or your favorite sprout)

1 bunch red radishes, sliced

Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces and divide among 3-4 salad plates. Top each plate with watercress, parsley leaves, celery leaves, sprouts, and radishes.

When the dressing and salads are ready, remove the lamb from the marinade, lay it out on a plate, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high heat and add a bit of coconut oil, rendered lard, or your favorite cooking oil and swirl about. Add the lamb, spreading out into a single layer, and allow to brown for a minute or two. Toss and allow to brown on the other sides for another minute, and then remove. Divide among the plated salads and drizzle with dressing. Serves 3-4.

Do you eat offal/organ meats? Chime in on this topic (and more) at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!

Shepherd’s Pie with Pumpkin Souffle

Last week, I mentioned on my menu plan that I was going to try a shepherd’s pie with pumpkin. I originally got the idea from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo. This is a great book, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading, re-reading, and dabbling in some of the recipe ideas. In her book, Sarah shared a meaty pumpkin souffle that sounded intriguing. It’s officially autumn now, (although yesterday we still had another 100-degree day – such is the life of a Texas resident) so I was ready to get started with the pumpkin recipes. I changed my version quite a bit from my original source of inspiration, but stuck with the idea of combining egg whites and pumpkin puree to provide a light, creamy topping. With the addition of some warming spices, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, and coriander, this was a delicious, warming, but not-too-heavy dish. Perfect for welcoming fall, whether the temperatures will cooperate or not.

Shepherd’s Pie with Pumpkin Souffle

For the filling:

½ onion, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

¼ c cilantro

½ t fresh ginger, chopped

1 T coconut oil

1 lb ground lamb

½ t ground cinnamon

½ t ground cumin

½ t ground coriander

pinch ground cayenne pepper

¾ t salt (or to taste)

1 tomato, peeled and seeded

¼ c raisins


For the topping:

3 egg whites

14 oz canned pumpkin

2 t honey

1 t cinnamon

¼ t coriander

¼ t ground ginger

¼ t ground nutmeg

¼ t cayenne

¼ t salt (or to taste)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 7X11 baking dish or four smaller baking dishes and set aside.

Place the onion, garlic, carrots, cilantro, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until chopped very fine.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add pureed vegetable mixture and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ground lamb and seasonings and continue to cook, breaking up the lamb with a spatula and stirring until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tomato and the raisins in the empty food processor bowl (no need to clean it). Process until no large tomato chunks remain. Once lamb is browned, add tomato mixture and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring, and cook until liquid is evaporated completely. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Spoon the ground meat mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff using either a hand-held mixer or stand mixer. Stir the pumpkin together with the honey and seasonings. Gently fold in stiff egg whites with pumpkin until blended. Top ground meat mixture with the pumpkin mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free and Quick Easy Cheap Healthy’s pumpkin blog hop.

Braised Lamb Shank with Swiss Chard

Have you entered into the drawing yet for a chance to win a copy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green? If not, check out the details here. The giveaway is open until midnight April 23, 2011.

Last weekend, we finally were able to pick up our long-awaited lamb from Good Earth Organic Farm. This is our third lamb we’ve ordered from Good Earth. It’s completely grass-fed and organically-raised, and lived its life less than an hour away from my home. Good Earth Organic Farm has practiced organic, sustainable farming for more than 2o years, long before the resurgence in local/organic/sustainable food began. That is to say, they know a few things.

Over the past few years, we’ve been slowly moving towards eating more organic, local, and sustainable foods in our home. At first, it was about taste. I could get fresher foods by visiting the farmers market and buying in season, and fresher foods meant tastier foods. Then, as I grew to know the farmers, I preferred to spend my money locally when I could to support local businesses and these local farmers. But I also learned about the work they did and the reasons behind it. Many of these farmers strive to provide healthy, organically-raised produce and animals for their families and their community, not because they make more money (they certainly don’t), not because they gain fame or recognition (most are very modest, down-to-earth folks, many more comfortable out on the farm than in a crowd of people), but because they strongly believe this is the right thing to do – for the Earth, for the health of their family and community, and to know that their animals (if they raise them) were ethically treated. For them, these values were strong enough that they chose to devote their lives to upholding them.

Until recently, while I wholeheartedly supported these farmers and the whole notion of eating locally, organically, and sustainably, my actions didn’t always echo that support. Why? To be honest? Convenience and price. Sure, when the farmer’s market was open, I’d shop there first, but often I wouldn’t buy meat (too expensive) and then, I would visit our local supermarket to pick up whatever was on sale that week to round out our meals. This often meant that at least half of our produce was conventionally grown. Our meat? All conventionally grown (with the exception of the lambs from Good Earth Organic Farm), although I would buy from a grocery that labeled their meats with things like “naturally raised”. (Which, mind you, doesn’t mean much, as that term is not regulated.)  I would pick up eggs from Jacob’s Reward Farm a good amount of the time, but even this past winter, I slacked on that, as my new job and new commute made it so that I no longer drove right by the farm each day. Again, that convenience factor played heavily into my choices.

I’m not saying what I already practiced was bad. I honestly think I was doing a pretty good job of providing healthy foods for our family – almost every meal consumed in our home is made from unprocessed ingredients. We rarely eat out. Unhealthy snacks and treats are kept to a minimum, and vegetables are emphasized and are forever present at each meal. There are no sugary sodas in our home. But I knew that I could do more to help keep our family healthy. Even more so, I needed to open my eyes and become fully conscious of what I was choosing for us to eat. And when I did, those choices became more apparent – I didn’t want us to eat pesticides. Or chemicals. Or hormones. Or animals that were constantly sick and stressed (for lack of a stronger term) because they were raised in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). Nor did I want to endorse such practices.

Instead, I wanted to treat our bodies with respect and intention, and treat our food the same way. I  find that when we choose good food – food that is in season and is raised sustainably – I treat it better. I want to respect the ingredients. They are wholesome, and a lot of honest work went into them. It also connects me with the Earth to eat this way, and I find that there is a deep appreciation for what we put on our plates when we are conscious of what we are eating. As a cook in the kitchen, I am inspired by all of this. I was explaining this to my husband the other day as I was packaging leftovers of a fantastic kohlrabi and apple slaw I’d made using local, organic kohlrabi (also raised by Good Earth Organic Farm!), organic apples, and parsley from my garden. (recipe coming soon!) I feel as though when I buy grocery store conventional ingredients, I just throw something together carelessly. It gets us by, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good, and many times, it’s an uninspired dish. But when I’m presented with the best of the best, I treat it that way – and from my kitchen sometimes comes some pretty darn tasty dishes, if I do say so myself. He echoed my thoughts, saying he noticed that when I took the time to obtain quality food, the quality and creativity of the dishes I created also was greater. (I do have to say, it made me beam to know that he can also see that difference!) That inspiration, brought on by a sense of awareness for our food, the seasons, and the freshness of it all, is definitely an additional motivating factor driving me to not fall into the “convenience-over-quality” or “price-over-quality” trap.

Of course, this little rambling of mine isn’t to insinuate how elite we’ve become, or to sound political or extremist. Far from it. I understand that in a real world, not everyone can afford to spend extra on groceries. Especially in an economy that has certainly seen more prosperous times, there are many without work and they are surviving on what little they can manage to scrape together. I get that. But we as a nation spend less of our income on food than just about every other country in the world. In addition, many of us somehow find the money to spend on iPhones, cable television, satellite radio, restaurant food, and many other things we never even “needed” 5 or 10 years ago. We also spend more and more on medical costs. Perhaps instead, we could use some of that money to contribute to our health in the form of quality food? For a good many of us, it’s not about if we can afford it, it’s about the priority we place on our health.

Of course, this is about my choices and beliefs and that of my family. I will leave you to do research and make your own decisions if and when you are ready to do so, and I promise I will try not to preach. If you are curious about reading more, however, you might check out Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Joel Salatin (which I’m hoping to read soon) or for a more in-the-kitchen view, Hugh Fearing-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cookbook (which I am reading right now). There’s a lot more out there, but I have enjoyed these because they aren’t preachy or propaganda-like.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Back to this lamb. When we picked up the lamb, and I started to load it into our deep freezer, I was getting excited. Chops, and roasts, and more chops…my mouth was watering as I started to imagine all of the delectable dinners to come, and my mind filled with ideas. Then my hands grabbed the package of shanks. This is what we’re eating first,  I thought. I could imagine the tender, fall-off-the-bone meat now, bathed in a flavorful sauce, rich but not overly so, letting the lamb flavor shine through. This recipe does a good job of that – imparting a slight sweetness to the meat, due to the cinnamon and prunes, but enough savory notes to balance it all out. Mashed potatoes pair nicely, as does polenta. What’s better – I recently acquired a pressure cooker, which I used for this recipe. Right now, I’m still enamored with the speed in which food turns from raw to delicious with this thing. The pressure cooker made an otherwise all-day affair – these lamb shanks – something I could cook on a weeknight without too much work beyond my normal efforts. The pressure cooker only set me back about $20 – it’s not fancy – but if you don’t have one, simply simmer these in a dutch oven at a low temperature for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling off of the bone. One additional note – I used green garlic in this recipe. Green garlic is simply immature garlic that is similar to green onions. Its flavor is more subtle than regular garlic. If you can’t find this, simply substitute 6 cloves garlic and 6 stems green onions. Also, if you can’t find swiss chard, feel free to substitute another type of greens, such as spinach, collards, or kale.

Braised Lamb Shank with Swiss Chard, adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon, divided

1 t ground cardamom, divided

4 3/4 lb lamb shanks

2 T olive oil

6 stalks green garlic, green and white parts chopped

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in juice

1 1/2 c beef broth

1/4 c prunes

1 T tomato paste

1/4 t saffron threads, crumbled

Large pinch ground cloves

1 T olive oil

1 large bunch swiss chard, chopped

1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley

Combine half of the cinnamon, half of the cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Pat lamb shanks dry and season with spice mixture. Heat oil in a large pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add lamb shanks and brown all over, cooking for about 2 minutes each side. Remove and set on a plate.

Add green garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, prunes, tomato paste, and remaining cinnamon and cardamom. Add saffron and cloves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Return lamb shanks to pressure cooker. Put lid on cooker and follow pressure cooker instructions on bringing to a medium temperature. Allow to cook at medium for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, while lamb is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chard and saute for a minute. Add a splash of water and cover briefly, for about 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to come down (again, according to your pressure cooker instructions). Remove lid, and remove lamb shanks from sauce and set aside. Using a hand blender, puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Return lamb shanks to sauce – it should still be quite hot, but if it isn’t, return to a burner on low for a few minutes to reheat.

Serve lamb shanks on top of mashed potatoes, if desired, with sauce poured over and swiss chard alongside. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Friday Foodie Fix at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.

Perfect Lamb Chops

I’ve kept you waiting far too long for this post. I apologize for that – because  these lamb chops are delicious. So delicious, in fact, that the reason for the delay is that it just seems as though when these are prepared, rarely do they sit around long enough for the camera to have a moment with them. The food blogger part of me just gives in, allowing the food lover part of me to say “Go ahead, just dig in.” And so we do. And we relish every last bite.

But I promised you before that I’d share, because I can’t keep good things like this to myself. That would be really mean. I don’t like being mean.

So here it is - a simple way to prepare lamb chops perfectly every time. It doesn’t take long, and it takes very few ingredients. Just my kind of perfect.

These chops pair well with a wide variety of things. I’m partial to sweet potatoes, both baked and mashed (with a bit of fresh rosemary folded in). I also love a good risotto. This time around, I made a lighter, fresher risotto recipe I found at What’s For Lunch, Honey that bursts with lemon and fresh herbs (I used parsley, rosemary, lemon thyme, and sage), simply omitting the dairy and substituting olive oil. Divine – and a wonderful way to relax and escape from the busyness of life, even if only for a moment.

I won’t keep you waiting any longer for the chops.

Perfect Lamb Chops

1 - 1 1/2 lb lamb chops, bone-in (any variety)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 t chopped fresh herbs (I used lemon thyme, but rosemary and sage also work well)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large, oven-proof heavy skillet (I use my Lodge cast iron skillet - probably the most useful tool in my kitchen.) to medium-high heat. You can add a touch of oil of you feel it needs it – my skillet doesn’t. Pat the chops dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper, and chopped herbs, pressing into the meat. When the skillet is hot, add the chops. Allow to sear, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip to the other side, and sear for a minute, and then place skillet with the chops into the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chops for medium rare. (Mine were nearly an inch thick) Remove from oven and remove chops from pan. Allow to rest for 3-4 minutes. Serve.

This post is linked to Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free, hosted by Shirley at Gluten Free Easily.

Lamb Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash or Zucchini


I love stuffed vegetables. I think it’s because of the whole meal-in-one-package appeal. Or maybe it’s like a surprise is hiding inside an already delicious vegetable. Or maybe the real truth is that the flavors meld and do wonderful things in the oven, and the results are greater than the sum of their parts. Whatever the reason, I felt that it was worth turning the oven on in the middle of July so I could enjoy the lovely mix of fresh flavors in this dish.

We’ve been eating a lot of lamb again lately. In May, we purchased another whole, organically raised, grass-fed lamb from Good Earth Organic Farm. This has to be the best lamb my husband and I have ever tasted. I’m sorry to say that I have not really shared a lot of recipes that I’ve made with it. That’s not on purpose, I promise. There are just days when the camera doesn’t seem to make its way to a plate of food before the food is eaten at our house – especially when lamb chops are involved. And many times, I neglect to write down the recipe as I go. Before the chops are gone, though, I will promise you that I will share my no-fail way to make perfect lamb chops. It’s simple, easy, and delicious.

Anyway, today, we’re not talking about lamb chops. We’re talking about the ground lamb I used for the eight-ball zucchini found at the farmer’s market. I love to embrace the flavor of lamb by adding fresh, bright flavors – herbs work well here. I am growing lemon thyme in my garden this year, and it pairs beautifully with lamb. If you don’t have lemon thyme, regular thyme or rosemary also work well. I went with my instinct on the rest of the seasonings, feeling that a bit of Mediterranean flair would work in my favor. I incorporated za’atar (a spice blend of sumac and sesame seeds) and a touch of cinnamon. The result was bursting with flavor, and without the addition of cheese (a popular ingredient in many stuffed vegetables), it was light – perfect for a summer meal.

If you can’t find eight-ball squash, don’t despair. Making boats out of zucchini would work well, or you could also use bell peppers, or even tomatoes. When winter squashes start appearing in the coming months, I can imagine this stuffing in an acorn squash would also be amazing (that’s when fresh rosemary would really play well). Yum. I’m hungry again just talking about this!

Lamb-Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash

4 eight-ball squash

1 T olive oil

¼ c red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

½ t lemon thyme leaves

6 oz ground lamb

1/2 t za’atar

½ t ground cumin

1/8 t cinnamon

Pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c cooked brown rice

½ t lemon zest

1 T lemon juice

1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the squash and with a paring knife and/or a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the squash, leaving about ½ inch of flesh in tact. Chop the insides and set aside. Place the squash on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4 minutes. Remove and place squash in a baking pan (I used an 8X8 inch glass baking dish). Season the insides with salt. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomato and chopped squash “insides” and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down. Remove and set aside. Season the ground lamb with za’atar, ground cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Wipe the skillet clean and add ground lamb. (if your lamb is really lean, you might need to add additional oil to the pan first.) Saute until meat is no longer pink. Add the sautéed vegetables and the rice to the pan and stir. Add lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in parsley.

Spoon the filling into the squash. Top with the squash “lids”, if desired. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

Serves 4.

2010 World Cup South Africa – Bobotie

This Friday, June 11, 2010, marks the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, held in South Africa. Soccer is the most widely played and enjoyed sport around the world, and it’s certainly the most popular sport in our household. My husband has played nearly his entire life, growing up in city leagues, playing for school, and enjoying adult amateur soccer, both indoors and out. He introduced me to indoor soccer – I started playing about 9 years ago (my previous experience was only a single season as a kindergartner – many years ago!), and while I’m not likely to be called up to the WPS anytime soon, it’s a great way to stay in shape, challenge myself, enjoy time with friends, and blow off steam. At home, we subscribe to a lot of specialty cable TV stations, just so my husband can watch as many of his beloved Chelsea games as he can. Of course, when we tune in this Saturday to watch the United States play England, we’ll be cheering our Team USA the whole way.

In anticipation of the upcoming games, I realized I knew next to nothing about South African cuisine. So I worked to educate myself. Turns out, South African cuisine is a “rainbow of cuisines” (as described by Wikipedia), as it is comprised of a variety of sources and cultures, including the cuisines of the indigenous people of South Africa, such as the Khoisan and Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho-speaking people, Indian and British immigrants and their cuisines, the cuisines of the Cape Malay people, and cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique. This makes for a wide variety of dishes and tastes. I was unsure of where to start, so I found one of the most popular dishes in South Africa – bobotie.

Bobotie is a meat dish consisting of ground/minced beef or lamb topped with an egg “custard”. The spices remind me of Indian and Malaysian cuisine, with the use of curry and turmeric, but the inclusion of nuts and fruit reminds me of other African dishes. While it takes a bit of time to make, the dish is relatively straightforward. I sifted through recipes, and decided upon a Martha Stewart recipe that looked tasty. I served it with a cinnamon basmati rice, also a variation on her recipe, which was full of flavor and enticing aromas. It was a tasty meal, and a perfect introduction into South African cuisine. I certainly plan to make another dish or two soon – does anyone have recommendations?

If you wish to browse other South African recipes, check out Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – South Africa Roundup over at What’s For Lunch, Honey? Those dishes all look inviting!

Gluten-Free Bobotie, adapted from Martha Stewart

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped finely

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 T minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 t ground turmeric

1 1/2 T Madras curry powder

2 lbs ground beef or lamb (I used lean ground bison)

1/2 c (1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

4 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread)

1 3/4 c whole milk

2 T mango chutney (or apricot preserves)

2 T fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 t finely grated lemon zest

4 dry bay leaves

Cilantro and mango chutney as accompaniments (Martha also suggests lemon or lime wedges and unsweetened coconut)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions, apple, and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add turmeric and curry powder and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in almonds and cook for 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand until the milk is absorbed. Add the bread mixture to the ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in mango chutney and lemon juice, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding salt and pepper.

Spoon ground meat mixture into a 6 to 8-cup shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and remaining milk in a medium bowl. Pour over ground meat mixture. Place bay leaves in dish, pressing into filling just a bit. Bake until set around edges and center is no longer runny, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompaniments and cinnamon basmati rice.

Serves 6.

Cinnamon Basmati Rice, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T unsalted butter

1 c raw basmati rice, rinsed

1 whole bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 crushed green cardamom pod

2/3 c raisins

2 c water

salt and pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until each grain is shiny and coated with butter mixture. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and raisins to saucepan. Add water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Daring Cooks: Mezze

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have good friends that live just a few miles from us. Lately, we’ve been enjoying one another’s company by cooking together. We wanted to have a “Greek night” together, so it was perfect that the Daring Cooks challenge for February was to create a mezze. Michele of Veggie Num Nums was our host for this month’s challenge, and what a great job she did! A mezze is perfect food for a crowd – everyone can pick at every component of the meal, munch, and customize as they please. We were required to create pita breads and hummus, and we could add any additional recipes we chose. I went with falafel and cucumber raita, (two recipes Michele also shared with us) baba ganoush, and lamb kofte with muhammara. It was a feast!

Unfortunately, my gluten-free pitas did not turn out as beautifully as hoped. They were edible, but the texture was so different from what I remember from wheat pitas. Even more unfortunate – I saved the recipe I created on my hard drive. That very same hard drive that went “kaput” that night. So I did my best to re-create my steps below – but follow this recipe at your own risk! It was touchy even if I’ve documented it correctly, and could use some tweaking. I did eat my pitas, however, dipping in baba ganoush and hummus. Yum.

Everything else, however, was delicious. I’d never cooked dried chickpeas before (yes, I realize that might be weird.). Honestly, I’m not much of a chickpea fan (except in hummus), so if I buy them at all, I opt for the canned variety. Soaking and cooking from dried is MUCH better! The peas are much more tender, but not at all mushy. And they blended beautifully in the hummus, which was silky smooth. My personal favorite of the night, however, was the baba ganoush. I’ve made that baba ganoush several times over the past few months, and I fall more in love with it each time. With a large plate of baby carrots, I could finish off a bowl of it by myself. It’s that good. My second favorite was the muhammara that went with the meatballs. I could envision using that on other cuts of meat – muhammara-glazed skirt steak, maybe? It was so easy to make, I definitely need to consider future uses for it.

Overall, this was a great Daring Cooks challenge. We enjoyed preparing everything, and finished the evening with a considerable amount of Wii playing with the kids, chatting, and a bit of foosball and air hockey. Definitely a night worthy of repeating.

Gluten-Free Pita Bread, adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

(this recipe may not be exact – the recipe I created was lost)

1 T dry yeast

2 1/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees F)

1 t agave nectar

2 c quinoa flour

2 c amaranth flour

2 c tapioca starch

1 t gelatine

1 t xanthan gum

1 T kosher salt

2 T olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, gelatine, and xanthan gum. Add the flour mixture, a cup at a time, to the water/yeast mixture, stirring with each addition. Add in the salt and olive oil and stir or knead thoroughly until well-mixed. The dough should be somewhat sticky but firm. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. With wet hands, gently punch down the dough and separate into about 8 rounds, placing each on parchment-lined baking sheets, flattening into circles, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pitas, one baking sheet at a time, on the lower rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until no longer gummy in the center. Repeat with remaining pitas. Wrap in foil to keep soft. If desired, toast on a dry skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes about 9 pitas.

Red Pepper Hummus, adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

1.5 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking)

2 – 2.5 lemons, juiced

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

a big pinch of salt

4 T tahini (sesame paste)

1/3 c jarred red peppers

Drain and boil the chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Puree the beans in a food processor (or mash by hand), adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree in food processor until incorporated. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cucumber Raita, adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

1 t cumin seeds

2 c plain yogurt

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

fresh cilantro

fresh mint

1 cucumber, peeled and seeds removed

paprika, just a pinch, to use as garnish

Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small frying pan. Crush with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

In a bowl, stir yogurt along with cumin, garlic, cilantro and mint. Stir in cucumber and sprinkle with paprika. Chill before serving.


Gluten-Free Falafel, adapted from Joan Nathan and

1 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or well drained canned chickpeas)

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped

2 T fresh parsley

2 T fresh cilantro

1 t kosher salt

1 t chile powder (not “chili” powder - you want the kind that only has chiles in it)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 t ground cumin

1 t baking powder

4 T sweet rice flour

1 egg, beaten

canola oil for frying

Place the drained chickpeas and the onions in the food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, chile powder, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. You want it to look like crumbs. Sprinkle in the baking powder and flour and pulse and stir. Add the egg and stir in. You want the falafel to form into a ball and no longer stick to your hands – if it does, add a bit more flour. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for several hours, covered.

Form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of walnuts. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees and fry each ball for about a minute, or just until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve with cucumber raita.

Baba Ganoush, adapted from David Lebovitz

3 eggplants

1/2 c tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 t kosher salt

3 T lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, mashed

1/8 t chile powder

1/8 t cumin powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

a half-bunch of flat-leaf parsley

Preheat broiler of oven (or grill). Prick each eggplant with a fork several times. Char the outside of the eggplants all over under the broiler or on the grill until they look wilted, turning every few minutes.

Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. The eggplants should be completely soft.

Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and with a spoon, scrape out the pulp. Puree in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, until smooth. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with carrots and celery (as I did) or with gluten-free pitas.

Lamb Kofte with Muhammara, adapted from Bon Appetit

For the kofte:

2 lbs ground lamb

1/2 c minced fresh mint leaves

1/4 c finely minced onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 T paprika

1 t ground cumin

2 t ground coriander

1 1/2 t kosher salt

1 t black pepper

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 T olive oil, divided

2 large onions, sliced

For the muhammara:

1/2 c finely chopped jarred red peppers

1/2 c pomegranate juice

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, mix the lamb, mint, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and keep warm. Add the second tablespoon of oil to skillet. Working in batches, saute the meatballs until just cooked through, 8 minutes. Keep warm. Reserve skillet when meatballs are cooked.

Add red peppers to skillet and stir for 1 minutes. Add pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bites. Cook until reduced to 2/3 c, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.

Serve meatballs and onions in pitas with muhammara sauce spooned over.

Lamb Moussaka

A month ago, if anyone were to inquire whether I liked moussaka, I likely would have responded with a “Moose-a-what?” Generally, I enjoy learning about various popular dishes from all around the globe, but this dish must have slipped past my radar. So when one of our Thanksgiving dinner guests (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that she was bringing moussaka as her contribution, I immediately “googled” the dish to learn about it.

The exact origin of moussaka is unclear. Some claim it as a Greek dish (it is quite popular in Greek cuisine), but there are variations throughout the Mediterranean, including Turkey and the Balkans. (according to Wikipedia and other sites) Despite the countless variations, most recipes include a handful of principal ingredients: eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes, onions, and a crusty, creamy layer on top, usually comprised of a bechemel sauce.  (Bechemel is a white sauce, usually made of a flour/butter roux and milk or cream.) Unfortunately for me (and a great deal of other celiacs), bechemel sauce is a deal-breaker.

So when the moussaka arrived at Thanksgiving, I grilled (as politely as I could, of course, but a gluten-free girl’s gotta know whether she can dig in!) the “cook” about the ingredients she used. As she rattled off the (rather short) list of ingredients, (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, parsley, lamb, yogurt, egg…) I quickly discovered that I would be able to try this delicious-sounding dish! And delicious it was – bursting with savory and rich flavors. It seemed impossible how tasty it was – the dish was indeed more than the sum of its parts. I immediately cast aside all class and grace - I begged for the recipe.

I brought up the subject more than once during the remainder of the evening. Not that I really needed to – she already agreed to send it to me. In retrospect, I probably annoyed the hell out of her. In any case, she emailed me the recipe, so my shameless begging did the trick. I jotted down the ingredients needed on my grocery list for this week, and in spite of the lengthy time to prepare the dish (it takes a little more than an hour, which is usually more than I’ll tackle on a weeknight), I made plans to make this last night.

Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait! The yogurt-egg-cheese topping was beautifully browned with just a bit of a crunchy edge. The eggplant layers melded flavors with the lamb and tomato mixture to create a savory, luscious, satisfying filling. I couldn’t help myself – I had to have seconds. And some more for lunch the following day. This was one of those times where I wasn’t too sad that my husband isn’t a fan of eggplant or tomatoes – it just meant there was more for me!

This is the perfect dish for company. If you wish, you can prepare it up to 3-4 hours ahead of time, waiting only to bake it when your guests arrive. It will make the house smell heavenly. You can always round out the meal by adding a garden salad or a potato dish, if you choose.

Now, how to break the news to this guest that she will be asked to bring this dish next year…


Lamb Moussaka

2 large eggplants, thinly sliced

1-2 T olive oil

1 lb lean ground lamb (can substitute beef, turkey, or pork)

Salt and pepper

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced (should be about 2 cups)

1 t finely chopped garlic

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2-3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 eggs

10 fl oz lowfat plain yogurt, drained (see below for instructions on how to drain yogurt)

1 1/2 c finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer over paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of eggplant slices and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Brush a very thin layer of olive oil on each side of each eggplant slice. Add eggplant slices in a single layer in the skillet and brown on both sides. Set aside. (You will have to do this in batches) Repeat with remaining slices.

Add lamb to skillet and brown for 5 minutes, crumbling with spatula and stirring as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion slices and garlic and saute for another 7-8 minutes or until onion softens. Add tomatoes and parsley and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single laer in an oven-proof 13X9 baking dish. Add the lamb-tomato mixture, and then layer the remaining eggplant slices on top.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until doubled in size and foamy (I used my stand mixer for this). Add yogurt and continue beating until the entire mixture is fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over the eggplant slices, spreading out in an even layer. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serves 4.

How to drain yogurt:

Draining yogurt results in a thicker consistency, much like Greek-style yogurt. Line a large bowl with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the yogurt into the cheesecloth, then gather the ends and fasten them tightly with a rubber band. Hang the cheesecloth over the bowl, allowing it to drip the excess water into the bowl. (I suspended mine over the bowl by wrapping the ends of the cheesecloth around a chopstick and placing a binder clip to secure. You can also hang the cheesecloth over a cupboard knob and place the bowl underneath.) Allow to drip for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you want an even thicker yogurt.

Kids in the Kitchen: Shepherd’s Pie

shepherd's pieAfter Matthew’s hard work at making lasagna, our family gathered together and discussed changing up “Kids in the Kitchen” just a little. In an effort to learn more about cuisines from various cultures, we wrote the names of countries on slips of paper, and the kids each drew a country. They each had the option of making whatever dish they desired, as long as it was a traditional dish eaten in the country they selected. Brittany drew England, so we immediately began researching traditional British foods. After sifting through Yorkshire puddings, recipes for bubble and squeak, and countless roast beef recipes, we settled on one delicious choice: Shepherd’s Pie.

I’ve posted a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie before, but it has been a long while since we’ve prepared this family favorite. This is a dish that our kids devour. With a ground meat base that’s bursting with flavor, plus a delicious, creamy mashed potato topping, how could you go wrong? Brittany was loving every bite, and Matthew couldn’t help but utter “Nom, nom nom!” over and over again.

Brittany using the potato ricer

Brittany using the potato ricer

This recipe originates from Gordon Ramsay, and I’ve stuck pretty closely to the original. My big change, other than doubling the recipe, was utilizing a food processor to mince the onion, carrot, and garlic until it was nearly a paste. This allowed the vegetables to become part of the sauce, rather than being detectable (read: the kids can’t tell there are carrots in the dish). I also used half beef and half lamb. I love (and prefer) lamb, but I wanted a milder flavor in order to please the whole family. Although this recipe does take longer to prepare than some alternatives, the results are well worth it. Reducing the wine and the broth allows the flavors to concentrate into the sauce, which seasons the meat and sauce in a manner that you just can’t duplicate with a quick shake of spices. I hope that as the temperatures drop with the coming of autumn, that this dish will find its way to your supper table, and will have you, too, uttering “nom, nom, nom!”

Shepherd’s Pie, adapted from Gordon Ramsay

1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

4 cloves garlic, peeled

3 T olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground lamb

3 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T tomato paste

5-6 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked

1 large sprig rosemary, needles chopped finely

2 c red wine (I used a nice bottle of cabernet)

3 c chicken stock

4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

6 T butter

4 egg yolks

6 T freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic together in the food processor and “blitz” until the vegetables are finely minced and nearly resemble a paste. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the ground beef and lamb with salt and pepper and add to the oil, and brown for 2-3 minutes, breaking into small bits with a spatula. Add the onion, carrot and garlic, and stir to cook for another minute. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and herbs, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring nearly constantly. Pour in the red wine and reduce until nearly evaporated (this may take up to 20 minutes). Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced. (this may take another 15-20 minutes) The sauce should be thickened, but not completely evaporated.

pizza and shepherd's pie 028

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain the potatoes, and pass them through a potato ricer. (Don’t have a potato ricer? You can opt to use a hand mixer and beat the potatoes until smooth. I do recommend a potato ricer, as it results in a nice, light, fluffy mash.) Beat in the egg yolks, butter, and about 4 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan. Check for seasoning, and add salt if necessary.

Spoon the meat mixture into the bottom of a 13X9 inch baking dish. Using a large spoon, layer the mashed potato generously on top of the meat mixture. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top. Fluff up the mashed potato with a fork to make rough peaks. (Alternatively, you can do as I did here, and use a icing bag and pipe the mash into little “Hershey’s kissed-shaped mounds” to make it look pretty.) Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.

Serves 6-8.

shepherd's pie 02