one man's ceiling
Monday, March 12, 2007
  greek to me 101
lately i've been coming across cookbooks themed around various cultures and i've just sorta dived in. a couple weeks ago it was indian home cooking and foods from arab nations, this week it's modern greek. i think it has to do with wanting to open up our menu outside the tried-and-true and maybe brighten up some of the late winter (such as it is) blahs.

i've got 3 different things running this week, but it started off well last night with a think called arni sto harti which is a lamb stew cooked in parchment. i have to admit, growing up the few times my mo attempted lamb was usually around easter, like most meats cooked to a salty leather, and entirely inedible without sides and sauces. in this case it was mashed potatoes (because roasted potatoes were never heard of in my family) with LOTS of butter and the lamb was served with LOTS of bright green mint jelly.

naturally I only liked it for the jelly, the remaining jar would be for my own personal use in peanut butter sandwiches as no one liked mint jelly without lamb. weird.

since then i've had lamb primarily in middle eastern dishes, ground with mint leaves and grilled as kefta or in patties served with yogurt sauces. so doing lamb in solid stew chunks had me a little worried.

worries totally unfounded.

here's the result which can serve six, or easily four who enjoyed it as they did last night. damn easy to prep.

arni sto harti - lamb stew in parchment
preheat oven to 350 degrees
in a large bowl combine the lamb, potato, onions, peas and tomatoes and mix
drizzle olive oil and wine/wine vinegar and mix again
spoon meat mixture equally into the center of 12 by 12 inch squares of parchment
sprinkle oregano on top of meat mixture; season with salt and pepper
top each pile with a slice of cheese
gather corners, then edges of the parchment and twist to create a little bundle
tie the parchment closed with a piece of string
place the parchment sacks in a lightly greased baking dish
pour a thin layer of water into the dish, enough to just cover the bottom of the dish
put it in the oven for 1.5 hours
put each parchment sack on a plate and cut open at the table, eat right out of the parchment

easy to prep, easy to clean up after
kid approved!
great tastes! can probably be applied to beef! swap russets with asparagus! or carrots! or chicken and green beans! fish and leeks! ideas abound!

seriously, i thought this was the riskiest thing i'd put on the table this week and it turned out just perfect. late-winter blahs all gone go bye-bye!

now, let's see what happens next...

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Lamb! Don't get me started!... if you have ever traveled in Ireland, you know that we have lamb (well, lambS) coming out our ears. You can buy any imaginable cut, including mince (ground), just like hamburger meat, in any grocery store. I make a Lamb Bol (variations on Spag Bol[ognese]) that is on my top ten of comfort foods:

ground lamb
pinch cumin/coriander
a few crushed cardamom pods
can of garbanzo beans
2 cans tomatoes
olive oil

fry spices, lamb, veg...add cans and simmer for as long as possible (34 mins minimum) and eat with rice (or pasta if you really want to). Brown rice esp good. Top w yogurt and mint if you're like me and love yogurt and mint (or parsley.) Oh, and if you have naan bread to go with it, then you are really laughing.
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