Saturday, November 10, 2007

Grilled Lamb in Rosemary-Tomato Broth with Crispy Curry Chickpeas

Around here we love our grill. What a great way to cook meat. Honestly, if it weren’t for our grill – a little cast iron kettle-style job – we probably would be vegetarians. Well, almost vegetarians.

What makes grilling so fantastic (besides being a low-fat cooking method that just happens to keep the house cool in the summer months and lets you keep an eye on the kids playing outside as you simultaneously knock out dinner) is the infinite flavor possibilities present when you learn how to marinate meat. Experimenting with fresh herbs, fruit juices, vinegars, oils, and a plethora of aromatics, condiments and spices is the part we look forward to most.

And we’re such grill nerds that we eagerly look forward to that first slice of still-warm meat that’s resting on the cutting board after a stint on the grill. Will the gentle acid of pineapple juice be enough to tenderize the meat? Did the hint of fresh oregano disappear into the tang of lemon zest? Were the coals hot enough to sear off the fat leaving lean, tender flesh behind without charring? Only that first bite will tell…

Sometimes, the next day there isn't enough leftover meat to make it fair for one or the other of us to eat it without feeling guilty. Especially if it was a particularly good marinade, cut of meat or grilling job. That was the case with this one lonely lamb shoulder chop. Michael made the marinade this time and described it as “a light jerk.” I have no idea what all went into it, but it was delicious. Today, however there was only one lonely lamb chop left and it would’ve been wrong of me to eat it in Michael’s absence. What to do? Make “stoupili” – my silly word for soup-stew-chili dishes.

I actually bought the lamb to make a stew, so I went ahead with my plans knowing that the lamb now had a delicious smokiness to it from being grilled and just the hint of spice from the marinade.

That inspired me to make some Crispy Curry Chickpeas to adorn the stew, which has a light yet rich tomato broth, given depth from the shortcut of caramelizing just a couple of spoonfuls of jarred spaghetti sauce (something that’s always in my fridge).

Some staple veggies went into building the base of the sauce as well, you know… carrots, onions, garlic. And at the end, for freshness’ sake I threw in a scant amount of thinly sliced kale leaves and a thickly cut zucchini. When it comes to adding zucchini to soups, sauces and the like, I like to add it toward the end and cut it larger than the other ingredients because few things are less appetizing than wimpy, slimy overcooked squash. Ew.

With only one cup of water added to this stew, it’s another thick and hearty batch of goodness, but with distinct, clean flavors, thanks to the addition of fresh rosemary and the short cooking time – from first slice to plate up it probably took me 30-45 minutes and that’s because I was ad-libbing, I’m a slow improviser. The body and depth of the shortcut tomato broth really compliments the smoky grilled flavor of the lamb.

Serve with a nice earthy grain like bulgur or brown rice and this is one solid meal that is low in fat, particularly if you are moderate with the Crispy Curry Chickpeas.

Grilled Lamb in Rosemary-Tomato Broth

1 yellow onion, small dice
1 medium carrot, small dice
1 healthy sprig rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 roma tomato, diced with juices
2-3 Tbsp spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 ½-2 loose cups cooked, diced lamb
2 large kale leaves, ribs removed, sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 zucchini, medium dice (to retain firmness when cooked)

Sauté onion with carrot until onion starts to become translucent. Add rosemary and garlic and cook until garlic is tender. Add tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and cook until the mixture begins to caramelize slightly. Add water and lamb. Season with a little salt and pepper and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add kale and zucchini and cook 10 more minutes. Serve with brown rice or cooked bulgur and top with generous amount of Crispy Curry Chickpeas.

Crispy Curry Chick Peas

1 can chick peas, rinsed and dry
curry powder
crushed red pepper

Heat 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil over med-high heat. CAREFULLY add the chickpeas (any residual moisture will make the hot oil splatter) and the spices. Fry the chickpeas until crispy being careful not to burn them. It should take 5-10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt while still hot. These make a great snack. Salty and crispy like nuts, but with a spicy warmth and peppery kick!

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