Monday, September 08, 2008

Lamb berbere with grilled vegetables, jalapeño pesto and smoked tomato orzo

Yes, that is a segment of lamb femur with the marrow sucked out, enjoying its second life as a parsley holder.

I love having a little time to just wander around the grocery store, no agenda or list, and just see what looks good and let the ingredients inform me for what I'm hankering. A sexy leek, with its perfect alabaster root end dripping suggestively with the misters' cool water. The vessel of colorful peppers, some chocolate-purple and peridot, rufous striated, all twisted and gnarled from errant, heirloom DNA (scrupulously bred out of modern hothouse varieties in the name of solanaceous eugenics). Eggplant heavy in its basket like a milk-distended breast. I love produce. I fucking love it.

I also love meat. Pork, beef, lamb - I love lamb so much that I can't help but wonder how delicious other baby animals must be. Fawn - oh god, can you imagine baby venison? A properly-cooked steak (which always means medium-rare with crusty maillard) is tantamount to ascension.

Anyways, I assembled these ingredients: sweet peppers, eggplant, leek, parsley, lamb leg steak (plus tomatoes and jalapeños from the garden). Without contemplation, I gave the steak a massage with the last of the heady Berbere spice mix. I sliced the eggplant into thick wedges and salted them to leach out the bitter nightshade jus. I quartered the leek and peppers lengthwise, and doused them in red wine vinegar, lemon juice/zest, olive oil and minced shallots. The tomatoes were cut into thick chunks and nestled into a foil bowl with oil and garlic. Stashed a sack of hickory under the grate and fired up the grill.

In a few minutes, the sweet smell of hickory permeated the patio and tendrils of smoke began to sneak into the kitchen. The marinated vegetables went on the fire, the tomatoes in their little cradle. I replaced the lid to trap the smoke.

When the vegetables had received their requisite char, they were returned to their marinade bowl and the steak went down. I'm so old-fashioned that I can't conceive of dinner without starch, so I got some orzo boiling (I was out of couscous, the "no doy" choice). When it was tender I drained it, dumped in the smoked tomatoes and garlic, some chopped parsley and cilantro, pinches of salt and chopped some of the grilled eggplant. I gave the lot a glug of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice.

I had been thinking about a sauce for dipping the meat and veg - gremolata? Pistou? Again, I just left my instinct to its devices and plugged handfuls of parsley and cilantro into a large cup, and added a hearty glug of olive oil. A pinch of salt was added, and some minced shallot. Whiz with the immersion blender. Taste. Add a small handful of pumpkin seeds, and a whole, raw chopped jalapeño. Whiz, taste. Needs acid, and....something. A squirt of lemon, a clove of garlic and some more salt. Whiz, taste. Perfect.

Dinner was amazing. Flavors of Algiers that I've never imagined before - Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African - all mingled harmoniously on my plate. Cooking by animal instinct, from the gut, has never failed me.


Manggy said...

Very seductive writing :) I love your organic method of cooking. I think I would frustrate you a lot. Even when I'm making an original, I have to write everything down beforehand. I can't ever fly by the seat of my pants (it stems from my fear of disaster = waste of food).

Another thing that would frustrate you is the produce here. Everything's so... Ordinary. There's not much appreciation for variety. When people talk about potatoes: russett, grand maris, piper, I have no idea what they're talking about. We only get "marble", "regular", and "baking", which is really just the same potato plucked at a different size.

Anonymous said...


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

You leave nothing to the imagination Heather...all so well described and explained. You've either "got it" or you don' my dear have certainly got "it". Cooking from the heart more like it!

Emily said...

Wow, I'm feeling a little turned on right now from your sexy, seductive meal.

Again, I like reading your thought process of how you come up with this stuff. Great post.

Nina Timm said...

Lovely, just lovely!!!!

MrOrph said...

Felt like I was walking with you - musing about the produce with wickedness on my mind!

You got me with that lamb and a very nice improv on the pesto!

Laura Paterson said...

Wow - this is true food porn.

And not even top-shelf-at-the-newsagents food porn, I'm talking about the quality stuff that even has a wee bit of a story-line...


michael, claudia and sierra said...

posting to perfection
hung on every word
(ok, i have no life)

no really, this is why i love you. just wonderful writing and delicious food. and all the ideas i get...

Núria said...

Great post Chica! Fantastic food, great ingredients... You are a poet!!!

Your dish has totally seduced me!

Heather said...

Mark - I'm always so surprised to hear you say that about Filipino produce. An Asian country with a history of Spanish colonization sounds like it should have awesome food!

Leif - Awwwwww yeeeeeaaaaah.

Petah - (blushing) Wait, what's "it"? Cooties? The gout?

Emiline - I wasn't really trying to do that, I guess I just really love produce. ;)

Nina - Thanks!

Donald - You should give that pesto a go. It'd be great with fish, too.

Kittie - I should start writing those novels that my grandma used to read. I'll be rich!

Claudia - Well, I love you back! There, I said it.

Núria - Now I just have to get a little wine in you... ;)

Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer said...

That is food porn at it finest!! WOW amazing looking meal you have the magic touch that is for sure!!

glamah16 said...

Lamb is one my favorite meats and that dinner id outstanding. I love all the flaovors you have going on.

glamah16 said...

I was reading Kitties comment. I have a new term. Food Erotica. Thats top shelf porn.

Syd said...

What Leif said.

Only you would admit to pondering the tastiness of other baby animals. Funny shit.

Leigh said...

oh yeah. orzo is a really underrated type of pasta. We find i hard to get over here so bring it back in bulk from Greece when we go. Good use of it, and anything with jalapenos gets my vote. i'll be making this one.

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Purple prose for purple eggplants? Love it! LOL Well, I love the whole plate too, so write and cook on. . .

Brittany said...

Holy shit.

I'm speechless. Right down to the femur.

Peter M said...

Is it wrong that I got a stiffy from your food descriptives?

That lamb is cooked to perfection...may I have the honour of carrying your produce?

Anonymous said...

wow, you REALLY love produce.

i feel a little dirty...i think i'm going to go take a shower.

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

OMG Heather...This is an incredible post. I felt like I was right there with you!

Also I commented earlier, I swear...Didya delete it???LOL

Jen said...

Fabulous post, Heather!

Heather said...

Cathy - It's not porn, it's art. ;)

Court - Well if it has to be porn, it may as well be top-shelf. :D

Syd - Don't tell me you've never done it!

Leigh - Thank you for not making it about the pron. Yes! Orzo is a delicious, versatile pasta. I get it from the bulk section of the store.

JS - Eggplants are worthy of the highest prose!

Brittany - I let the hubz take the marrow. Special treat.

Mr. the Greek - If it's wrong, I don't want to be right.

Michelle - I didn't mean to make it sexy! It just came out that way. I don't particularly think of lactation as sexy, but there are some real pervs out there.

Judy - You were with me. Right here. (I'm doing that thing where I point to my heart and tap it a little.)

Jen - You're fabulous!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Unbelievable! The whole meal looks freaking unbelievable! I'm inspired!

dp said...

Ha! We must be thinking the same thing with the lamb and berbere! I made lamb meatballs with berbere spice mix and they were so delicious.

BTW, I just ate at Enjoni Ethiopian Cafe on N. Killingsworth. If you haven't tried, I highly recommend it. Great mom and pops place. The owners were wonderful with their suggestions and the food was great.

Manggy said...

Oh, we do... It's just that produce-wise, it's not very well-informed. We do get a few varieties of apples here: Fuji, Gala, and "Green", "Washington", and "Chinese" which I'm sure are not varieties. Very frustrating.

DocChuck said...

Having been born and raised in Texas, I never much cared for lamb (probably ate it twice in my first 30 years), but your dish certainly looks delicious.

Now that I live in Maryland, where lamb is a bit more popular and readily available, I must try your method.

peter said...

I SO wish I was at home right now. I've got buxom multicolored eggplants and peppers crying out in vain to be grilled. Gnnnnrrrrgg.

Lo said...

Great writing... and I'm tasting all of those flavors. Reminds me a bit of Tunisia -- with the mixture of flavors and cultures running together all happy-like.

Anonymous said...

gad zooks, i am jealous. can we be neighbors?

Mike of Mike's Table said...

rofl about the description of the produce aisle...

As for does that look good. Really damn good. I love lamb and this is a very sexy presentation of it

maybelles mom said...

great post. very delicious.

Anonymous said...

Awesome awesome awesome! This is how recipes should be written, in fact you get this weeks [ No Recipes ] Cookin' Without a Recipe AwardTM for this one (well actually I just made that up), but seriously if more people cooked like this the world would be a happier better fed place.

Heather said...

Susan - Oh, you better believe it.

Darlene - It's something in the air, I guess. Thank you for the hot tip! I'm looking for new Ethiopian places. There are only like 3 in this town.

Mark - "Washington" apples are our local fruit. I had no idea they get so far!

Chuck - I bet Texas could raise some really nice lamb if it wasn't so insecure about its manhood.

Jube - btw, thank you for even stopping by while you're out of town ( town). I'll be on vacation in a couple weeks, then you can have my thunder.

Lo - Tunisia sounds sexy. I want to learn more about northwestern African cooking.

Abadeeba - We can totes be neighbs! You can photograph my food for me. :P

Mike - The best part was that for two days after, when I ate the leftovers for lunch, people would flock to my office to find out what smelled so good. :)

Maybelle's Mom - Thanky kindly.

Marc - Lol! You're absolutely right! If people cooked like this there'd be a lot more people who enjoyed cooking, too. :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Dinner does sounds amazingit brings vegetables into a whole new light...wink...

Norm Schoen said...

Meat, Veg, Starch....good girl!
Damn, I love marrow too, something told me you weren't shy about sucking the bone.

Anonymous said...

OKAY, I think you are "completely full of shit".

And I happen to be David Wyers, of Clearwater, Florida, the boyfriend of the famous "chiff0nade", a PROFESSIONAL CHEF (educated at Peter Kump's Culinary Institute) and the SENIOR ADVISER of the SeriousEats website.

And my girlfriend, Louise, stated VERY loudly that you totally ruined the lamb barbere with the disgusing stuff you added to it.

And by the way, I happen to be a fucking COMPUTER ENGINEER.

David Wyers,
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
Clearwater, FL 33767
(727) 467-9009

Peter M said... have a #1 fan/groupie/wingnut/Republican luvin' your food!

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