Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Role as a Culinary Chameleon and My Never Ending Craving for Lamb

When doing an inventory of my closest friends I would say that 95% are vegetarian, 1% are vegan and the other 4% are omnivores.  I am a culinary chameleon (different from a Karma Chameleon sang by my brother, circa 1981 in a Boy George Look-Alike Contest--- yes, you read that correctly.)

Just like the little green gecko like creature, a culinary chameleon adapts to the lifestyle of those around her.  When I am with my veganites I have no problem giving up animal products.  I enjoy raw food with the best of them.  Last summer I did not eat meat for three months because of who was in my company.  I was happy.  Last night I made meatless Monday montage of sushi, white bean dip, carrots, dycon and broccoli.  Just like last summer and the three months of only veggies... I was happy.  I was fulfilled.  I craved nothing more than the vegetarian dishes that I had eaten.  Until...

An hour after my meatless Monday meal I had a chance encounter with a friend that had experience his own montage except his included quail, sausage and lamb.  The quail and possibly even the sausage I can live without but not the lamb.  Ah, lamb.  The one meat that I cannot give up no matter how fulfilled I am.

While walking home for the next 10 blocks I fantasized about a dish I used to get a small Turkish restaurant in Southern Virginia (yes, there were Turkish restaurants there they just called them "Mediterranean".)  At Arzu, they made this amazing Yogurt Kebab that I have yet to replace or recreate perfectly.  According to the chef, they marinade the lamb for days in olive oil and spices and then cook covering with rich yogurt, serving it over a bed of pita and spiced tomatoes.  I would fast for days before I ate there so I could manage to eat each piece of meat that they served me. 

I have my own version of this dish and not made it in a while.  I think the time is nearing soon.  Very soon! 

I actually marinade my lamb dish in yogurt.  Yogurt as a marinade is one of the oldest ways to tenderize meat. Here boneless lamb shoulder sits in a garlicky mixture for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Yogurt Kebab
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt for marinade, 1/2 cup strained or Greek Yogurt for top
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon of oregano
Tomatoes cooked down with garlic and butter
Pita Bread

Lamb1. Cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes, discarding any fat.
2. In a large bowl combine the yogurt, garlic, salt, lemon juice, coriander, oil, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Add the lamb and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and for as long as overnight. (I prefer over night)
3. Cook meat over broiler or on grill.  Cook the lamb until it is browned on the outside but still pink in the center.

The Bottom and TopMix the yogurt with the remaining salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.   
Line the plate with soft pita.  Cover pita with tomatoes reduced down with butter, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.  Arrange the kebabs on a serving dish, pour yogurt on top and serve hot.

Best enjoyed with a rich red wine, great music and in the company of other meat lovers. 

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