A couple of weeks ago, we bid bon voyage to our friend, Suzan, who was on her way to visit family in Turkey. Inspired by her travels, we put together a quick dinner consisting of a few bits and pieces of a lot of eastern Mediterranean cuisines. We started the night off right with a Greek style saganaki, made popular in our home town of Chicago: fried Haloumi cheese, flamed in the pan and finished with a squirt of lemon juice. Let's just say that we were lucky not to have to call the firemen!
The rest of the meal consisted of an eclectic collection of cucumber salad (similar to tzatziki), brown basmati rice cooked pilaf style with pine nuts, marinated olives, and homemade pita.
Rustic Lamb Stew
2 3/4 pounds bony lamb stew meat
flour, for sprinkling
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1 large tomato, chopped
2 preserved lemon quarters, finely chopped
4 cups water
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. On a plate or a rimmed baking sheet, spread the flour. Season the flour with salt and pepper, mix well. Lightly dredge lamb pieces in seasoned flour.
2. Place a metal rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Place dredged lamb pieces on metal rack. Roast for 1 hour.
3. In a large flameproof casserole, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until tender. Add fresh and dried oregano,tomato, and lemons. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
4. Add lamb, water, salt, and pepper. Bring liquids to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours.
5. Remove lamb pieces from stew. When it is cool enough to handle, pick off meat and stir it back into stew. Reheat if necessary. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Serve with brown basmati rice.
And, of course, a walnut pie from Mission Pie. It was superb paired with fresh black Mission Figs, lightly whipped cream, and Jim Beam Rye. (For those of you who don't know the story, Mission Pie chooses to make a walnut pie instead of pecan. The reason stems from local, environmental choices. The selected walnut farm is only 60 miles away from the shop, whereas pecans would have to be trucked in all the way from Georgia. The result is delectable.)