Like lambs in clover

Grilled lamb salad with pesto

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

Now that warm weather, maybe even hot weather, has established a firm footing for the year here in BA it’s time to start thinking about lighter dishes that fit that springtime atmosphere. Just two weeks ago I was writing about slow braised lamb shoulder and here I’m about to write about lamb again. After all, I promised in that column that I’d share a recipe for a delicious little spring lamb salad.

Actually, the original recipe more often features leg of kid, or goat, than lamb, but both work beautifully and certainly the leg of lamb is easier to find here. And, goat is a leaner, healthier meat for you, so if you can find it, I highly recommend using it for this dish.

Now I’m not going to claim full credit for this. In Sicilian tradition there’s a classic goat and almond stew called capretto con le mandorle or capretto alle mandorle – “goat with/and almonds”. A few years back New York chef Mario Batali decided to lighten it up and come up with a barbecued goat dish that featured some of the same flavors, but serve it up as a room temperature or just slightly warm salad for summertime. My version is based on his, though he goes the route of slow cooking the whole leg of goat or lamb off to the side of the grill, with indirect heat and slicing it afterwards. And some adjustments in ingredients that I like better.

I do recommend getting yourself in the mood by heading over to YouTube and searching out Jack Strachey’s Lambs in Clover – you’ll be ready to head right to the grill, or stove-top, and start cooking this up. Promise.

Grilled Goat (or Lamb) Salad

Meat:

1 kg leg of goat or lamb (without bone), sliced into serving pieces
1 bunch of mint
2 sprigs of rosemary
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons each of coarse salt and cracked black pepper
150 ml olive oil

Blend all ingredients except the meat together to form a smooth paste. Coat the slices of meat in it and leave to marinate for at least two hours – even better if you can leave it overnight.

Fire up your grill or your stove-top bifera or cast iron griddle and get it nice and hot. Cook the meat to your preference – personally I recommend medium rare to medium, no more than that – just be careful not to take it to the point where it gets tough.

Salad:

2 lemons
2 oranges (preferably navel oranges)
75 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon each of salt and cracked black pepper
2 bunches of arugula, washed and shaken dry

Slice the citrus fruits very thinly, remove the seeds, and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour. Just before you’re ready to serve, toss these on the grill or griddle and let them get just a little bit of charring on all sides.

Spread the arugula out on a serving platter and top with the citrus slices and the pieces of goat or lamb. The dish can be served while the meat is still hot, or left to sit and let the juices commingle, and serve it warm or room temperature.

Pesto:

150 grams almonds (whole or slivered), toasted
20-25 green olives, pitted
1 fresh hot chili
juice of one orange
60 ml olive oil

Blend all pesto ingredients until nice and smooth. Serve dollops over the top of the meat. Feel free to adjust the spiciness with either an extra chili, or if you want less, remove the seeds from the chili already noted.

If I may, I’m going to also recommend a wine with this dish – a fantastic match with a well chilled Syrah/Shiraz or Tempranillo rosado. If you must go full on red, stick with the same grapes but give the wine just a short period chill, maybe 30 minutes in the refrigerator, before serving. Enjoy your spring picnic!

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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