Lamb Kebabs and Lamb Burgers With Tomato & Grilled Corn Salad With Sriracha Vinaigrette.
I moved to Birmingham at the tail end of the Pepper Place Farmers Market which filled me simultaneouly with great sadness to have missed much of its summer bounty and with great excitment about the upcoming Spring when it would be back in full swing. Within a five minute drive, I am there around 7am every Saturday I am in town. And then I hop to a couple more markets around town just to make sure I am not missing anything. It makes me feel connected to home and summers spent in the Alpes going to the market with my mom. I’d go stir crazy running from stand to stand. Berries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, honey, fresh cheeses, cherries, peaches, herbs galore.
So yes, that’s what I do on Saturdays. I take a virtual trip back home, even if just briefly with such early morning escapades. My panier (basket) in tow and lovely memories of squeezing my mom’s hand with excitement upon each stand we would stop and visit. I grow even more nostalgic when I see my family’s pictures on Facebook or other of all the fun shared during "les grandes vacances" (summer holidays) when they all gather at the family home. This ability to transport myself back to that place in my life grounds me into the present as much as it makes my heart sink I am not there with them.
I love closing my eyes and reliving sounds and smells of my childhood. The cicadas by my bedroom window. Fresh cut cantaloupe with a dash of Port for the adults. Kebabs and veggies sizzling on the grill. Wildflowers and cool clear streams on our hikes in the morning. There isn’t a closer place closer to summer vacation paradise. Many training wheel were cast aside there. Many nights spent sleeping "a la belle etoile" trying to catch a meteor shower.
I think that’s my happy place. Lovely simple summer foods. Tomatoes and grilled corn. Marinated meat thrown on the grill. Fish cooked just so over hot coals. And the simplest of salads, burgers and drinks on a hot summer day.
Nothing like local ripe produce and tasty meats to make me feel in the throw of Summer, just as if I were back home. When the market stalls overflow with fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers, you can be sure that they end up in my basket in no time. I was thrilled to be able to get local lamb from one of our freelance food stylists, Ana, who operates Dayspring Dairy farm. The same lady who always comes to work with a few dozens eggs from her chickens and gifted me with sheep milk ricotta a few weeks ago. Dayspring Dairy's lamb is young, mild and very tender. A pleasure to create a meal around and share with friends for an impromptu dinner.
Big chunks of lamb shoulder were marinated in a flavorful concoction of cumin and chili, grilled just until medium rare and served with tzatziki and my new favorite tomato and grilled corn salad. Oh, yes… That salad has been made several times a week for the past month. I can’t stop at a serving. Or two. Fresh corn, grilled with a dab of olive oil, big chunks of big juicy tomato and a Sriracha vinaigrette. Yes again. So good…I get *this* close to not sharing when I make it.
I rarely eat a burger just to eat a burger but, if you ask my closest friends, I do go all out when I decide to have them over for burger night. Loads and loads of different buns, sauces, garnishes, pickles, etc… However, when it comes down to my favorite way to eat a burger, I am pretty straightforward. Toasted bun, garlic aioli, a thick slice of ripe tomato, arugula and red onion. That’s it. Makes me a whole lot of happy.
So here you go, I wanted to share a few favorites of the summer so far.
Hope you are enjoying time with friends and loved ones!
Lamb KebabsWith Tatziki:
1 pound lamb, trimmed and cut into large pieces
¼ small Spanish onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of sugar
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili flakes (we like it spicy but reduce by half if you don’t)
Tzatziki : I consistently use this recipe from David Lebovitz.
Place the lamb in a large ziploc-type bag or a non reactive shallow bowl. Mix all the marinade ingredients together (onion through soy sauce). Refrigerate and let marinate 1-2 hours up to overnight.
When ready to grill: soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning. Thread the lamb, discard the marinade.
Grill over medium high heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until your preferred doneness. Serve with the tzatziki.
Tomato & Grilled Corn Salad With Sriracha vinaigrette:
2 ears of corn, husks removed and cleaned
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 tomatoes (heirloom or not – just make sure they are ripe!)
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (use half if you don’t like too much heat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Heat the grill to medium high heat. Brush the vegetable oil over the corn and grill until the kernels start to get golden to dark brown. Keep an eye on them as they can burn easily. Remove from the heat, let cool. When cool, run a sharp knife on the side of each ear of corn to remove the kernels. Place in a large bowl or platter and reserve. Cut the tomatoes in chunks, wedges, quarters, any shape that works for you. Add to the corn.
In a small bowl, mix all the vinaigrette ingredients with a whisk (lime juice through olive oil) and drizzle over the tomatoes and corn. Let stand about 30 minutes before serving.
Simple Lamb Burger:
1 1/4 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns
thinly sliced red onion, thin sliced tomato, handfuls of arugula
Aioli: I love this recipe, again from David Lebovitz.
In a large bowl, mix the lamb with the Worcestershire sauce, garlic and pepper. Form into 4 hamburger patties. Heat a grill to medium high heat and cook the burgers to your liking: we like 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
Slightly grill the hamburger buns. Spoon some aioli on each bun half and layer the onion, arugula, tomato to your liking with the lamb burger.