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Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Onions, Peppers and Nectarines

Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Onions, Peppers and Nectarines
  

The American Lamb Board, seeking to shore up demand which, according to their market reports, has fallen off significantly over the last two years, has enlisted a top-flight PR firm to spread the word. Apparently getting bloggers to write about lamb is part of their strategy so they Fedexed me a nice gift box containing a boned leg of lamb on ice, bags of dried herbs, some skewers and a leaflet with recipes.

Farmgirlfarebannersummer220Since I never heard of the American Lamb Board I asked my friend Farmgirl Susan, a bonafide sheep farmer and the creator of the wildly popular blog Farmgirl Fare, if she could tell me something about the organization.  She said:

""I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know anything about them. We're not currently members of the Sheep Society or whatever those groups are called. Usually they're aimed at larger producers and/or people who don't know the words 'organic' or 'natural.'

"That said, I am certainly in favor of anything that helps to not only get more people eating lamb, but lets them know that their lamb doesn't have to come all the way from Australia or New Zealand (or Iceland, which is the place Whole Foods is touting their lamb is from now).

"But of course, naturally raised, grass-fed lamb that is hopefully locally produced is not as easy to come by--and it's going to cost more than the stuff at your average supermarket whether it's American or not. Unless it's marked otherwise, supermarket lamb will most likely come from animals fattened up quickly on grain in feedlots."

I get such offers of marketing swag every now and then and accept them with the warning that I may or may not write about the product, and that if I do write about it my comments may be positive or negative. Usually I don't write about the stuff that shows up (cookbooks, spice mixes, useless cheap kitchen gadgets, etc.) but I like lamb and so decided to cook it and blog about it.

A friend was throwing a graduation party so I offered to bring lamb kebabs. Since it was a party I spent a little time on design of the kebabs and ended up with an appropriately festive look: red pearl onions at each end of the skewers, wrapped in pepper slices (green at one end, red the other), flanking two chunks of marinated lamb separated by a slice of mango apricot. The vegetables were blanched before being marinated since they need a longer time to cook than the meat they 

The kebabs were served with triangles of pita bread and most guests washed them down with beer or wine. The result was generally acclaimed by the 30+ guests at the party. For my taste the marinade obscured the flavor of the lamb (I like a chop, simply grilled with rosemary and garlic), but since the dish was such a crowd-pleaser I can certainly recommend it.
______________________

By the way, if you want to see what some of your other favorite food bloggers have been doing with the American Lamb Board goodie bag, click the links below: 

Amuse Bouche
Livin' La Vida Low-Carb
White Trash Barbeque
Get Your Grill On
Christine Cooks
Kalyn's Kitchen
Simply Recipes

Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Onions, Peppers and Nectarines
(adapted from a recipe by Najmeih Batmanglij)

1 lb lean lamb leg meat (weight after trimming)
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1-1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 C lime juice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground saffron threads, dissolved in 2 T hot water
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp oregano
6 T minced fresh rosemary
Lambkebabsplatter_28 slices sweet red pepper (1-1/2" wide)
8 slices sweet green pepper (1-1/2" wide)
1 firm mango nectarine, cut in 8 wedges
16 red pearl onions
1 T olive oil
1 tsp hot sauce
2 T butter

Carefully trim fat and all connective tissue from the lamb and cut in 3/4 0z cubes (about 1-1/4"). Mix the onion, 2/3 of the garlic, 1 tsp salt, the black pepper, 4 tablespoons of the rosemary, the saffron and the lime juice. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over high heat until they darken slightly, then grind and add to the lime juice mixture. Pour over the lamb cubes and mix well. Cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 24 - 72 hours, turning now and then.

Blanch the pepper slices in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Then, while hot, toss with the remaining garlic slices, the remaining rosemary, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, the oregano, lemon juice and olive oil. Blanch the onions in the salted water, then plunge in cold water. After this treatment the skins will slip off easily. Sauté the peeled onions, stirring, for about 3 minutes in the butter over medium high heat. Then add water to cover, a pinch of salt and some pepper and boil gently for about 8 minutes. Drain the onions and then toss them with the peppers. Marinate the vegetables until you are ready to assemble the kebabs.

To assemble, drain and reserve the marinade from the meat. Wrap an onion in one of the pepper slices and thread it on a skewer, followed by a chunk of meat, a slice of apricot, another chunk of meat and then another onion wrapped in a pepper slice of the opposite color. Repeat for remaining meat and vegetables. Strain the marinade and emulsify in a blender for basting.

Place the kebabs on the grill over a medium hot charcoal or gas fire, baste and cook for six minutes. Then turn them, baste again and grill six minutes more. Sprinkle with coarse salt, then tent under foil for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
____________________________

Notes.
1. Trimming. It's very important to remove all the connective tissue, as this can be tough to the point of inedibility. By the time you're done doing this and finished trimming excess fat you'll have a pile of little pieces of meat, too small for kebabs. If you are doing a large quantity and you accumulate 12 0z or so of these trimmings it becomes worth it to grind them (with some of the fat trimmings) for use in sausage or meatballs (I'll be posting in a few days a very nice lamb meatball dish I made from my trimmings).

2. Quantity. The boned leg I received weighed 4 lb 12 oz out of the package. After trimming I had 3 lb 6 oz of kebab cubes - 60 pieces, enough for 30 kebabs. I also had 10 oz of solid fat which I froze for some future unknown use and 12 oz of lean trim as described in Note 1.

3. Grill timing. Overcooked lamb is no treat, so a quick stay on the grill is all that's needed. However, if you decide to cut larger pieces, adjust accordingly. The lamb cooks a bit more during the foil-tented rest.

4. Skewers. If you use bamboo skewers, as I usually do, soak them in water for at least half an hour just before assembling the kebabs. This keeps them from burning while on the fire, a really annoying development if you let it happen.

5. Make ahead. Obviously since the lamb needs to marinate so you will be prepping this ahead of time. The vegetables don't really need such a long time to marinate so they can be made later.  I did the lamb on Thursday and then the vegetables on Saturday for a Sunday service.

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Comments

Sounds delish! It's fun seeing all the different variations on grilled lamb that bloggers have come up with.

I guess the guests must have liked them because they were gone before I could try one!

I love the way you did this Stephen. Very upscale. I'm with you on unembellished lamb - it's very tasty on its own.

Stephen,
Lucky you. And the recipe looks excellent.

Dear Stephen:

Fleishman-Hillard, a multi-national ad agency, are the same asshats who wanted me to pimp "Healthy Mr. Potato Head" for them. Since conventionally grown potatoes are one of the most contaminated with pesticides, I took them to task for having such gall.

I am going to deconstruct the American Lamb Board....or maybe eviscerate them, if the evidence warrants.

This is agri-business.

Your food always looks charming, but I have no doubt that they hand-selected the best cuts to send to you and all the other bloggers they wanted to enlist for free marketing. I am equally sure it's feedlot lamb, with rare exceptions.

Here is a link to my post exposing Fleishman-Hillard's tactics.

http://smallfarms.typepad.com/small_farms/2006/11/one_potato_two_.html

(And I linked to that post recently, in my "Moove Your Ass Out of Here, Evil Marketing Idiots" post, too. Susannah Phillips of Fleishman Hillard made a bad mistake in not reading my blog before she wrote, hoping to get me to do free work for her agency!)

After reading this, I'm very hungry now and have a craving for lamb kebabs. *sigh*

Paz

Hi Tana...

Thanks for the heads-up...The lamb was from Superior Farms and was definitely top cut...one of the other bloggers who got it said it was grass-fed but I haven't been able to verify that...anyway, it was very high quality stuff...I guess F-H hit a home run with this one (easy to find whores when you offer baubles) as many, many bloggers did lamb in the last few weeks...anyway, thanks again for your passionate and tireless work on behalf of our food supply...

Hi Stephen,

Thank you very much for writing your thoughtful post!

I work for Fleishman-Hillard along with Rachelle Lacroix who got in touch with you about the opportunity to try the lamb provided by the American Lamb Board.

Fleishman-Hillard is indeed an international communications firm (not an ad agency as Tana comments) and as that would imply, we help a variety of clients to communicate about issues and services.

As you note in your post and as we ALWAYS note in our communications, we do not ever expect a review or for any review (should it occur) to be "good" when we provide an opportunity. Communications should always be about transparency and honesty...and result in frank dialogue.

We are real people who, due to the nature of our jobs, sometimes have interesting opportunities to share with various media outlets...and in 2007, that includes a number of highly talented self publishers, such as bloggers.

Despite her derisive comments about our work, we really believe Tana's blog is well-written and impressive with respect to the topics she covers. Everyone on our team that conducts outreach ALWAYS reads each outlet to make sure the opportunity we are offering is a solid match.

Susannah Phillips, to whom Tana refers in context of the "Healthy Mr. Potato Head" project on which we worked, did indeed read the I Heart Farms blog before getting in touch... and she didn't feel there was any issue in sharing a piece of light-hearted, fun information (though we understand Tana didn't consider it such...)

We don't consider offering relevant opportunities to self publishers to be "free work" for our agency... indeed, how could we consider it that knowing very well that what might result is negative commentary? What we hope for in every case is simply the sharing of honest opinions.

The only thing we can do is our research... and try to provide a worthwhile experience to each publisher that will be of interest and provide value to his or her readers.

Tana obviously felt that "Health Mr. Potato Head" wasn't a match for her blog. We respect her feelings on the matter and would only expect her to share her honest opinions. Again, we know providing these types of opportunities has the possibility of resulting in such "rants." (Tana's word)

I am also a blogger -- http://www.outfrontblog.com/klaus.html -- so can fully appreciate the various perspectives being shared.

In closing, I would simply state that whenever anyone has to resort to name calling in order to express themselves (using terms like "asshat" and "idiot" to describe other human beings... all of whom have feelings and families too), one has to question the strength of the argument.

Regardless of disagreements or differences of opinion, we believe that thoughtful dialogue and basic human respect should always be employed. When we communicate with anyone, we approach it as if we are talking in person, face-to-face. And we treat everyone with whom we interact in a respectful, kind manner. We are proud of our work and our commitment to honesty and transparency.

In closing, thank you for taking the time to try the lamb from the American Lamb Board and for your thoughtful, well-written post.

Best,

Pete
202-828-9702

Pete, that is honestly a great response, but I refuse to be ashamed for being derisive. All the materials Susannah Phillips sent me were written for one reason, and one reason alone: to sell plastic toys. All corporations are always looking for "new markets" and new reasons to sell people crap. Whether it's crap toys or crap food (factory farmed lamb, anyone?), it's all about heightened consumption. Heightened consumption = hell in a handbasket. Surely you must realize that on some level.

Everyone has seen movies with scenes in ad agencies, and just how desperate their employees are to come up with the most ridiculous, overreaching, insulting slogans and campaigns. We laugh but ruefully.

I realize you are real people with real jobs, but when I wrote my previous rant about "Evil Marketing Idiots," one woman left a very telling comment on my blog. She said:

"Let em have it, Tana! I'm a copywriter in a marketing department for a big toy company, and let me tell you, those marketers speak not one word of truth. Not one word. It's all spin, spin, spin...thus I seek a new job."

I stand by my derisiveness, and apologize if it seems disrespectful. I very much AM disrespectful of the industry that pays you, disrespectful of the corporations who milk people, and disrespectful of the very real intention to ignore the health of the planet to Sell More Things, More Unhealthy Food, More Business.

Nevertheless, I thank you for your response, and hope you can understand that it is nothing personal that I encourage people to mute commercials and think for themselves. The world needs less crap manufactured and grown, not more.

Sincerely,
Tana Butler

Hi Pete..thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment....I appreciate your thoughts....I'm sorry to hear that you have problems with the language, tone or ideas of other commenters at my site but of course the only way I can control that would be to either edit (I never do) or delete the comments, which I only do when the comment is deeply offensive to me or clearly spam....your comment, by the way, is on the borderline there (since I consider any comment that seeks to use my blog to promote or publicize a position, service, product etc. to be spam -- I'm going to let you slide though because you didn't include any urls for bigschlongnow.com or wetnakedboys.com, etc.)...

One question: the lamb was very good, and there's been some debate in the foodblogosphere about whether it was grass-fed or from a feedlot the way most of American lamb is so I was wondering if you could clear this up?... one of the other bloggers said it was from Superior Farms in CA (I didn't find a label on mine) but the Superior Farms website doesn't clearly address the grassfed/feedlot question...one of the other bloggers wrote that she was told it was grass fed but when I asked it turned out she wasn't sure how she got that idea...could you get back to me on that? (by the way, I know that virtually all lambs are grass fed up to about 40-60 lb so that's not the question...I'm asking what they were eating from 60 lb to slaughter size...thanks)

Thanks for your interest in Stephencooks.com...

best,

Stephen

Those kebabs look baaaaad. Sorry could not resist! I am typically not a fan of lamb, but I enjoy it very much in kebabs.

I love lamb...but don't cook enough of it. Its never really been part of the everyday diet in our family - more of a special occassion thing. For some reason lamb chops are insanely expensive for very little meat.

Nice post, Stephen, not least of which for the lively and informative comments. American lamb (sheep) has been in steep decline for years. I had some contact with the American Sheep Industry Assocation, which links to the Lamb Board, some years ago while trying to find sources for mutton. Or to find out where the hell all the mutton, or older sheep, go when they're no longer being used to produce lamb.

I helped a farmer friend slaughter two elderly ewes while I was doing this research. I'd been led to believe by all the industry types I talked to that the meat would be rank and disgusting. In fact, these two old ladies had been lovingly raised on pasture in Southern Maryland. Despite their age, they produced some of the best meat I've ever tasted.

It's hard to know who to believe sometimes, but I'd gladly get involved in a mutton promotion.

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