Not to make anyone jealous who doesn’t have access to the same, but how can one resist all these vibrant, beautiful colors. Obviously, I couldn’t, as I grabbed all of this from the Greenmarket. While I do have quite a few recipes for cooking the vegetables individually, I had other plans for these gems.
I am also one of those people who definitely eats with her eyes first, and I am very drawn to colors. From the September issue of BBC Good Food magazine, I had pulled a ratatouille recipe to try. This must be irresistibly appealing, at least for me, because when I went into my recipe file to file it (I’m trying to be good about keeping everything organized.), I discovered that I’d pulled a similar recipe from last year’s September issue of the same magazine. There must be something that they put into their food photography to draw me in to the same recipe topic in two consecutive years.
Cooking and recipe-making can also be a bit of a research process, though, so having two descriptions of how to make the same dish isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Both of these had some helpful tips to avoid making a big pile of vegetable mush. One is to cut everything into more or less the same size. The second is to cook each component* – peppers, eggplant, zucchini – separately and then combine them at the end.
Each of the two recipes has variations on the seasoning, but I decided to stick to fresh basil, as the bunch I had was perfectly fragrant and kelly green. Putting them all together was a snap and the results were as lovely as the individual components had been.
*Kitchen Witch Tip
When I first lived in London, many, many years ago, this mini-translation lesson was given to me by my American roommate within my initial few days of moving in. It is also one of the food tips I pass on to others who plan to live there, as it saves lots of trans-Atlantic linguistic confusion about something as simple as vegetables.
My mom called me the other day to see if I would be traveling to Virginia next weekend for Easter. When I said I wouldn’t be able to make it, I think it started something in my brain about holidays past because I started to crave lamb. Easter at my parents’ house when I was growing up involved a few fixed things.
Baskets of candy where my brother held hostage his red and orange jellybeans when I tried to swap my yicky black ones with him. My dad trying to get us to drink a glass of milk before we loaded up on the sugar. (I’m not sure if that was really an effective counter-balance.) Then, there was the vinegar smell from those Paas Easter Egg Kits. Just one glance at the cover of the box even today and that odor comes flooding back at my nose. Despite all the instructions and making them year after year, I still ended up with grey-green eggshells.
Another memory is that of our Easter meal. When it came time to pick the main dish, I would always push for my mother’s shish kebab. I really like lamb, and this was one of the few times in the year that we would have it. Lest you think that I always got my way, one of my sisters would usually push for a baked ham. I think I lost the battle at least 50% of the time, maybe more until I confessed to my mother that I really don’t like baked ham at all.
I picked up a butterflied leg of lamb a few weeks back and then shoved it in the freezer for another day. Having succumbed enough to my pre-Easter craving for this meat to break down and locate the recipe for the shish kebab marinade among my recipe cards, I decided to make it this weekend. The result, with a few of my own additions, is a colorful and flavorful meal that would make a great Easter lunch or dinner, with, of course, some non-black jellybeans for dessert.
Lamb Shish Kebab with Lots of Vegetables
Prep Time: 30-40 minutes, minus marinade time
Serves: 4 adults, 2 skewers each
1 lb. lean lamb, cubed and trimmed of most of the fat
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons, fresh oregano, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
Vegetables (use any or all to taste):
1 red onion, sliced in half and quartered
1 small red pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small yellow pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
Mix together all the ingredients except for the lamb and the vegetables. Pour marinade into resealable one-gallon-sized plastic bag. Add lamb cubes. Seal bag and toss lamb so that marinade coats the cubes. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
If using wooden skewers, soak for at least 30 minutes before threading. Remove lamb from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. In the meantime, cut the vegetables and drizzle them with olive oil, a dash of salt and a pinch of black pepper.
If using an outdoor grill or griddle (my apartment isn’t ventilated enough to use the latter and it’s illegal to have the former in most NYC places), start heating them up. Alternatively, you can cook the skewers in the broiler of an oven pre-heated to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C, Gas Mark 8). [I use this method, placing them in disposable aluminum trays.]
Thread the skewers alternating meat and vegetables (note to parents – this might help you get more veggies into your kids, it fooled me for years). These don’t have to be neat, but the meat, etc. does have to stay on the skewer. Using a resealable bag makes clean-up much easier.
Place threaded skewers on grill or griddle, or in roasting pan if using oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes depending up on how well-done you would like your meat. Serve, allowing 2 skewers per person for adults.
Yes, that all-meat skewer is just for you, Mar.
Orzo with Feta & Black Olives
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 adults
1 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
Cook orzo according to instructions on the packet. Transfer to a bowl to cool for a few minutes while making dressing. Set aside.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper. Add to orzo and coat pasta thoroughly (yes, orzo is a pasta). Add chopped black olives and crumbled feta. Mix together. Add lemon zest and toss once or twice more.
Serve one-half cup of cooked orzo with the shish kebab skewers.