arni yiouvetsi (lamb baked with orzo)

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Sometimes I enjoy exquisite meals in restaurants that I would never try to recreate at home, that I am happy to experience thoroughly in the moment and then leave behind. Other times I try something I love and then become fixated on figuring out how to make it myself. This recipe – lamb braised in a pot with orzo – fits into the second category. I first had this at the same restaurant in Central Jersey, Pithari Taverna, that inspired these lemon potatoes. When I moved to Jersey City, I thought this meal would be like the first kind I described above, something magical that could only be relived in memory, until I discovered recently that it’s actually a fairly common Greek recipe that could easily be found with a quick Google search.

I knew that the tomato sauce at Pithari had a distinctly non-Italian taste to it, but for the longest time I had no idea what special ingredient gave it such a different flavor profile. The answer? Cinnamon. To people only used to adding cinnamon to desserts or sugary breakfast foods, this might sound like a weird spice to put in a savory recipe – but paired with lamb and tomatoes, it contributes a warm, earthy, and peculiarly Greek flavor.
CIMG3044Unfortunately, I somehow managed not to get any good shots of the lamb itself when I was taking photos. It’s there somewhere in that pile of orzo. After two and a half hours of slow braising in the oven, it is meltingly tender and falls apart if you poke it. Though this meal is baked in a clay pot at Pithari, which I am sure adds some extra-special something-or-other to it, don’t let not having one be an excuse not to try this – I used my stainless steel, and was blown away by how exactly like the version from my favorite far away Greek restaurant this tasted.  Read the rest of this entry »

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indian-spiced lamb burgers with mango chutney and caramelized onions

My favorite pub in Cambridge for a pint and a bite to eat in a snug setting was The Castle Inn, which was also conveniently close to where I lived. They made a solid fish and chips and would occasionally offer a delectable sticky toffee pudding on their specials board, but my favorite thing to get there was their Indian burger: a burger made with spiced lamb mince (as they would call it), topped with mango chutney, caramelized onions, a slice of tomato and cucumber, and served with chips (i.e. fries) that were crisp on the outside but perfectly soft and creamy on the inside. I had strong cravings for that burger that would rear their heads every once in a while and result in a trip to the pub not long after.  Read the rest of this entry »


lamb kofta with tomato sauce, yogurt, and pita

This is a Turkish recipe that is variously called yoğurtlu kebab, or, when I’ve had it in restaurants, İskender kebab (though technically İskender kebabs are made with doner meat, the preparation is otherwise basically the same). Little spiced lamb meatballs, or kofta, are nestled on toasted pita with tangy yogurt and tomato sauce, and then everything is drizzled with olive oil or melted butter mixed with paprika. The pita soaks up the yogurt and juices from the meat and becomes soft and so very delicious. I have this in Turkish restaurants often, and am so excited that I can now make it at home.  Read the rest of this entry »