Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mediterranean Calabacita

Tonight's dinner came together as the result of a happy accident:  I pulled a pound of ground lamb out of the freezer thinking I had ground beef.  Once I discovered my error, I altered my plans for the meal.  We ended up, rather than the traditional Hispanic calabacita dish, having a lamb-version with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flair.

1 pound ground lamb, browned in a tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2-3 mild roasted green chilies (or one can mild green chilies) chopped
pinch saffron, optional
1-2 Tablespoons curry spice mix
1 tsp freshly ground allspice (or purchased ground allspice)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 squash, sliced crosswise (I used 1 zuchini and 1 pattypan squash)

Heat olive oil in pan, then toss in the chopped garlic.  Saute until aromatic, then add the ground lamb.
Once the lamb is mostly browned, add chopped onions and cook until onion is translucent.  Grate allspice over mixture with a zester, or add previously milled allspice, along with mixed curry spices and saffron threads, if using.  Salt and pepper.  Add squash and cook until tender.  Add chilies and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes on low.
zesting the allspice using a carpenter's rasp (a wonderful kitchen tool!) over the browning lamb

chopping the two types squash

chopped green chilies

add the onion

add spices, including saffron threads (pictured between my fingers)

squash and tomatoes are added

The meal included reheated corn tortillas leftover from last night's meal,
goat cheese (served in the tortilla with the lamb mixture, eaten like a soft taco)
Italian cucumbers seasoned with rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, 
and Natalie's kale, sauteed with chopped garlic and fresh lemon juice.

This meal got a big thumbs-up from the family.  Super easy to prepare, and the leftovers will be oh-so-good tomorrow for my lunch!  Enjoy!  Try it and let me know what you think!

Note:  I may have mentioned this before, but if not, now is a good time to talk about the freshness of spices in your pantry.  How long has it been since you changed out your spices?  Huh?  If you don't know the answer, it is time to get rid of all your spices and purchase small amounts of fresh spice.
My advice is to stop buying spice in bottles in the spice section of the store and find someplace that carries spice in bulk containers. Places with bulk spices turn over their merchandise rapidly.  Therefore, the spices are much fresher, and you are able to purchase smaller quantities more frequently.  I was reminded of this while cooking dinner because my cardamom had practically no aromatic quality when I opened the container.  Time to get fresher spice!  It makes SO MUCH difference in the outcome of your food.
You can buy a small packet of spice for pennies.  Find a merchant with bulk spice, and your food will taste so much better.

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