Friday, March 18, 2011

Warm Lamb Salad with Orzo and Harissa

Photo by Sergio Salvador www.salvadorphoto.com
This is a fantastic, hearty salad that I had on vacation in New Zealand last year in August, which is early spring there. They eat lamb there like we eat beef here - it's practically the default meat choice, on every menu, because they produce so much of it.

Several New Mexico farms raise pastured lambs; see www.localharvest.org for a listing. Los Poblanos Organics is now selling Ranch Line all-natural lamb from Felix River Ranch near Roswell - sometimes lamb has a strong flavor, but this didn't.

I like to make this salad with spicy greens like arugula or cress, which are growing in many New Mexico gardens right now. Last year at this time I had more arugula than I knew what to do with, but this year not so much... probably because it's been a dry winter and I didn't water. I guess I'll have to actually plant some now! Upland cress is an annual, but very cold-hardy. It's sprouting like crazy in my garden already, and it grows so fast that it should be ready in a couple weeks.

Harissa is a blend of red chile and spices, which you can buy at Middle Eastern grocers, or make your own.

½ cup orzo
1 T. harissa
1 t. red wine vinegar
Salt
1 lamb chop (OR ¼ pound chopped leg or shoulder meat, or ground lamb)
1 T. olive oil
1 large bunch arugula or cress

Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling water, according to package directions. Drain and mix the orzo with the harissa and vinegar. Add salt as needed. Brown meat in olive oil; toss with the orzo and greens. Or for a fancier presentation, sear lamb chop in olive oil on high heat, about 4 minutes per side depending on the thickness and desired doneness. As a pretty good rule of thumb, if you cook the first side until you start to see the juices coming out on the top, then flip it immediately and cook 4 minutes more, it will be medium-rare. Slice thinly and serve over the orzo and greens. Serves 2.
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