Genius strategy for lamb

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The stick was the cave cook’s first utensil, no doubt. And handy, once she installed fire. A deft union of form and function, a stick serves as pot, potholder, plate and fork — in one.

Though neither twig nor skewer nor sword count as tasty.

Consider, then, the cinnamon stick. The bark of the cinnamon tree is peeled, dried, polished and rolled into yard-long tubes called quills. Trimmed and bottled, the sticks lounge on the spice rack until summoned, once a year, to twirl cider.

Why not hand them a summer job? Pat together a meatball of lamb, mint and garlic. Thread it onto a length of cinnamon and grill. The stick serves as pot, potholder, plate, fork — and an infusion of flavor. Leaving the modern cook, and the cook’s happy guests, something delicious to chew on.

Lamb Kebabs

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 8 minutes

Makes: 16 small kebabs

For serving: Mint dip (recipe below), optional

8 cinnamon sticks

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 cup any combination of finely chopped mint, parsley, chives and cilantro

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Olive oil

Soak: Settle cinnamon sticks in a bowl of cold water. Weight down with a plate. Soak at least 15 minutes. Soaking will prevent the sticks from burning and allow you to unfurl them, yielding multiple skinnier sticks.

Gently mix all remaining ingredients except olive oil.

With damp hands, divide meat mixture and roll into 16 1-ounce balls. Slide each onto a cinnamon stick and press into a 2-inch-long blimp stationed at one end; stick and meat together will look like a child’s drawing of a tree. Drizzle each with a little oil.

Grill directly over high heat or broil about 4 inches from the flame, turning frequently, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

These kebabs are nice served either plain or with mint dip.

Mint dip: Stir together 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, 2 tablespoons olive oil, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 table­spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 table­spoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt.