Skewer an adventure

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

We are only a few weeks into grilling season, and the doldrums have already set in. Those juicy steaks and burgers that looked so appealing at the beginning of June are getting repetitious.

It’s time to change gears. The next time you are about to open that Styrofoam package of meat, imagine the following.

Sitting high in the saddle, an army of Ottoman soldiers are riding across the steppes of Central Asia. As dusk approaches, they stop, build a fire, and skewer pieces of meat on their swords. A short time later, they sit down to enjoy an aromatic dinner of grilled meat. The first shish kebab is born.

Americans prefer beef and chicken for grilling, but in many parts of the world the meat of choice is lamb. Lamb contains more fat and is therefore more succulent when grilled.

Available in most super­markets, New Zealand lamb is com­pletely pasture raised. If you want something with a less distinctive flavor, try American lamb. It is grain finished for the last month, and therefore has a less gamy taste.

Because of its distinguishing flavor, lamb pairs well with a marinade of strong spices and herbs. Besides adding flavor, marinades have other benefits. They usually contain some acid component that breaks down the protein chains making the meat more tender. In addition, according to the American Cancer Research Institute, marinated meats are healthier. The potentially cancer-causing agents created when cooking over a direct flame are reduced by 99 percent by marinating the meat ahead of time.

If you are looking for a change of pace, dig out your skewers and try the recipe below.

Lamb Shish Kebab

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 11/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup plain (unflavored) yogurt

1/4 cup finely chopped onions

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 each red and green bell pepper, cut into 11/2-inch squares

Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the lamb. Toss to coat the meat. Marinate for 2 hours at room temperature or 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator.

When ready to grill, place the lamb cubes, alternating with the pepper pieces, on long metal skewers. Grill until the lamb is browned, being careful not to overcook.

Lamb is at the peak of taste perfection when the meat is medium to medium rare.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.