Lamb comes from sheep less than 1 year old, meaning almost all of the meat is tender. I look for lamb with a fine grain, bright red color and pinkish (not gray) bones that look moist. I prefer a little marbling on the meat, so I opt for leaving a thin fat coating, which adds tremendous flavor while grilling.
A boneless leg of lamb from these animals will be about five pounds, just right for a group of eight to 10, with some leftovers.
I love to grill boneless leg of lamb because it’s speedy — cooking time is less than 30 minutes — and carving is a breeze. Most butchers will remove the leg bones for you with advance notice. If you do purchase a bone-in leg of lamb, removing the bones proves easier than it sounds: Simply keep your knife as close to the bones as possible while you gently loosen the meat from around them. Once loosened, simply twist out the bones. After boning, I cut the meat into two equal-size pieces for easier handling on the grill.
I like to serve the grilled lamb with a condiment made of shredded cucumber and plain yogurt. Labneh, the Middle Eastern yogurt, tastes especially rich and satisfying. The combo reminds us of gyros, so we serve it with flatbreads, toasted until warm on the grill.
To top off a great meal, we all gather round the kitchen counter and make a family favorite: Fresh rhubarb and strawberry pie.
It takes a family to do all this cooking!
GARLIC AND SPICE GRILLED LEG OF LAMB
Prep: 15 minutes
Chill: 8 hours to 3 days
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 10 servings with leftovers
1 boneless leg of lamb, about 8 pounds
3 to 5 large cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers
10 cardamom pods, crushed, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons each: ground coriander, ground cumin, salt
1 teaspoon each, ground: cinnamon, black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, optional
2 cups cherry or apple wood chips, optional
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cucumber yogurt sauce with garlic and herbs, see recipe
1. Cut the boneless leg of lamb into two even pieces. Use a very sharp small knife to cut small slits in the lamb at regular intervals; insert a sliver of garlic into each slit as you go. Combine all the spices in a small dish. Rub the spices into the lamb on all sides. The lamb can be refrigerated in a glass dish, covered lightly with butcher paper, for 8 hours or up to 3 days.
2. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot. If using, soak wood chips in water to cover, about 30 minutes. Then drain and periodically sprinkle the chips over the hot coals. (If using a gas grill, set the chips on a piece of foil and place the packet over the heat source.)
3. Spray or brush lamb on all sides with olive oil. Place the lamb directly over the heat source. Cover the grill; cook, 12 minutes. Turn lamb over. Cover grill; continue grilling until a meat thermometer registers 140 degrees when inserted in the thickest portion, 11-13 minutes more. Transfer lamb to a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil; let stand, 10-15 minutes.
4. Use a very sharp knife to slice the lamb thinly. Serve with the cucumber sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 445 calories, 16 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 213 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 69 g protein, 627 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber
CUCUMBER YOGURT SAUCE WITH GARLIC AND HERBS
Prep: 15 minutes
Drain: 30 minutes
Makes: about 2 cups
1 large seedless cucumber
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces labneh or plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, mint or chives (or a combination)
1. Peel off and discard about half of the cucumber skin. Put a four-sided grater into a colander. Use the largest holes to shred the cucumber into the colander. Crush the garlic into the cucumber strands; stir in the salt. Let everything drain in the sink or over a bowl, about 30 minutes. Use your hands to squeeze as much water as you can out of the cucumber.
2. Put the squeezed cucumber mixture into a bowl. Stir in the labneh and herbs until well mixed. Refrigerate up to 2 days. Stir well before serving.
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 20 calories, 1 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 77 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB DEEP DISH PIE
Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: 55 minutes
Makes: One 10-inch pie, serving 8 to 10
1 recipe pie crust for a double-crust 10-inch pie, well chilled, see recipe
2 pounds fresh rhubarb, trimmed
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups fresh small strawberries, hulled, halved
2 tablespoons half-and-half
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Have a deep 10-inch glass or ceramic pie plate and a baking sheet ready.
2. Roll out the larger disk of pie dough between 2 sheets of floured wax paper into a thin circle about 14 inches in diameter. Carefully fold the dough in half, then place it in the pie dish. Unfold it and fit it over the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish. Trim the overhang to leave about ½ inch all around the pie dish. Refrigerate.
3. Roll the other piece of dough between 2 sheets of floured wax paper into an 11-inch circle; place it (still between the wax paper) on the baking sheet and refrigerate it.
4. For the filling, cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add the sugar, tapioca and salt. Mix well. Gently stir in the strawberries. Let stand about 10 minutes.
5. Spoon the rhubarb mixture and accumulated juices into the dough-lined pie dish. Carefully place the top crust over the fruit. Use your fingers to press together the top and bottom crusts, trimming as needed. Use a fork to make a decorative edge. Brush the top of the pie and the edges with the half-and-half. Sprinkle everything generously with the coarse sugar. Gently poke steam vents with a fork into the top of the pie in several spots.
6. Bake pie at 425 degrees, 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Now slide the baking sheet under the pie to catch any drips. Continue baking at 350 degrees until the top crust is nicely browned, 30-40 minutes more. Cool on wire rack until barely warm. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving (for 10 servings): 463 calories, 20 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 68 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 472 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
OUR FAVORITE, FORGIVING PIE CRUST
Prep: 20 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
Makes: Enough for a double-crust 10-inch pie
We use vegetable shortening for easy dough handling and maximum flakiness; unsalted butter adds rich flavor.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup trans fat-free vegetable shortening, frozen
1. Put flour, sugar and salt into a food processor. Pulse to mix well. Cut butter and shortening into small pieces; sprinkle them over the flour mixture. Use on/off pulses with the food processor to blend the fats into the flour. The mixture will look like coarse crumbs.
2. Put ice cubes into about 1/2 cup water and let the water chill. Remove the ice cubes; drizzle about 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour mixture. Briefly pulse the machine just until the mixture gathers into a dough.
3. Dump the mixture out onto a sheet of wax paper. Gather into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten the balls into thick disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Dough will keep in the refrigerator for several days.)