Chili-Crusted Lamb Cutlets with Cucumber Yogurt


Certainly lamb is a spring dish, but here I am, posting in summer.  Indeed, summer is upon us.  The niece is visiting California again.  This is a not-so-subtle ploy to convince her that she should move to our fair state when she is ready for college—which seems simultaneously eons away (four years) and just around the corner.  So much can happen in that short amount of time, and she has entered into those vulnerable first two years of high school.  Let’s face it—middle school is just all around generally unreasonable for most of us; however, it’s the first two years of high school where teenagers begin to define about what they are passionate, which paths they are going to take, and just who they are going to be.  Myself, I was sullen, melancholic, and ready to break out of my small town.  As I write this, I am sitting in a small town (or even just outside of it) up the coast in Northern California.  However, the sullenness and melancholy have dissipated, the passion for literature, food, and art still remains fully formed, and while tinged with a bit of worry about the world—particularly my family, extended or otherwise—contentment has certainly arrived.  This last part is what I hope most for my niece. 

And hopefully these annual trips to California provide a little bit of that.

While she is here, we embark on two culinary themes:  cooking and eating.  Generally, we take her to restaurants she would not normally be able to find in central Illinois.  Thus, Indian, Korean, Ethiopian cuisines all see their due as do restaurant-quality mac & cheese and Pixar-name-checked ice cream.  Yet, at home, we cook—sometimes simply (jambalaya, hamburgers, salads) other times in a more complicated manner.  This recipe, however, would fall under the simpler, and should you need a little lamb in your life, this is a fine, quick, and delightful way to shuffle this into the rotation.  (Disclaimer:  It’s true, we did not make this with the niece, but she is here while I am writing this, thus she is on the mind despite her absence from this meal.)

As always, I am a fan of Australian darling, Donna Hay.  Not only are the photographs in this book beautiful (as they always are with her work), but the recipes are also uncomplicated and satisfying.  She can fit four recipes on a page; thus, she’s not particularly interested in elaborate steps or fancy footwork.  She makes a charming meal, particularly appropriate for a weeknight when you’re not in the mood for a Fred Astaire level spread.  The lamb is prepared with a chili paste and is accompanied by a yogurt sauce to cool any lingering heat. Serve with a salad (I made a simply-dressed arugula) and possibly a flatbread, and you have yourself a full, simple, satisfying meal.

Finally, a last word about the niece’s visit.As I type this, she is upstairs asleep.  One of the cats is sitting (illegally, I might add) on the dining room table clicking and squeaking at the birds as they swoop in and out from the feeder outside the window.  The fog has not yet entirely rolled out, and you cannot see the line where the ocean meets the sand.  There is sweetness here.  May she recognize it now, so that she can know it when she meets it again.

 One Year Ago: David Lebovitz's Peach Amaretti Crisp

Chili-Crusted Lamb Cutlets with Cucumber Yogurt
Adapted from  Donna Hay's Flavours

Serves 4

1 cup thick plain yogurt
1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper
8 lamb cutlets
4 large red chilies, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil

1.  Prepare the grill.

2.  Combine the yogurt, cucumber, mint, and salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Trim the lamb of any excess fat.  Place the chillies, spring onions, lemon juice, cilantro and olive oil in a food processor and process until roughly chopped.

4.   Spread the paste on both sides of the cutlets.  Cook on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.

5.  Place the lamb cutlets on plates and serve with the cucumber yogurt.  Hay suggests also serving with flat bread and salad leaves.


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