To Meat or Not to Meat?

I am a hypocrite. I love animals – dogs, birds, pigs, miniature donkeys, you name it – and although my love for animals holds virtually no bounds, I also love what animals are made of: meat. When I was a teenager, I became more aware of the origins of my food, realizing exactly where that grilled chicken breast came from or what that juicy burger was made of. I went vegetarian for a year, but I couldn’t adhere to the diet any longer. I missed the satisfaction and nourishment that I got from eating meat, not to mention the delicious taste. Today I am an omnivore, and proud of it.

Over the course of history, raising animals for food has gone from individual farmers raising their own to globalized factory farming. Animal products are not created equal, and it’s important to buy locally whenever possible to ensure a premium, quality product. Round Mountain Farm is one of those local sources, providing fresh, pasture-raised lamb to individuals and local restaurants. Jim Morgan and Teresa Maurer, owners of Round Mountain Farm, ensure the quality of their product by providing their lambs with a natural grazing environment and forego the use of medicated feeds or hormones on their herd. To see a short clip of Jim explaining their business, click here. Round Mountain Farm is a regular at the Fayetteville Farmers Market during the summer, and frequents the Winter Farmers Market every other weekend. To place an order, you can call Jim at (479) 236-9569 or email him at fayar48(at)yahoo(dot)com, and he’ll explain what he currently has available.

I got in touch with Jim and Teresa through the Winter Farmers Market, and placed an order for a bone-in leg steak. When I picked up my order, I was impressed by the quality and freshness of the meat, and the price was more than reasonable. I had been eyeing a recipe in my new Jamie Oliver cookbook, and was excited to make my recent purchase the star of the dish. Unfortunately I can’t take full credit for this recipe, but after your first bite, you won’t really care that I’m mildly plagiarizing.

I started by removing the meat from the bone, cutting it into one inch pieces and placing it in the bowl of a food processor. I hated to let the bone (and what little meat was left on it) go to waste, so I quickly assembled the ingredients for a stock, put a pot on the stove and got that going for a soup later in the week. I then gathered the spices and flavorings for the lamb, including cumin, cayenne, lemon zest and pistachios. After a few pulses in the food processor, I ended up with a roughly ground, well seasoned meat. I divided the meat into four equal pieces and carefully formed it around wooden skewers. I would recommend using metal skewers, if you have them – but if not, no worries. Over medium heat on a barbeque grill, I cooked the lamb kebabs for about 4 minutes on each side. If you don’t have a grill, you could easily use your broiler or a grill pan on your stovetop.

While keeping a close eye on the kebabs, I washed and assembled the greens – Wynn Tomato Ranch’s Green Green Green Mix from the farmers market – and tossed them in a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. I also toasted the flatbread over a burner on the stove, flipping it frequently to prevent burning. Once the kebabs were done, I broke them up into chunks, arranged them over the greens and flatbread, and dressed it all with strained plain yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil. Talk about flavor! The kebabs were pleasingly spicy and flavorful – and the pistachios are a wonderfully unusual addition. Other yummy toppings could be thinly sliced onion, cucumber, tomato, or a sprinkle of some good vinegar.

Grilled Lamb Kebab Wrap

1 lb. trimmed lamb, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. cumin
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
Salad greens
Small bunch of mint
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tortillas or flatbread wraps
4 Tbs. plain yogurt
Salt & pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Place the lamb in a food processor with the thyme, cayenne, lemon zest and pistachios. Pulse the mixture until it looks like coarsely ground meat.

Divide the meat into four equal pieces. With damp hands, push and shape the meat around and up a metal skewer. Grill the kebabs until nicely golden brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, dress your salad greens and mint with a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Warm your tortillas or flatbreads in a griddle pan or on a gas stovetop until softened and lightly toasted.

Top each tortilla or flatbread with the dressed salad greens and mint.

If for some reason the slideshow doesn’t load, visit the entire set at Flickr.