Apparently I am having a tough time deciding between tree hugger (KALE! QUINOA!) and burly carnivore, because nipping at the heels of a meat-ball-esque meal, I’m back extolling the virtues of another meat-in-ball-form dish.
But I really somehow think you’re going to be OK with it. These bad boys are goo-o–o-ood! Hear me out:
Take lamb, add plenty of bright green jalapeno and fresh herbs, make patties and fry them till golden and crisped, then stuff them into warm and toasty pitas filled with creamy and cool cucumber sauce, peppery arugula, and sweet baby tomatoes. Some sliced red onion (because, duh) and a sidecar of vinegary hot sauce, and you’ve got yourself something really special in not a lot of time (and, I’ll add, with not all that much effort).
In non-ground form, lamb is generally prohibitively expensive for more than just the occasional meal; I don’t know about you, but my other/better half has mucha hambre after stomping around avocado groves all day, and seeing as he can put back a cool 7 or 8 lamb lollipops, we’re not exactly dishing those guys out on a random Tuesday.
But ground lamb is very affordable, and infinitely more forgiving when it comes to cooking temperatures (because really, is there anything more sad than a gorgeous lamb lolly that’s been cooked even a smidge past medium rare?), and as these pitas come together in less than a half hour, they’re just what the weeknight Dinner Doctor ordered.
These pitas are super fresh and flavorful, and you get the crunch of the fresh veggies and the creaminess of the yogurt with every bite of juicy and slightly spicy lamb. It’s definitely a meal you’ll want to serve with extra napkins (and please, don’t wear your favorite white tee shirt), but it’s made for enjoying on these wonderful (slightly!) longer days, and is definitely most at home outdoors on a picnic table and served up with a cold microbrew.
(And while we’re talking microbrews, I highly suggest you get your hands on a bottle of this. You’re welcome.)
These were an absolute hit, and when we’re really in full-on grill season, I think these patties would be excellent with a bit of char on them – and thus nearly no kitchen clean up! And I live for no kitchen clean up. It’s the small things, ya know?
Lamb Pitas: Herb-Jalapeno Lamb with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Arugula, and Baby Tomatoes
Makes 4 well-stuffed half pitas, enough as a light lunch for 4 or hearty lunch for 2
If you’ve got a mandolin, now is the time to use it – it will afford you super thin and perfect slices of cucumber in no time at all. I like this one – I have two of them and use them all the time for salads.
This is my ALL TIME favorite Greek yogurt – it is so, so good.
2 good quality pita rounds, preferably whole wheat, cut in half
1 lb ground lamb
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
a handful (about 1/2 cup) fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
a handful (about 1/2 cup) fresh mint leaves
1/2 red onion, cut into very skinny rounds
plenty of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
10-12 baby tomatoes (cherry or grape varieties are perfect)
4 cups arugula
grapeseed or olive oil
a vinegary hot sauce (like Louisiana or Frank’s) for serving, if desired.
1/2 english cucumber, sliced paper thin
1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
2 cups Greek yogurt (I prefer the full fat variety, but 2% will work as well)
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tbsp honey
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Start by very finely chopping the mint and cilantro or pulsing them in a small food processor till they are finely textured. Place the ground lamb into a bowl and season it with a few good three fingered pinches of kosher salt and a generous grinding of fresh pepper. Add the diced jalapeno and minced herbs, and gently fold and mix the mixture with your hands till the herbs and pepper is evenly distributed. Split the lamb into 4 equal 1/4lb portions, and then form each of those portions into 2 balls, so that you have 8 equal portions in total (we’ll put 2 portions in each pita half). Gently form each ball into a patty shape by pressing it down to look like a small burger. Set the lamb patties to the side while you prepare the pita and fillings.
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Combine the thinly sliced cucumber, the grated garlic, the greek yogurt, the lemon zest and juice, and the honey. Stir to combine, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning levels to your liking.
Heat a heavy skillet with a slick of grapeseed or olive oil over medium high heat – cast iron is perfect for this, if you have one. When the pan is hot, carefully add the lamb patties, and sear them till a nice crust has formed and the lamb is crisped, about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook the other side till the lamb is cooked though but still has a bit of pink inside, another 2-3 minutes for medium cooked meat. While the meat cooks, quickly toast the pitas till they are warm and pliable.
To serve, place 2 patties in each pita half, and scoop a generous helping of yogurt into each pita. Stuff each pita with a handful of arugula, a few slices of red onion, and some of the tomato halves. Serve with additional yogurt on the side, and hot sauce if you like a bit of extra spice.