On the last day of winter in Chicago, a winter so mild that we lived in a constant state of anxiety waiting for the weather hammer to drop and get down to some real misery, it was 80 degrees. 8-0. Bright sunshine was welcome on our pale faces, and the entire city ventured outdoors in shorts to run, bike, walk – anything to soak up this oddly wonderful close to the winter that never was. Perhaps this sunny and mild winter was our just reward for surviving the beast of Snowpocalypse 2011. One week later, the magnolia trees, daffodils and tulips are in full-bloom – two months ahead of schedule. The summery weather inspired us to drag out the patio furniture and invite friends over for brunch AND dinner – on the same day! Carpe diem, and all that.
Crysta joined us for brunch on the balcony, and we kicked things off with my new favorite margarita, inspired by Diane Cu’s post sharing her discovery that bitters are the secret sauce for the perfect margarita. We’ve since gone and bought the Bitters cookbook, and have become fairly obsessed with classic cocktails – we suggest you do the same. The sazerac is the new black in our house.
With the weather so beautiful, we quickly made plans to fire up the grill. I had a pound of cubed lamb in the freezer from our farm share, and decided to whip up some kabobs with grilled veggies. These little beauties really hit the spot. And not even a blast of chilly air off the Lake that cooled temps from 80 to 60 just as we were starting the grill could deter us from eating outdoors. With cocktails in hand and sweaters on our shoulders, we raised a glass to celebrate the end of a winter and toast to the growing season ahead.
This is about as simple as cooking can get. Marinate, grill, eat. Simplicity and great ingredients are the way to go. If you can’t find the Middle Eastern zaatar spice blend of sumac and sesame in your area, just change things up and add some rosemary, garlic and thyme to the wine for the marinade – it will be just as delicious.
1 lb cubed lamb (all pieces of uniform size, as much as possible)
⅓ cup red wine
pinch of salt
1 T zaatar
pinch of red pepper flakes
½ of a large onion, sliced into 1 ½ inch squares
1 ½ red bell peppers, cleaned and cut into 1 ½ inch squares
wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
- Combine the red wine, salt, zaatar and red pepper flakes in a bowl large enough to hold the kabob meat. Stir together with a fork. Add the cubed lamb, tossing gently to coat the meat in marinade. Cover the bowl, and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate.
- When you’re ready to eat, preheat the grill, then make the kabobs. Take your soaked wooden skewers and slide the meat onto the skewers, alternating meat and veggies, until the skewer is fully loaded. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the meat and veggies…if you have leftover veggies, make up a skewer of just veggies. They’re good for you.
- Place the kabobs on the pre-heated grill (target temp around 450 degrees), and grill for 4 minutes with a closed lid. Flip the kabobs over, and grill for 3 more minutes (or until desired doneness, if you want more than medium-cooked lamb). Remove the kabobs and serve…preferably on a patio with a margarita in hand.