31 March 2013

Greek-Style Grill Pan Rack of Lamb with Artichoke Feta Risotto

Greek-Style Grill Pan Rack of Lamb with Artichoke Feta Risotto
Yesterday I immersed myself in French Quebecois culture and spent a glorious warm, sunny afternoon lakeside at Festival de L'Erable. The maple syrup festival is put on by the Francophone Society every year here in the valley. It was all the more remarkable since this brought back memories of growing up in the eastern provinces where the sugar bush is a part of tradition. Living in the west the pleasure was fleeting but an excellent way to welcome Spring. I sampled poutine, French Canadian Habitant pea soup and enjoyed the colourful busker artists and multi-cultural musical entertainment. They even had maple taffy which is little more than maple syrup cooled down on snow. This is a special treat, a reminder from my childhood growing up in Southern Ontario, where they would pour maple syrup into the snow and then wrap the cooled syrup around a stick; something that is rare to experience in this day and age. A trip to the sugar bush was always the first harbinger of Spring.


Okanagan Native Ring Dancer
This morning I also attended their pancake breakfast with tender baked ham, maple flavoured baked beans and of course pancakes with heavy doses of maple syrup and entertainment. It is still early in the season so we are only just beginning to reap the rewards of our home gardens with tender peas and shoots of asparagus. In warmer Mediterranean climates such as Greece I imagine farm markets to be overflowing with seasonal vegetables such as baby artichokes to welcome Spring.

Quebecois Buskers
Wandering down by the lake had me daydreaming of a Spring a few years ago when I spent some magical time in the Greek isles as well as wandering ancient pathways through Epirus and Thessaly. The bustling university town of Ioannina south of Athens lies on a rocky promontory overlooking Lake Pamvotis where our ladies stayed in an ancient guest house within the fortress walls. The ancient city was punctuated by mosques and minuets whose reflections, along with the snowy peaks of the Pindos mountains, appeared in the calm water of this inland lake.

We took a short boat ride to its peaceful islet Nissa, or "island' where nightingales still sing and fishermen mend their nets. The whitewashed village, founded in the late 16th century allows no outside vehicles so is seemingly centuries away; a welcome escape from the outside world. With its neat houses and flower trimmed courtyards, pine-edged paths, runaway chickens, and reed-filled backwater it was the perfect place to relax, have lunch and visit some of the monasteries. The most remarkable of these is Pandelimonos where the Turkish Ali Pasha was finally killed after hiding out for two years. Anyone knowing Greek history will realize the significance.  The restaurants advertise dishes with ingredients culled from the lake such as frogs legs, eel, crayfish and turtles.

Lake Pamvotis
Here in Canada's melting pot of cultures is one of the only places where we can relish in French Canadian cuisine in the morning and savour Greek cuisine in the afternoon without batting an eye. As I wandered the quaint roads of this tiny Greek island I saw artichokes so prolific they were tumbling out from almost every garden onto the streets. Until that time I had never seen an artichoke other than at the grocery store. Artichokes are one of the stars of Greek Spring, cooked up in countless ways in dozens of delicious regional recipes all over Greece. The idea for this risotto with a Greek twist comes from Diane Kochilas and takes its cue from the many pilaffs enriched with plenty of Greek feta cheese. I served it with a Greek-style rack of lamb marinated for a few hours or overnight in the Holy Grail of Greek cuisine lemon, oregano and olive oil. Since it was such a beautiful day I wanted a quick method of cooking the lamb without compromising on flavour or tenderness. A grill pan was the answer for a quick sear so as not to turn on the oven. Now I am off for a bike ride. Don't you just love these Spring days!!!

**Artichoke Feta Risotto**
by Diane Kochilas

4 fresh artichokes, cleaned so that only the heart remains
Juice and grated zest of 1 small lemon
5 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil
1 tablespoon butter 
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups Greek glasé rice or Italian Arborio
6 – 8 cups hot vegetable stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup crumbled Greek feta
½ cup snipped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean the artichokes: remove all the outer leaves and scrape out the choke with a teaspoon. Trim the stem. Cut the artichoke hearts into quarters. Place in a bowl of cold water mixed with the lemon juice. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook the scallions, onion, and garlic for about 8 minutes, until soft. Add the rice and toss to coat in the oil. Add the cup of wine and reduce by half. Add the hot broth 1 cup at a time, starting with the first ladle full. When the rice has absorbed the first ladle full of liquid, add the second ladle full, stirring all the while.  Continue adding hot broth one ladle at a time until the rice is cooked but al dente.

While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet. Remove the artichokes from the lemon water and pat dry with paper towels. Saute in the oil until browned, softened but al dente. Season with a little salt and pepper.

About 5 minutes before removing rice from heat, add the artichokes. Stir in the dill and lemon zest and all but 2 tablespoons of the crumbled feta. Continue cooking the risotto until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice tender but toothsome. Remove and spread onto a platter. Sprinkle with remaining feta and serve.

Serves 4 

** Greek- Style Grill Pan Rack of Lamb**

1 (1 1/2-pound) French-cut rack of lamb (8 ribs)
a handful of Greek oregano
the juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of olive oil

Combine the oregano, lemon juice and minced garlic cloves to form a paste.  Apply paste liberally to the rack of lamb ensuring it's massaged in really well.  Leave the lamb to marinate for a few hours but  overnight is even better.  Bring lamb to room temperature. 

Place lamb on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes, turning once or until a thermometer registers 145° (medium-rare) to 160° (medium). Let stand 5 minutes before slicing into chops. Serve lamb with risotto.

Serves 4

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips

16 comments:

  1. It sounds like a beautiful way to spend a glorious day, Val. I am such a risotto fan, and this one has artichokes-- yum! The whole meals looks restaurant style stunning.

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  2. Aahhhhh! What a lovely weekend. Looks like you enjoyed thoroughly. I love that about your country--- very ethnically diverse. Miss it. Haven't been in a long time. And, great, robust dish. Perfect transition food!

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  3. A wonderful dish! Extremely flavorful and enjoyable.

    Beautiful dancing and place.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. Es una combinación sorprendente, cordero, arroz, queso feta...impresionante!

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  5. I love the Native American culture and way of life; we visited a museum for Canadian natives when we were in Banff 16 years ago. Such a beautiful country. My husband wants to take me to Newfoundland someday where he used to teach in the summers. And now for your recipe! Val, what a perfect perfect meal. And of course the risotto is magnificent. You know that I'm going to try this VERY soon!

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  6. Grilled lamb is my favorite lamb preparation. How lovely with the artichoke risotto!

    What a beautiful, culturally diverse area and wonderful way to spend a day.

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  7. This is an incredible meal. What a nice presentation and thanks for all the pictures.

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  8. That risotto is definitely reeling me in. Artichoke and feta together are wonderful!

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  9. Looks like a delightful day, and meal. My sister hosted a lovely Easter dinner. She had threatened to cook lamb (I was so excited) but chose the safer ham in the end. It was still delicious, but I really wanted that lamb!

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  10. Such a lovely day, Val. Your photos are wonderful. Beautiful presentation for your lamb (done to a T) and risotto dish. Love the idea of an artichoke risotto!

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  11. Sounds like a great weekend. I'm still waiting for spring and this just looked like a perfect spring day!

    Love your dish too. It's funny how we pick up our inspiration. A Canadian festival brought you to Greece. That's the kind of train of thought I usually take.

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  12. A gorgeous dish, Val and an excellent risotto by Diane.

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  13. This meal is a stunner. I love the lamb and the risotto. Both are special dishes. I hope your week is off to a great start. Blessings...Mary

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  14. Your lamb looks fantastic Val. What a stunning plate.
    Sam

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  15. Lovely activites and an absolutely perfect Mediterranean dish that I wish was sitting on my dinner table!

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  16. I'm hoping to go to a sugarbush before the season is over! The festival looks like a lot of fun. Love the look of this dish. I've never actually made lamb before.

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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