Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lamb Souvlaki Sandwiches with Tzatziki Sauce

I periodically tell Alex that we need to make more Mediterranean food.  Asian cuisine is our go-to, and failing that we end up making "American" food or Italian food.  Rarely do we make Mediterranean food, which is something that I really want to change for a number of reasons.  First, I love Mediterranean flavors - lemon, oregano, olive oil, olives, garlic, tart yogurts, etc.  The flavors are so simple and yet so satisfying and delicious.  I also love how healthy the diet is overall.  And while lamb isn't exactly as healthy as say, tofu, it is an indulgence that I enjoy from time-to-time and is totally fine when eaten in moderation.  I might try the recipe with chicken or pork in the future, as healthier alternatives to lamb, but we used lamb this time because I picked up some leg of lamb the other day with souvlaki in mind as the end goal.  I actually picked up several pounds of leg of lamb because there are several lamb recipes that I have been wanting to make, but haven't gotten around to because leg of lamb tends to be pretty pricey in NYC.

Since lamb (and all red meat with the potential exception of bison) isn't exactly super healthy, Alex and I made a resolution about a month ago to only eat it at restaurants or on the weekend.  No cooking red meat during the week.  But we broke our resolution this time because we had guests coming for the weekend and I really wanted to make my souvlaki.  Oops.  In order to lighten this sandwich up, we used multigrain flatbreads and added chopped up baby spinach, tomatoes and onions.  We also used nonfat Greek yogurt to make the tzatziki, rather than the whole-fat variety.  I find that when you make tzatziki with nonfat yogurt instead of whole-fat, it is a little thinner and less creamy.  Since we were using the tzatziki as the sauce for our sandwich and not a dip that was supposed to stand alone it was absolutely fine that it was a little thinner.  The end result was that the dish wasn't as heavy (or detrimental to your health) as it could have been, while still retaining a lot of flavor.  The rosemary and garlic in the marinade made the apartment smell delicious while we pan-roasted the lamb, and marinating the lamb overnight gave it really nice flavor.  I'm glad I stuck to my guns on this one because it was a really nice and satisfying meal.  Maybe I will try it out with pork next time, but then again, maybe not...

Recipe after the jump!

Lamb Souvlaki Sandwiches with Tzatziki Sauce

3 tbsp evoo
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 lb. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Persian cucumbers, grated and squeezed to remove excess liquid
1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp evoo
fresh lemon juice
1 small red onion, diced
1 plum tomato, diced
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
flatbreads or pita bread

Mix evoo, garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes, rosemary and 1 tsp salt in a medium nonreactive bowl or nonreactive tupperware.  Add lamb cubes and stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap (or just snap on the lid if you're using tupperware) and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  Before cooking, remove the lamb from the fridge and let sit at room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes to bring it up to room temperature.

Combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, and evoo in a medium non-reactive bowl.  Season with s&p and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Heat a cast iron pan over moderately high heat.  Add 1 tbsp evoo.  Cook lamb until evenly and lightly seared on all sides, and cooked all the way through (since this is lamb you can cook it to medium-rare if you like it, but I prefer lamb souvlaki to be cooked almost medium-well - with just a hint of pink in the middle).

Meanwhile, warm bread in a 250 degree oven until warm and soft, about 5 minutes.  To make sandwiches, top bread with spinach, diced onion, tomato, lamb and tzatziki to taste.  Roll sandwiches up and wrap with tin foil to help the sandwiches retain their shape and to prevent all of the lamb, etc. from falling out the other end.

Serve with additional tzatziki sauce.

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