We have 80 sheep coming today! “Ed the Sheep Guy” is bringing 45 babies and their Mommies to mow our vineyard and hillsides. Sheep are fantastic helpers when you grow organic grapes. They eat the weeds down to the nibs, aerate the soil with their hooves, and fertilize with their epic amounts of poop. And at the end of the spring? We get one butchered lamb for the freezer. The ultimate “farm to table” dishes we’ll make over the next year. To help make room in the Barn freezer, I pulled out frozen chops and shoulder to make this Stew for dinner last night. And it was superb! Takes a bit of effort, yes, but perfect for the weekend or “date nights in.” This dish will fill your home and bellies with the scents and tastes of Spring.
- 3 small eggplants
- 2 lbs lamb cubed to 1″
- 1 large yellow onion quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 4 tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic run thru a garlic press (not chopped)
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 large teaspoons of cumin seeds — toasted and crushed up in mortar & pestle
- extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt & cracked pepper
- dry white or rose wine (optional)
Top your eggplants and slice into quarters. Cube into 1″ sizes, put into a colander, and sprinkle with a lot of salt. Elizabeth David calls for a tablespoon! But I just did 2 pinches to minimize sodium in the finished dish. Put a plate and weights on the top and let rest for a good hour. This step squeezes excess moisture out. Before cooking, rinse and then forcibly squeeze as much water from the eggplant as you can using a clean tea towel.
In a bowl, toss the lamb with half the chopped mint, basil, pinch of red pepper flakes, cumin seeds (toasted & crushed), a pinch of salt and pepper. Let marinate while eggplant drains.
In a dutch oven or large sautée pan, heat 5 tablespoons of EVOO. Add the onions to the warming oil. Once the onions begin the color, add the meat and marinating herbs. Brown the meat and onions turning the mixture often with a wooden cooking spoon. Scrape up the browning/burning bits from the sides and bottom often. Then remove the meat and onion mixture with a slotted spoon to your bowl.
Add your eggplant cubes to the hot oil and coat the eggplant. Cover and turn heat down. Gently cook for 10 minutes. I almost burned mine but realized in time the pan was drying out too much and splashed the eggplants with half a glass of my Rosé! And the added flavor was wonderful.
Return the meat and onions mixture to the pan and mix well with eggplant and juices. Add your chopped tomatoes and mashed garlic and gently cook for 60-90 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes or so. I splashed with white wine occasionally. The meat will not be too tender. This is a rustic dish.
Serve alone or over rice I garnished with chopped mint and a few basil leaves.
The kids added katsup and it was still delicious.