This week has been the hottest yet since we moved from Ohio to Southern California almost two years ago. When I walk out the door before seven in the morning to go to work, I cannot feel the remnants of the desert chill lingering in the air which usually greets me right at the threshold. The light breeze is pleasant, playful, inviting, bringing the promises of scorching afternoons.
When I come back from work, the sky is this unbelievable shade of blue which almost looks fake. The sun touches the skin with its fiery kisses and I search for shade going up the sidewalk. The hot wind brings with it the smells of eucalyptus, pine, and the ocean. I rush inside to take a shower. Refreshed, wearing shorts and a tank-top, I go out to the patio to greet my tiny container garden. The essence of the Pacific is now joined by heady aromas of thyme, basil, lavender, and rosemary adorning the parapet fencing the small area in front of the apartment. The heat does not bother me any more because I am suddenly transported to a place somewhere on the Adriatic coast, lounging in the shade of an old olive tree, listening to the waves breaking on the shore. The crickets are harmoniously singing their ode to the sun and it seems the whole world is asleep. The air moves just enough to bring a hint of garlic and rosemary meeting the hot grates of a grill in the distance.
I go back inside smiling, relaxed, the petty and stressful politics at work obliterated by the welcoming sight of my dozen pots. I ask if anybody wishes something special for dinner. The Beasties have spent the whole day inside, encapsulated in the “mole hole” with the AC on and the shades closed. They are chilly and they crave the winter fare. One shouts “Lasagne!” (uhm…no, not hard, but time-consuming, being that I have to make my own ricotta and tomato sauce, and the bechamel has to be simmered with spinach to make it truly red-white-and-green Italian fare). The other clamors “Roasted pig!” (again, no… four hours of roasting, basting the pork shoulder every fifteen minutes with beer…I love lard but would opt for something much lighter). Husband is very diplomatic when he says “What are you thinking of?” Well, now we are talking! My mind races from Mexico, to Cuba, to Northern Africa, and stops at the Mediterranean, when a pound of frozen ground lamb beckons to me from the freezer. Lamburgers!
Husband comes back from the store with the perfect buns and a bag of charcoal. I try to warm up the house with some appropriate music, starting with an Italian CD a friend from Serbia made for me, moving on to Spain and the music from Pedro Almodovar’s movie “High Heels”, Un AÃ±o de Amor and Piensa en Mi by Luz Casal ( I love that flick!), and finishing with this Greek song that always touches my soul and makes me cry, even though I do not understand a word in it. By this time I am waltzing around the kitchen with a glass of chilled white wine to the rhythm of my music, chopping garlic, snipping green onions, and whirring bread for breadcrumbs in my mini food processor.
While the “chimney” is slowly firing up the real mesquite charcoal, I harvest thyme, rosemary, and mint from the patio. My mezzaluna is at its best as it chops and minces the herbs which join garlic and green onions in the chopper just for a minute. I scrape the mix in the bowl with the ground lamb and breadcrumbs, add the egg, crumbled feta cheese, salt, and pepper kneading it until it all comes together. As I form the patties, the chimney releases the charcoal into our little Weber grill and the smell of smoked wood permeates the air. The Beasties emerge from their room as the meat hisses on the grill. They set the table while I make a Greek salad with kalamata olives, cucumbers (Husband is allergic and his dish is separate), feta, red onions, roasted beets, sliced hot peppers, and a couple of tomatoes left over from the visit to the South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano. All this is dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
The weather might be hot. It might be sweltering. It just might justify turning on the AC. Or not. As I sit at the table with my plate full of Mediterranean flavors, I cannot help but bask in the thought that we are living in paradise, not affluent, but at least eating like kings.
- 500gr (a bit more than 1 lb) ground lamb
- 1 small bunch of scallions, shopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small handful mint leaves
- 1 sprig of thyme, chopped
- 1 sprig of rosemary, taken off the branch and chopped
- 150gr (4-5 oz) crumbled feta
- 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Place the lamb into a bowl. Combine scallions, garlic and herbs in a food processor, and mince. Add to meat, together with feta, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine and form patties. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side (you can sear them in a cast-iron skillet for 3-4 minutes per side with the same results). Serve on the bun or a pita, with a Greek salad.
This also goes by the way of Two for Tuesdays, one of my favorite food blog events.