Sunday, October 04, 2009

*"This Must Be A Luxury Salad"

Saveur Inspired Lamb Salad

picture photograph image lamb salad 2009 copyright of sam breach

Long hours at work over the last month have kept me out of the kitchen and away from my rewarding exercise schedule. Whilst the contents of my Mariquita mystery farm box have been idly languishing in the fridge my mealtimes have, sadly, descended to a sorry catalog of unhealthy options I am almost afraid to admit to. Nature's Valley Oat & Honey bars from the vending machine and sandwiches with butter, salt and vinegar crisps and Marmite have been the highlights of my dietary calendar for the past few weeks.

A few days ago, I managed to find a few minutes to flick through the pages of the Saveur magazine I get delivered to my home. The October 2009 issue is all about lamb and when it comes to lamb, I am a huge fan. 'Lamb Rules', Saveur declares, and I agree. As a child who grew up in a household where every week 'Sunday Roast' lunch was a given, I was always happiest when the rotation through the traditional center pieces for this signature meal - pig, cow, chicken - settled on a cut from a baby sheep. Oh yes, I do love lamb.

The minute my greedy eyeballs scanned the ingredients for the Lamb Salad on page 66, I knew it was something I needed to make as soon as possible, albeit with a substitute for the anchovies my dining partner is loathe to enjoy. For that I decided upon a few black olives and set about a late trip to the Farmers' Market with the sole purpose of gathering the ingredients for this dish.

To my mind, a recipe such as this does not need to be followed to the letter. What does it matter if my potatoes have brown skins instead of red? Will the recipe start screaming heresy at me if I favour maitake over oyster or shiitake? No, I don't think so. And so, with my tweakages justified, at least in my own mind, I set to work.

And work it was: A collection of mini-recipes strung together, one-by-one, before finally being introduced to each other just before serving. Roast a whole head of garlic for an hour then use it to make a strong, pungent vinaigrette with salty capers and sherry vinegar. Roast some potatoes. Fry up some mushrooms. Cook a piece of lamb. Chop some toasted nuts. Toss some salad greens. Compose on a plate. [See picture above.]

As I finally sat down to eat a proper home-cooked meal with Fred, for the first time in far too long, my level of expectation could hardly have been higher. Which is probably why it felt like a balloon had just been popped with a pin and the resulting shreds of rubber were whistling around the room laughing and taunting me with their heckles. I am sure, less would have been more. Too many flavours were fighting against each other for recognition and the poor little lamb was getting lost in the fray.

Should I beat myself up for substituting 10 anchovy fillets with 6 black olives? Did I break the recipe - or was it already broken before I even started?

PS - Please note - the ingredient list for this recipe states that "1⁄2 cup loosely packed mixed flat-leaf parsley and mint leaves" are required. However, the instructions for preparation do not make use of them at any stage, neither could I conjure up any reason to add them or a place to put them. Thanks to Hande for pointing out my oversight. They are indeed mentioned as herbs. I read the recipe several times and even visited the website where I did a search for 'mint' which of course was of no use to me. I certainly get today's prize for FAIL!

PPS - *"This Must Be a Luxury Salad" was Fred's comment on sitting down to eat. Fred perhaps preferred this dish more than I did. He is not as keen on lamb as I am and the fact the strong vinaigrette masked its flavour probably meant it worked more in his favour.

Local Resources
Rocambole Stiff Neck Garlic from Hunter Orchards
Sherry Vinegar from O Olive Oil
Shallots from Dirty Girl
Olive Oil from Bariani
Boneless Grass-fed lamb loin chop from Marin Sun Farms
Potatoes from Mariquita
Maitake from Far West Fungi
Butter from Straus
Thyme from White Crane Spring Ranch
Frisee from Star Route Farms
Pistachios from Alfieri Farms

2008 | Eat Local Challenge Day 4
2007 | Fifteen Watergate Bay
2006 | Amanda Berne

© 2009 Sam Breach
*"This Must Be A Luxury Salad"


  • At 4/10/09 21:55, Blogger Barbara said…

    It looks and sounds wonderful. I'm a big fan of lamb.

  • At 4/10/09 22:07, Anonymous T Shane said…

    Well, it certainly *looks* delicious. Luxurious, in fact. I'm all in!

  • At 4/10/09 23:19, Blogger ChrisB said…

    I have to say it looks pretty good to me but you would find the olives around the side of the plate (does that remind you of anyone!)

  • At 5/10/09 06:50, Blogger Alanna Kellogg said…

    It's one thing for us to mash together supper and then for it to disappoint, another thing entirely when we slave and it falls flat.

    Maybe your life is telling you to cook more often and more simply -- during the busy times?

  • At 5/10/09 07:22, Blogger Sam said…

    Barbara - and you guys have wonderful lamb. I think it would be a waste to use it in this salad.

    TShane - when I get my act in gear again, you and Brian can come over for dinner, but i ain't making this again - it will have to be something different.

    Mum- the olives were finely diced into the dressing, you would have had some trouble picking them out.

    Alanna - for the last few weeks I have been working until around midnight every night leaving no time for cooking at all. Cooking often and simply is my normal behaviour. I am always busy. But recently, these haven't been normal times. On Sunday I was 'on call' and didn't want to leave the house. I had some rare time to myself in the kitchen, and for me, to cook something a little more challenging in that time, was what I felt I needed to do for me. It gave me immense pleasure, even though the results weren't as thrilling as hoped for.

  • At 5/10/09 07:24, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    I've only glanced at that issue of Saveur, but I had high hopes for it. How disappointing to do so much work and not be that happy with the result. Great to see you again Sam, and (best imitation of Billy Crystal's voice) dahling, you look mahvellous. Coming back to SF in February and hope to have a dinner with some of my SF friends at Contigo, which I just loved when I ate there this time. Will be in touch.

  • At 5/10/09 09:16, Anonymous Jennifer said…

    What a shame that the recipe didn't pan out. I hope you're able to enjoy another round of lamb soon.

  • At 5/10/09 12:27, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Fred is funny!
    Hi, Fred.

  • At 5/10/09 13:56, Blogger Beccy said…

    It looks really good Sam, shame it didn't taste really good.

  • At 7/10/09 04:20, Blogger naughtyfox1983 said…

    I do not care whether it tasted good or not: I am so glad that I got to read an entry about you preparing and having a meal after a long long time.

    I really do miss your food shopping; cooking & above all, your elaborate write-ups. You always livened up my mundane life.

  • At 7/10/09 06:10, Anonymous Hande said…

    Parsley and mint come in at step 5: "Put the mixed greens and the herbs into a large bowl".
    But I do agree, this recipe is broken - way to many flavors that mask a good lamb.

  • At 7/10/09 12:45, Blogger Passport Foodie said…

    Seriously, well done!

    The photo and recipe is fabulous.

    Passport Foodie

  • At 7/10/09 22:45, Anonymous kazari said…

    We've just started seeing our autumn lamb in the shops (in australia there's typically two lambings a year), and I did a roast last night.
    I'm sorry your salad didn't live up to expectations! My roast exceeded mine. I was worried about an unfamiliar oven, but it came out perfect, with lots of veggies and green beans. Only the gravy was a flop : )

  • At 8/10/09 20:18, Blogger Sam said…

    Kalyn - thank you, lovie. I hope to see you on your return visit!

    Jennifer - the Saveur has really given me a taste for more lamb - so don't you fear, I will get my hands on another round.

    Cookiecrumb - and he doesn't even know it!

    Anahita - your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

    Hande - the world needs more people like you - and I need someone like you to read my recipes for me. Duh - I can't believe I missed that - I even went online and did a search for 'mint' on the recipe page. At least I *tried* to find those herbs, even though I failed.

    Thank you Passport Foodie.

    Kazari - glad to hear you had better success with your lamb. As for gravy - I have been known to make an OK one, but I do it so seldom (I blame growing up on a type of gravy from a packet I despised), that I am probably out of practice. Plus the Frenchman thinks of it fondly as that disgusting brown English stuff, I think..?

  • At 9/10/09 03:27, Anonymous Clarisse-16years old said…

    I don't come very often to english blog, because my English is verry owful x)
    but, yours are fabulous ! Your pictures are beautiful, and it's a good practise for me, so .. I'll come back very soon :)

  • At 19/10/09 16:02, Anonymous Sharmila said…

    This has been one of my favourite blogs for so long now. I love your writing. Am so glad to see you post even if it is not as frequently. Loved that you shared a recipe, but sorry that you didn't like it. :(
    By a strange coincidence, I'm cooking lamb tonight. Only mine is ground lamb from the good people at Prather Ranch. Maybe meatballs with some salad...
    I hope you have some time soon to catch your breath and savour some rest.
    My best to you.

  • At 21/10/09 18:25, Anonymous Dinners & Dreams said…

    I love lamb everything. I never had a lamb salad, but I'm sure it's delicious!

  • At 26/10/09 13:11, Anonymous annie said…

    That is always such a disappointment; it looks beautiful, though! Perhaps it would have made a better museum piece?

  • At 3/11/09 17:27, Anonymous Unplanned Cooking said…

    That looks delicious! It's hard to cook every night. But I find myself so much more energized when I do. And I'm with you -- lamb is fantastic!

  • At 9/12/09 14:10, Anonymous San Antonio Personal injury lawyer said…

    This dish looks perfect! The lamb looks so tender. Thanks for giving me great ideas.

  • At 13/1/10 16:25, Blogger jilliany said…


    -- Jillian


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