Is there an opening in your Saturday morning calendar? Hit the Oro Valley Farmer's Market.
You can enjoy coffee and a pastry while perusing the vendors' tables; it's fun, invigorating shopping. The weekly market can be found at 11000 N. La Cañada in front of the Town Hall. This time of year, they're open from 8 a.m. until noon.
On a recent visit, my shopping bag included pepitas, blue corn pancake mix, mesquite flour, farm fresh eggs in the most beautiful colors, and ground lamb – all this in addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables.
I don't have a lot of experience cooking with lamb, but it's supposed to be so healthy – a lean red meat, lots of iron and B vitamins, and I liked the idea of, in this small way, being a locavore (one who eats food produced locally). The Van Haren family of San Manuel have been raising sheep and bringing the lamb to market to evaluate demand for their product. Happily, the test run is going well.
The lamb became part of this recipe, inspired by a dish I used to order in an Italian restaurant many years ago. The original used beef to stuff the eggplant, but surely artistic license carries over to the kitchen.
Northwest resident Lois Britton also writes about her culinary adventures at http://FoodLoveLanguage.blogspot.com. Have a question or food related story to share? Contact her at FoodLoveLanguage@gmail.com.
Eggplant stuffed with ground lamb
1 pound ground lamb
½ tablespoon olive oil (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
½ cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tomatoes, diced and seeded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the eggplant three or four times with a fork; place on a baking sheet and bake until tender, 30-45 minutes. Cool. Slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out and dice the eggplant flesh and seeds, leaving ¼ inch attached to the skin, save the empty eggplant halves.
In a frying pan, combine the diced eggplant and all other ingredients except the tomato paste and diced tomatoes; cook over medium-high heat until the lamb is no longer pink, adding the olive oil if the meat is very lean. Stir in the last two ingredients.
Return the four eggplant halves to the baking sheet, fill with the meat mixture, and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.