Stalking the Waiter

Riffing on foods, flavors and methods, that would be telling.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Paper Chef #12 - Another Bare Nekkid Entry

Yes, boys and girls, it looks like I am still photo-less. I've tapered off the posts, because they just aren't the same without pictures. Got a new power cable, now my laptop tells me that my camera has no pics in it. But the camera shows them to me, so, the kids seem to have issues with one another. I do have a couple pics from the Internet, but nothing of the food, itself. Anyway, to the Paper Chef. I hope this makes sense, since I'm about to fall asleep as I write it up. :G:

This month's ingredients are:

  1. Fish sauce

  2. Basil

  3. Oranges

  4. Lamb

Hmmm. Lots of playing around room there. Let's see what I can think up.

  • Oranges in a salad with the basil and some "Sweet" Onions, as a variant on the Orange and Red Onion Salad.

  • A basil jelly as a play on Mint Jelly with lamb? Basil is a member of the mint family, after all. (Notice I'm avoiding the lamb?) Here's a link to a generic recipe for Mint Jelly, if you like this idea.

  • I should do something with the orange zest or the peels. They've got a lot of flavor, and lamb can stand up to it.

  • Fish sauce - can use that as part of the marinade for the lamb, assuming I marinate it.

  • Candied basil leaves as a garnish or part of the salad.

  • Coating the outside of the lamb (assuming a rack or leg) with garlic, orange zest and fish sauce.

  • Some kind of lamb sausage with the orange zest as one of the flavorings.

And the list goes on and on. And I was running out of time, so, this is the menu I wound up with.

Greek Lamb Trainwreck
Orange, Basil and Onion Salad with Feta
Poppyseed-Style Dressing

I'm not giving proportions because it's going to depend on the volume you're using. If someone wants a ball park guestimate, email me, and I'll try to oblige. I don't measure when I cook, unless I'm preparing a recipe for a class where I have to give amounts, so, failing that, it's my best guess. You'll need enough basil for the Trainwreck and the salad. You'll also need enough oranges to have juice for both recipes, as well as the sliced oranges for the salad.

Greek Lamb Trainwreck
I call it this because it's a conglomeration of traditional Greek bits and pieces. It's mostly Pastitsio, with an orange-flavored Avgolemono and ground lamb, with Florence Fennel. I also put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, as I find that that extra tang goes well with pasta dishes made with cream sauce.

NOTE (added Wed, 9 Nov): Orange and meat is not as bizarre as it seems. What actually gave me the idea for this dish was a Greek pork sausage flavored with orange zest. I got that recipe from a wonderful sausage cook book which is, unfortunately out of print, The Homemade Sausage Cookbook, Selinger and Rechner (ISBN: 0809258641). It's worth it if you can find it used, since it's a wonderland of familiar and exotic sausages from around the world. Bertie Selinger was a cooking teacher and Cordon Bleu trained, so her instructions are clear and all food safety precautions are noted and explained. A great book.

You can see a list of southern Mediterranean sausages and their ingredientshere. There are four or five sausages which contain orange as a flavoring, which, I admit, surprised me. BTW, this is a good informational site, by Clifford A. Wright, I assume, based on its domain name.

Pastitsio Ingredients:

  • Ground Lamb

  • Crushed Garlic

  • Chopped Fresh Basil

  • Florence Fennel bulb sliced in 1/4" thick slices

  • Fish sauce

  • Pasta for Pastitsio

  • Tomato Sauce (plain, from the can)

  • "Avgolemono" sauce

Florence Fennel looks like a pregnant celery with green hair. Photo courtesy of

This is just one brand of macaroni pastitsio, but it gives you an idea what it looks like. I'm lucky to live in an area where we have produce stands (The Fruit Basket) run by a Greek family. They sell this type and many other unusual pastas under their own label.
Filling Instructions:

  1. Mix the ground lamb with crushed garlic and chopped basil

  2. Sauteed lamb in olive oil in a hot pan, something like stir fry.

  3. When it's nearly cooked, add the sliced fennel and a small splash of fish sauce (it's very salty). Keep tossing until the fennel is warmed through - it doesn't need to "cook."

  4. I used the traditional Pastitsio pasta, cooked according to package directions. I leave the pieces whole, and lay them in the baking dish in strips.

Sauce: Rather than repeating this basic recipe, I'll give you the link. This version is thick, almost like a Hollandaise. You might want to thin it with a bit more broth, and multiply it for this dish. And, of course, use orange juice instead of lemon.
So, here's the assembly:

  1. Pour a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish (a brownie or lasagne shape of pan)

  2. Lay the pasta strips over the tomato sauce, top with a layer of the cooked lamb and fennel.

  3. Repeat for a total of 2-3 layers. I like to end with pasta, but it's up to you.

  4. Pour the sauce over, giving the dish a few shakes so that it will settle down into the layers.

  5. You can top this with cheese, if you like. But if you've got enough sauce that it covers the top, that will turn a nice golden color on its own.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 30 minutes. It should be heated through, the sauce bubbling a bit, with a golden color. Keep and eye on it so the sauce doesn't burn on top. If it's getting too dark, lower the heat to 350.

Orange, Basil and Onion Salad

  • One or two oranges, peeled and slice horizontally

  • One "sweet" onion (Vidalia, Texas, Maui etc),, sliced in 1/4" slices and separated into rings

  • Fresh basil cut in ribbons - roll leaves in cigars and cut crosswise

  • Feta, cubed or crumbled in large large pieces.

  • Fresh ground pepper

  • Optional: Chop some of the green "hair" from the fennel.

Poppyseed-style Dressing
I wanted a sweet-ish dressing for this. So, I used a recipe for Poppyseed dressing but left out the poppyseeds.

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 3 Tbsp. white vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp honey or corn syrup

  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

  • Salt, to taste

Using only half the honey/syrup, whisk all ingredients until emulsified. Taste fir sweetness. When you have the sweetness to your preference, add salt to taste.
Layer orange and onion slices, top with dressing, garnish with basil, feta and fresh ground pepper (and chopped fennel tops).

I was pretty satisfied with this pairing, but I think if I make it again, I'll put some orange zest in with the ground lamb before cooking it. Also, I'd probably candy thin strips of orange peel and use them as a snack with espresso or something. I was too pooped to be bothered. The peels are in the fridge, though, pending a more energetic moment.

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At 7:02 PM, Blogger Lady X said...

I love Pastitsio so I'm curious to see how your Greek Lamb Trainwreck tastes (love the name, BTW!). Good luck with the camera not talking with the computer issue.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger mrs d said...

Thanks so much for participating this month. This sounds way too tasty for a "trainwreck!" Best of luck with the camera woes.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

I almost made lasagna with my lamb sausage, and now I wish I had--this sounds yummy! Our brains must have processed the orange-basil connection the same way; I made a very similar salad but with goat cheese...I bet feta is a better salty contrast. Good luck with your camera-computer counseling; I hope those guys work everything out soon.

At 2:38 AM, Blogger b'gina said...

lady x - I've never made real Pastitsio. I usually make a cross between that and Moussaka. I can never just follow a recipe.

mrs d - Thanks! I really enjoy the challenge. Let's hope PC#13 is my good luck charm and the pics are working by then, if not before.

jennifer - Well, Lasagne is very similar to Pastitsio, really. I love making sausages, though I haven't done it in ages. Sounds good, though.

Now, I have to find the time to check out all the other PC #12 bloggers. The roundup makes them all sound so yummy. I'm trying to get caught up on my NaNo writing, but maybe I can use that as my treat when I need a break. Yeah. Something to look forward to. ;+)


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