Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cheap Mediterranean Vacation with Saffron Lamb Ragu

Ah, Sardinia – Island breezes. Blue Mediterranean waters. Laidback culture. What bliss.

OK, so I’ve never been to Sardinia. In fact, it’s been almost two years since we’ve been able to get away at all. But once in a while you have to have a little mental holiday, even if it’s only for a meal. This month’s Gathering for Get Together Gourmets gave us the opportunity to experience a little faux-retreat for an evening.

Get Together Gourmets is the cooking club we formed a couple of years ago. It’s been great fun – we’ve made some new friends and had the opportunity to experience some wonderful food. It really runs the gamut, we have some professional culinarians (so I made up the word – get over it): a trained chef, a professional baker, food writers, etc.; some folks who are terrified of the kitchen (you know who you are); and a host of people who fall in between. The one thing we all have in common is our love of food. It’s a good time. If you’re interested in more information, here’s a link.

This month’s Gathering theme was The Island of Sardinia. The concept is really a subset of the Mediterranean Diet: lots of seafood, olive oil, etc. The one exception is that a large portion of Sardinia’s way of life revolves around shepherding (so I’ve read). That means lamb, and I noticed that no one had chosen a lamb dish when they signed up.

I love lamb. It is one of my all-time favorite flavors. Of course, the best cuts are out of my price range right now. I started researching some Sardinian lamb recipes and came across a recipe for a saffron roasted leg of lamb. It sounded good, so I improvised. I took the flavor components of the dish and turned it into an appetizer: a ragu with ground lamb, saffron, tomato paste, and red wine. I served it with another island staple, Sardinian Parchment Bread, called Carta Musica.

I adapted the parchment bread from some recipes I found online, so I don’t know if I can completely call it my own, even though I tweaked it (especially the rolling. Holy cow! How did they do that everyday?!), but the Saffron Lamb Ragu is an original. It went over well with the group (I, personally, have never had a lamb dish that I didn’t like), and the parchment bread is certainly going to make a return appearance at a future cocktail party. There is so much that I can do with flavor components to make it a stand alone dish – I’m sure you’ll see some future recipes on that.

So don’t despair if your budget doesn’t allow for international travel. Whip up a dish that’s out of the ordinary. Sardinia really is within your grasp.

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