Sichuan Leg of Lamb with Cool Celery Salad and Missouri Jasmine Rice (gf)

We love lamb in this house. Juicy, tender, versatile, and a flavorful departure from beef. I get a lot of blowback when I profess my love of lamb; look, I know they’re cute, but that cuteness is by far eclipsed by how delicious they are. Besides, baby chickens and cows are cute, too. I don’t hear y’all making a case for them.

a lamb & mutton-dotted field in New Zealand; we did our best to eat as many as we could, but the sheep:person ratio there is roughly 15:1

lambs we admired, mouths watering, in New Zealand last year

Another thing I unapologetically love as much as lamb is Sichuan food. Sichuan cuisine, Szechwan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine (/ˈsɛʃwɒn/ or /ˈsɛtʃwɒn/; Chinese: 四川菜; pinyin: Sìchuān cài or Chinese: 川菜; pinyin: Chuān cài) is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan province in southwestern China. It’s famous for the use of chilis, chili oil, cumin, onion, and the delightfully tingly Sichuan peppercorn, which is my favorite spice found anywhere on the globe. Spicy? Yes. Savory? Yes. Meaty? Yes. Cooling? Somehow, yes.

spicy cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles at X’ian Famous Foods, my favorite Sichuan dish so far

And those peppercorns! They’re delicious and addictive- here’s a delightfully nerdy NPR piece about scientists exploring the frequency of the tingling caused by these magical little berries (!!!) as they tease the tongue and lure it back for more. If you haven’t tried Sichuan food, an ancient, prismatic world of flavor awaits.
Lamb is used often in Sichuan cooking- you may know variations of the Sichuan dish cumin lamb (my fave pictured above), so the Serious Eats Sichuan peppercorn-spiked leg of lamb that gave us leftovers during a busy week was a perfect fit for our home. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

SICHUAN LEG OF LAMB WITH COOL CELERY SALAD AND MISSOURI JASMINE RICE 

Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients: 

For the lamb

  • 1 3-lb butterflied leg of lamb
  • 2 tbsp cumin seed (whole)
  • 3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 
  • 2 tbsp red pepper flakes 
  • 2 star anise pods 
  • 2 tsp fennel seed (whole)
  • 2 tbsp brown or white sugar  
  • 3+ cloves garlic 
  • Kosher salt 

For the salad (I used a mandoline slicer to chop and ribbon these veggies):

  • 1 head celery, chopped thin on the bias 
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ribbons 
  • 8-10 radishes, sliced thinly 
  • 1.5 c cilantro leaves 
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, sliced on the bias 
  • 2 cucumbers, sliced into ribbons 
  • Handful mint leaves, Whole or cut into chiffonade 
  • 3.5 tbsp rice vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tsp white vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp soy or tamari (gf)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced 
  • 1/3 c vegetable or other neutral oil 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Cracked black pepper

For the rice:

  • 1. 5 c Martin Jasmine rice (who knew the best jasmine rice comes from the bootheel!)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp vegetable or other oil
  • 2 1/4 c water 

Read more after the jump!

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Shrimp “Ceviche” Salad (pes, gf)

So, it’s totally true that cooking is like working a muscle. The more you work that muscle, the easier it is to use. The less you work it, well, that muscle gets weaker. If I don’t cook on a regular basis, my culinary creative juices dry up like a sad roadside drainage ditch. Exhibit A:

ditch

so sad. so not cooking.

Who wants to eat there? Bleh. Luckily, the more often I cook, inspiration flows back like a tumbling tropical waterfall. Exhibit B:

waterfall 2

take me there? now? I’ll cook!

Much more appealing!! Do you find the same thing happens in your kitchen? It’s 100% the case in mine. Speaking of which, let’s flex those cooking muscles and talk ceviche. Typically, ceviche is a raw fish and/or shellfish dish in which the seafood had been “cooked” by citrus juices. To explain those salmonella-hazy quotation marks and to quote Chowhound, “citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process… turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.”

ceviche

Since there are just two of us at home and we’re leftover-heavy on the food rotation, I opt to pre-cook my seafood when making dishes like these. It’s a safe option when keeping this stuff on hand for a few days and the classic, citrusy flavor isn’t compromised. This is a “cut it all up and stir it together” recipe- great for busy nights or when you’re trying to use up veggies in the fridge. So! Let’s get to it.

SHRIMP “CEVICHE” SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked, diced large 
  • 1 bell pepper, your choice of color, diced large
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and chopped into large dice
  • 1 small container grape tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the container)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cilantro, packed and finely chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3-4 tbsp olive or canola oil (taste preference here: olive oil has a distinct, earthy taste; canola is neutral)
  • 1/2-1 small red onion, small dice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • honey, optional
  • optional spices, such as chili powder, cumin, oregano
  • spinach or salad green of your choice

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