A Memorial Day Grill Fest: Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices

The Unofficial Start to Summer

Across the country, not just the Flyover States, Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start to the summer season. Pools open and cookouts beckon. The grills get fired up (and yes, I too plan to partake of this). In that spirit, I am sharing with you a recipe I’ll be grilling today: Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices. But before I do that, I want to take a look at Memorial Day, the holiday, the one without the potato salad and 40%-off sales

From Whence It Came: Decoration Day

Memorial Day got its start as Decoration Day back in the mid-1800s (May 30, 1868, to be exact). It was designed to commemorate the war dead—people were asked to decorate the graves of soldiers who’d perished in the Civil War, which ended in 1865. Approximately 20 years later, the name changed to Memorial Day, but the commemoration remained the same.

In the ensuing years, Memorial Day, which was once celebrated on May 30 but is now the last Monday in May, became associated more with the start of summer fun than a way to honor those who lost their lives in conflict. While I see nothing wrong with enjoying friends and family, I do believe it is important to remember the real reason for the holiday—a way to recall those who made the ultimate sacrifice. So, sometime this weekend, think of them, whether at a service or just a silent pause.

Grilling—The Warm-Weather Cooking Technique Returns

Okay, I haven’t fired up the grill since October, but with warm, summertime temperatures having arrived, it’s time to break out the charcoal (yes, I’m a purist—no gas for this girl!) and start generating that live-fire mojo. One of my favorite things to grill is local lamb, in this case lamb from Russell Sheep Company of Eaton, Indiana. Diane Russell’s smiling face is one of my favorite sights on my weekly trip to Minnetrista Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings. Her lamb is delicious and it’s local! I’ll write about Russell Sheep Company some other time, so you’ll learn all about it. But one form of lamb she sells is kebab meat, which I use for the kebabs (and I’ve also used it for stews and curries). And to round out my menu today, I’ll grill some local asparagus as an accompaniment.

Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices

Serves 4

What You’ll Need

  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • bowl
  • garlic press (optional)
  • plastic wrap
  • skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lamb leg or shoulder meat, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
  • ¼ tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like spicy food)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp ground sumac
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

How To Make the Kebabs

Sorry, no pictures this time! I’ll add one after I grill them!

  1. In a bowl combine all ingredients except lamb. Taste for salt/pepper (add more if necessary)
  2. Pat lamb cubes dry and add to mixture in bowl. Toss to combine. Cover and place in refrigerator for about 4 hours
  3. Start a hot charcoal fire (direct high fire)—I said I was a charcoal purist!
  4. After coals have been started but before they are ready for grilling, remove lamb and thread onto 4 skewers (the flatter kind are best). When grill is ready, place skewers on grill and cook until a little charred (about 5-10 minutes). Turn occasionally to make sure that all sides get cooked
  5. Serve immediately.

And They Were Delicious!

LambKebabs

Edited this post to show everyone my Memorial Day dinner!
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