Well, heck. How is the end of August already?
I know that some people think the end of August is also the end of summer, but I’m not really to give up just yet.
There just haven’t been enough long bike rides to nowhere in particular, after work drinks on streetside patios, lazy weekends lounging in the backyard while the cicadas buzz in the background, impromptu watermelon seed spitting contests, or tall glasses filled with iced tea and clinking ice cubes.
Most of all, though, there definitely hasn’t been nearly enough barbecuing in my life.
That’s not to say that I’m complaining about the awesome meals we’ve grilled up so far this summer, especially these Moroccan-spiced lamb wraps.
The star of the show is a fresh butterflied boneless leg of locally-raised Ontario lamb, which happens to be one of my favourite cuts for the grill.
I find the trick is to sear the lamb over high heat to get the outside nice and crispy, and then finish it over indirect heat until it’s a juicy medium-rare. Prepared this way, the lamb comes out juicy and flavourful and not-at-all gamey, especially when you take the time to marinate it overnight.
Best of all, even a smallish leg of lamb clocks in at three pounds, so you’ll have enough to feed a crowd in less time than it takes to watch an episode of The Simpsons. All that’s left to do is to let the lamb rest for a few minutes, then slice it across the grain into thin ribbons.
I suppose you could serve the sliced lamb just as it is, maybe with some grilled vegetables and a rice pilaf to soak up the juices, but my preference is to wrap it all up in a soft, fresh pita with crunchy cucumbers, nutty chickpeas and a drizzle with a tangy garlic sauce. The combination makes for a wonderful contrast of flavours, textures and temperature – crunchy, meaty, spicy, nutty, tangy, fresh and garlicky, all coming together in each bite for a surprisingly easy end-of-summer meal.
Granted, this deliciousness doesn’t come cheap if you’re springing for good-quality naturally raised local lamb (which I do when I can), but it’s totally worth the splurge in my books. Forget steak… lamb’s where it’s at.
And since summer’s nearly over, think of these wraps as your excuse to invite over a few friends to help send off the summer in style with a casual backyard party, or selfishly keep them all to yourself and coast on the leftovers for a week while you focus on enjoying what’s left of the summer before it’s gone. (FYI: if you add the leftover lamb and fillings to a pile of chopped romaine, you get a pretty awesome chopped salad.)
Disclosure: I received monetary compensation from the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency for creating this post. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own.
- 1 butterflied boneless leg of lamb (~4 lbs)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup plain Balkan-style yogurt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 6 pitas
- 1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- Using a sharp knife, cut several shallow diagonal slashes through the fatty side of the lamb. Season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
- In a large zip-top plastic bag, combine the lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, ginger, and thyme. Shake to combine, then add the lamb shoulder and seal the bag. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Prepare your grill for indirect cooking. If using charcoal, mound the coals on one side and leave a thin single layer of coals on the other. If using gas, turn the burners on one side to high, and the other side to low.
- Place the lamb fat side down onto the hotter part of the grill and cook over direct heat for 5 minutes or until well browned. Flip over, and grill for 5 minutes longer. (If your lamb is very fatty, you’ll want to have a spray bottle of water handy to control flare-ups.)
- Once the lamb is seared on both sides, move it to the other side of the grill and finish cooking fat-side down over indirect heat until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 135F, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain.
- While the lamb is grilling, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
- Arrange a few slices of lamb in the center of each pita, then top with cucumber, onion, and chickpeas. Drizzle with yogurt sauce, then fold up to enclose the filling. Serve immediately.