My dear friend, who recently visited for several glorious days, seemed to especially enjoy this meal we might have ordered at an Arabic joint in the Middle East. Then I remembered her ancestors…

The Arabic word “shawarma” means large blocks of meats — often lamb and sometimes chicken, turkey, beef, even veal — shaved off a grilling spit into thin strips and accompanied by toppings and veggies. Enjoying a glass of wine, we created a delicious and healthful version with steaks of lean lamb, a stove top, flavors and spices. Just get everything you need to prepare all the sliced and diced additions as the lamb gets ready.

After the recipe I offer a few words about couscous vs. quinoa. I switch between them and you might too, depending on your carb choice. This picture is couscous.

 

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cup couscous (or quinoa if you prefer)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • ½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons (or limes)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ lbs. fresh boneless lamb leg steak
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper (optional)
  • ½ tsp. cayenne
  • ½ tsp. each kosher salt and pepper
  • Yogurt Tahini recipe (to follow)

Here’s how to cut the lamb leg steaks (or similar cuts): First, trim as much fat as possible. Cut eat steak into 3 or so pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ inch in size. Then lay each cut on its side, standing tall, and cut each one into 2 or 3 pieces so they are fairly thin.

Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, cover tightly, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. (Or use quinoa if that is your choice.) Uncover, fluff, and add carrot, parsley, 2 tbsp. oil, and zest and juice of one lemon.

Cook onion in remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until edges are charred, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, lamb, cumin, cayenne, lemon-pepper if you have it, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until lamb is cooked through, brown on outside and pink inside, perhaps 5 minutes.

Divide couscous (or quinoa) among four plates and top with lamb. Finish with yogurt-tahini sauce, a green such as broccolini, and more lemon zest and juice if desired.

 

Yogurt – Tahini Sauce

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt to taste

Mixed everything in a bowl. Add to the side of the shawarma plate and coat with anything you like.

 

Couscous vs. Quinoa

Couscous is made from semolina — granules of durum wheat similar to classic pastas — cooked by steaming. It’s a staple of North Africa, the Middle East and even surprises like Sicily and France. I don’t eat it often but love an occasional meal of many Arab taste traditions served over couscous. Some who avoid all pastas can substitute quinoa, a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. Developed 3,000 years ago in South America, it is high in protein and related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. On the move among nutritionists, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.