I had fully planned on devoting this whole month to Mexican dishes, since Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and I don’t believe that a person can ever have too much Mexican food. Yet here I am, posting a springtime dish that has absolutely 0 south of the border influence, because sometimes a grocery store sale can change your whole schedule up for the better. And when it comes to these Yogurt Marinated Lamb Skewers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto Pilaf, the change was absolutely for the better.
When I was little, we used to have a big jar of mint jelly in the fridge at all times for the rare occasion when my dad would eat lamb for dinner. I’d never tried lamb, but the idea of it pairing well with mint jelly made me shiver– I imagined slathering some lamb chops with the contents of a mint chocolate chip ice cream jello pack, which explains all of the “ew”.
Even when I got older and knew better, that thought remained in the back of my mind. You could not pay me to knowingly touch lamb. Well, I’d definitely have pet a live one (obviously), but I certainly wouldn’t ever eat one… or so I thought.
There’s a long and uneventful story about how I wound up first eating lamb, but I won’t bore you through it. The cliff notes version is that I was duped and took a bite of a kebab that I assumed was beef. The lamb was marinated so that it was incredibly tender and very tangy, with hints of cumin and mint– not mint jelly, not desserty mint extract, but fresh mint leaves.
As much as I wanted to freak out, I had to admit that it was good. It was better than good. I took another bite and my heart has fluttered at the thought of it ever since.
So finally, many years later, I decided that lamb on sale was a sign that I should make my own twist on those flavors that made me fall in love with the stuff in the first place. I marinated the lamb in a mixture of yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, onion, garlic, cumin, lemon pepper, and salt, skewered it, and cooked it in my grill pan until it had deep brown char marks on the outside but still was pink and tender on the inside.
Listen, I know this is a food blog, and you probably think, “Of course she’s going to say it was delicious.” But I bragged about this dish to everyone who would hear me out. I called my mom up to tell her she needed to make it. James told me that he would buy lamb every day (sale or no sale!) if I’d make Yogurt Marinated Lamb Skewers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto Pilaf all the time. I snapchatted everyone pictures of it because I was so proud of how freakin’ awesome it was.
But it wasn’t just the lamb that I was excited about. We haven’t even talked about that pilaf yet.
I incorporated the mint flavor by whipping up a mint-pistachio pesto that I mixed right into the rice pilaf, and it gave it this awesome fresh, nutty, herby quality that’s beyond-words-fantastic. Along with the peas (which were added at James’ request– the man loves peas), the pesto makes this dinner really feel like spring has sprung.
I was sneaking spoonfuls of the rice in-between taking photos because it was so tasty that I couldn’t wait. No shame, you’d probably do the same.
And you’re definitely going to want to show off this meal as much as I did, so don’t forget to take a picture and tag #hostthetoast on Instagram or Twitter so I can salivate over your pictures until the next time I get a chance to make this. Pretty please.Print
For the Yogurt Marinated Lamb Skewers
- 3 cups plain, whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb, cubed
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour
For the Mint-Pistachio Pesto Pilaf
- 1 cup mint leaves, packed
- 2/3 cup roasted, salted, shelled pistachios, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 2 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- Combine all of the ingredients for the lamb skewers (except for the wooden skewers) in a large bowl. Mix well to combine and make sure that the lamb is entirely coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pesto. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the mint leaves, 1/3 cup of the pistachios, and the 2 cloves of garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. Run the food processor and slowly stream in the olive oil until well-combined, and then mix in the lemon juice and salt, to taste.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the onion and red pepper and cook until the onion is softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the dry rice and toast it, stirring constantly, until it gives off a nutty aroma, about 3 more minutes.
- Pour in the chicken broth and season with salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the liquid is nearly absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- Fold in the peas, reduce the heat to low, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, uncovered. Fluff the rice and mix in the mint-pistachio pesto. Set aside.
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray. Thread the marinated lamb onto the soaked skewers. Arrange 4 skewers at a time on the pan and cook for 7 minutes or until the lamb reaches the desired degree of doneness, turning halfway through. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining skewers.
- Serve the lamb skewers warm with the pilaf.