On The Lamb

It feels like we've been reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" forever. Don't get us wrong. Michael Pollan is a great writer, but it's — pardon the pun — a lot to digest. The process and politics of our food system are incredibly complex, but with each page we turn, we're even happier that much of what we eat is either grown in our garden or locally produced.

There are so many points in this book that stand out, but the thing that really freaked us out was the section on corn-fed vs. grass-fed meats. All this time, we thought it was perfectly wonderful — more wholesome, even — to serve corn-fed anything. Whoops. We're not going to get too technical here, but if you haven't read the book, here's the oversimplified skinny: ruminant animals (cows, sheep, goats) are supposed to eat grass and other forage crops. It is not natural for them to eat corn, and their digestive system doesn't really love it. And yet, in the industrial food system, that is exactly what they're fed.

Fortunately, our farmers market in Orono has several grass-fed and grass-finished meat options, including the sublime Meadowsweet Farm. We're wild about lamb, especially ground lamb, and whenever we find it, we stock up on it (as we did on Saturday). We've tried many locally raised options, and Meadowsweet's is our clear favorite. Paula and Sumner Roberts of Swanville produce ground lamb that has an optimal fat content — most of it burns off on the grill, but enough is left over to leave the meat moist and tender. Plus, it doesn't have the gamy flavor that so many lamb products do. Try it in a lamb burger (recipes below). You can find Meadowsweet (and, usually, Paula) at the Orono and Belfast farmers markets. For more information, e-mail Meadowsweet at meadowsweet@prexar.com.

Food Network Lamb Burgers
This is a riff on a lamb burger we saw on "Diners, Drive-Throughs and Dives."
For each pound of ground lamb, season with 2 cloves minced garlic (or more), salt and pepper. Divide into patties (a pound usually makes about three burgers) and grill over hot coals until they're medium-rare. While the burgers are grilling, also grill pineapple slabs and prepare spicy mayonnaise by mixing 2 tablespoons Hellman's mayo with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne and a dash of garlic powder (add more spices to taste). Serve burgers on focaccial topped with spicy mayo, grilled pineapple and fresh cilantro leaves.

Greek-Style Lamb Burgers
This is our humble attempt at replicating the amazing lamb burgers at Cleonice in Ellsworth. Theirs are better, but these are good.
For each pound of ground lamb, season with 3 cloves minced garlic (more to taste), 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, salt and pepper. Prepare faux tzatziki sauce by combining 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, 1 clove garlic, minced and turned into paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate. Grill burgers until they're medium-rare. Serve burgers in pita bread or focaccia and top with sauce.


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