On the list of love ’em or hate ’em foods, lamb and rhubarb must surely be up near the top. Gamey and aggressive; sour and stringy — these are the refrains you hear again and again. I suppose I’m just ever the contrarian, though, because these are two of my favorite ingredients. Lamb pies, lamb stews, lamb curries — it got to the point earlier this winter, in fact, when J had to ask me to lay off it already. And rhubarb! I go all giddy when I glimpse those first ruby stalks of the spring and a bit glassy-eyed daydreaming about pies and crumbles and chutneys.

So, that’s how I ended up with a refrigerator stocked with both lamb and rhubarb this morning, and that’s how I decided to whip up a lunch that married them both. Rather than going the usual route — trying to combat the rhubarb’s tartness with an avalanche of sugar — I chose instead to capitalize on its bite by incorporating it into a bright, tangy relish punctuated with mustard and turmeric. Cooled to room temp, it made an ideal mate to a lightening quick batch of spicy kofta kebabs, doused with sumac, charred under the broiler, and sprinkled with a hefty handful of feta. So good. If we’d had a hater in the house, I think they just might have been converted.

4-5 large stalks rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/8″ pieces
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 1/2″ inch piece fresh horseradish, grated
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Colmans mustard powder

1 lb. ground lamb
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon harissa
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper

To serve:
4 pitas, warmed
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1. In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, garlic, onion, horseradish, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add salt, sugar, fennel seed, mustard seed, turmeric, coriander seed, and mustard powder. Stir, and continue to simmer, until rhubarb has broken down (the consistency should be like applesauce) and the liquid has reduced — about 15-20 minutes. Remove from flame and set aside.

2. Turn on your broiler. In a mixing bowl, combine lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, harissa, sumac, chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix, using your hands, until well combined. Divide into 4 portions. Shape each portion into a log about 6″ in length. Transfer to an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler. Bake, turning once, until the koftas are cooked through and just crispy, about 10 minutes.

3. Serve each kofta with a hot pita, parsley, onion, a generous sprinkling of feta, and two tablespoons of rhubarb relish.


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