When I think about food, the first thing to come to mind is what's in season. I grew up in a big city where summer was hot and humid and winter was cold and dry. It is nothing like living in California. We had to dress differently and eat differently, of course. But tomatoes and cucumbers were not available in winter and strawberries were available only for a couple of months in spring; unlike here, where these are available almost year-round. I often miss enjoying deliciously ripe fruits and vegetables in each season, and also the different kinds of seafood at different times of the year.
Lamb is delicious in spring with its mild and tender meat. This is a very simple Spanish stew with lamb, onion, bell pepper, garlic and a little chili pepper. It's all cooked in one pot and doesn't take a long time. I don't eat a lot of meat so I added some carrots.
This dish is good with Syrah/Shiraz, Garnacha (middle of p. 2), Tempranillo and Zinfandel (top of p. 2), which is grown only in California.
Cordero al Chilindrón: Spanish Lamb Stew
About 1 1/2 pounds chuck or leg of lamb, trimmed of fat as much as possible and cut into bite-sized chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika, preferably Spanish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and diced. You may use 1 cup of roasted pimiento in jar (12 oz.)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup ham or cured pork (e.g., pancetta), diced (optional)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced in 1/2-inch (optional)
Season the lamb with salt, pepper, paprika and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside for 15 minutes.
In a large pot or skillet, heat remaining oil and sautee the lamb over medium heat 4-5 minutes or until the meat is lightly browned.
Add the onion, pepper and garlic, and sautee for a couple minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, chili and ham. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Place a lid slightly off over the pot, so the steam can escape. Stirring occasionally, cook for 15-20 minutes
or until the meat becomes tender. Do not overcook -- spring lamb is pretty tender. Serve with steamed rice or country bread. Garnish with freshly-picked mint!