fresh meat, fresh herbs, fresh spices

My husband Eric and I were the lucky recipients of a fabulous Christmas gift this past year - a three-month supply of fresh meat products from the Walden Local Meat Company, located just outside of Boston. Each month, Walden delivers a variety of different frozen meat products, including sausages, ground pork and beef, beef shoulder (featured in a recent shredded beef taco recipe on this site!), and stew meat. After defrosting, the meat is incredibly fresh, tender and flavorful. I love the excuse to come up with new recipes that incorporate this fresh, sustainable, farm-raised meat.

In addition to fresh meat, fresh herbs and spices are the best way to boost flavor in your cooking. Dried herbs just can't compete with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, potent mint, or fragrant rosemary. In the spiced lamb meatballs, I incorporate parsley and mint, along with fresh lemon zest and lemon juice. In the tabouleh salad side dish, I also use more of the fresh parsley and lemon zest, which ties the flavors of both dishes together.

Living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Eric and I are lucky to live within walking distance of several nice spice stores and gourmet food shops that sell a variety of unusual spices and spice blends, including Cristina's Spice & Specialty Foods and Formaggio Kitchen. My recent favorite discoveries include Baharat - which means "spice" in Arabic and is an all-purpose seasoning in Middle Eastern cooking - and sumac. Baharat is commonly a blend of ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg. Sumac is a lemony-flavored red spice that comes from the sumac bush, native to the Middle East, which produces red berries that are dried and ground into this spice ingredient. I have found that some of these more potent and flavorful spice mixes elevate my cooking, particularly when using ground lamb, chickpeas, eggplant, and other ingredients common in Middle Eastern cooking.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe and experiment on your own with fresh herbs and spices!