Warm salad of carrots, lamb, and leek

September 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

Fall is a time of transitions, and what better reflects seasonal shifts than a warm salad that combines the crispness of fresh vegetables with the savoriness of meat? This meal or appetizer has a bit of a French twist: thyme gently infuses the richness of the lamb; champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil make a classic vinaigrette for the multicolored carrots; pine nuts add some Mediterranean nuttiness; and then a hint of mint because, well, lamb and mint go great together…and I had some from the farmer’s market, which is always a source of seasonal inspiration.

While in Vienna during study abroad in college I ate a carrot salad that tasted completely different thanks to spices and herbs typically associated with Austro-Hungarian cuisine, so while the base ingredients of leeks, carrots, and lamb might stay the same (though you can certainly change those up too!), you could switch up the flavor using different oils, spices, nuts, and herbs and never serve the same salad twice.

First, toast 1/2 cup of pine nuts in a pan over low heat until fragrant and golden. Toss them into your salad bowl.

Then, become friends with your vegetable peeler, and peel one bunch of carrots (about seven to eight medium-sized carrots) into the bowl with the pine nuts. I like multicolored ones because they are pretty, but they pretty much all taste similar so go with what you like. Set aside.

Now, time to cook the lamb and the leeks. In a separate bowl, mix together one teaspoon of dried thyme and one teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  If you are capable of keeping a thyme plant alive longer than a week unlike me, use two teaspoons of fresh thyme, chopped. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper too.

Mix in 1/2 pound of ground lamb. Your butcher should be able to grind it for you if you ask, and sometimes grocery stores sell it pre-ground as well. If not, and you own a food processor, grind it in pulses until it, well, looks like ground meat.

For the leek, remove the dark green parts of the leek and discard. In a pot, boil two cups or so of water.

Thinly slice the pale green parts of the leek – about a centimeter or so in thickness.

Swish around in some water to remove any debris while separating the rings.

Meanwhile, begin to brown the lamb over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes total. If your butcher or you freshly ground the meat, you can definitely cook it rare or medium-rare; if it came pre-ground in a package I would recommend cooking until done.

Once the water is boiling, blanch the leek rings by cook for about three minutes in boiling water. Drain the leeks and set aside.

Once the meat is cooked through, remove from heat and set aside on a plate, covered to retain heat.

Don’t discard the fat in the pan, as it is going to be used to cook the leeks.

Add in the leeks and a 1/2 tablespoon of butter.

Stir around over medium-high heat for about five minutes, or until the leeks just begin to brown. Add the lamb back in and stir to rewarm it.

While the leeks are browning, make the vinaigrette by mixing one part champagne vinegar and one part Dijon mustard to three parts olive oil. Add in salt and pepper. Any extra dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week (meaning you can make this in advance!).

Stir the dressing until emulsified, and taste and correct seasoning as necessary.

To serve, layer the lamb and leeks…

with the carrots. Drizzle over the vinaigrette and top with slices of mint and some salt and pepper, if desired. For the more rustic (read: lack of good cooking knife) look , just pinch the mint into pieces and sprinkle over top. If you have fresh thyme available, pinch off some leaves and sprinkle them over top too. Enjoy immediately!

Warm salad of carrots, lamb, and leek

Serves two as a meal, or four as an appetizer


For the salad

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Six to eight medium carrots, any color or combination
  • One teaspoon dried thyme, or two teaspoons fresh, leaves picked and stems discarded
  • One teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 pound lamb, ground
  • One leek, pale green and white parts sliced into rings, and washed
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh mint, sliced, and thyme leaves, for garnishing

For the vinaigrette

  • One tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • One tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • Three tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Toast 1/2 cup of pine nuts in a pan over low heat until fragrant and golden, and place in the salad bowl. Peel the carrots into the bowl and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together thyme, (one teaspoon) Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and pepper, and ground lamb.

3. Thinly slice the pale green parts of the leek – about a centimeter or so in thickness and rinse. Boil two cups of water and blanch leek sliced for three minutes. Drain and set leeks aside.

4. Meanwhile, occasionally stir ground meat for about five minutes over medium heat, or until desired doneness. Remove from lamb from heat and set aside on a plate, and cover. Reserve the fat in the pan.

5. Into the reserved lamb fat, add in 1/2 tablespoon butter and leeks. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are just beginning to brown. Return lamb to the pan to reheat before serving.

6. Meanwhile, stir together vinaigrette ingredients until emulsified.

7. Serve lamb and leeks topped with carrots and pine nuts. Sprinkle over mint and thyme and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy right away!


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