Another kind of Thursday

The last time I wrote about a Thursday menu, I was crazily making lamb shanks and drinking elderflower laced champagne cocktails.  Well this is an entirely different kind of Thursday – still a crazy Thursday, but with a simpler menu.   This is a menu I could make with my eyes closed.   When my sister-in-law made this for us last spring – from a Swedish women’s magazine – I was skeptical.  Normally I wouldn’t make Middle Eastern inspired food from a Swedish recipe. I would go to Claudia Roden or something.  But this is a great, easy menu.   The recipes use ingredients you can find at any grocery store.  In the rare case that there are leftovers – they always get eaten up.  If for some reason you won’t eat lamb – just substitute ground chicken or turkey.

A Midweek Middle Eastern Inspired Menu from Sweden:

makes enough for 4 – or 2 grown-ups, 2 children and 1 toddler

  • Lamb Patties with Feta
  • Cannellini Purée with Basil and Garlic
  • Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Game Plan

  1. Mix and form the lamb patties
  2. Make the cannellini bean purée
  3. Prepare the salad, but leave the dressing until serving time
  4. Cook the lamb
  5. Dress the salad after flipping the lamb

Lamb Patties with Feta

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 1/2 yellow onion, grated on the big holes in a box grater
  • 5 ounces feta, crumbled or cubed in small (1/4″) pieces
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • salt and pepper
  • mild olive oil for sauté

In a medium sized bowl, crack the egg and stir in the oats and cream.  Add the grated onion, the feta and the lamb, and salt and pepper to taste.  I would say a minimum of a 1/2  tsp of salt.  Mix well.  I use my hands because Marion Cunningham (Fannie Farmer Cookbook) told me to.  It will be painfully cold.  So I stand next to the sink and nudge on the hot water when I can’t take it anymore.  You may be less of a wimp than I.  When the ingredients are well combined, form them into 12 small patties. (about 2″ in diameter and a scant 1/2″ thick)  If you happen to be doing this in the middle of the day, it is fine to stack them on a plate (with plastic wrap separating the layers) and pop them in the fridge until ready to cook.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Don’t be impatient.  You want a hot pan because you want a delicious caramelized crust.  That’s what makes things taste good.  Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, watch it shimmer and lay the patties in the pan.  If you have got the heat  right, they will take 4-5 minutes per side.  Unlike rack of lamb, these are not meant to be rare.  Serve hot.

Cannellini Bean Purée with Basil and Garlic

One of the things I like about this puree is that it can be served cold and fairly stiff – like hummus.  Or it can be served warm and soft.  Its demeanor in the menu is like flavorful mashed potatoes, which is good for those trying to cut their carb intake. Cannellini prepared this way are so delicious, so incredibly easy, you won’t miss the pita bread or pilaf which would also be nice in this menu.  The menu as printed in Sweden used canned beans and that is fine – and very easy if you are serving the purée cold.  After using cans the first time, I tried cooking my own beans.  I like having the bean cooking water to thin the purée – and that the beans were still warm from cooking.  If you want the purée warm and have neither time nor energy to soak and cook beans, rinse them under the tap in a colander, and add  a little water to thin them out.  You could always heat them up on the stove or in the microwave.

  • 2 cans of Cannellini Beans or 1 cup dried cannellini, soaked and cooked, cooking water reserved
  • 3 tbsp or more olive oil – I like a green and spicy oil for this
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced, grated or through a garlic press
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, washed, carefully dried and chopped, not too fine
  • Salt

Using a food processor, purée the beans and olive oil, adding a little bean cooking water or plain water to get the consistency you want.  Add the garlic and fresh basil by hand.  Taste for salt.  When I turn this out into a serving bowl I like to pour a little more green olive oil over the top.

Tomatoes and Cucumber Salad

This couldn’t be easier.  You could add romaine, red onions, toasted pita and sumac, to make fatoush.  But if it’s mid week, you may not have the energy.  I wouldn’t.  I might, if I had some lying around anyway, slice some red onion very, very thin, and soak it in water until the salad was served (so it’s not too sharply onion-y; learned that from reading Marcella Hazan).  That would still be easy and add good sprightly flavor.

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 pint of small tomatoes (if you are making this in the winter and you live in a cold climate, these are the only possible choice – big ones are too often mealy and flavorless)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar

Peel the cucumber, slice lengthwise and, using a small spoon, scrape out the seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Halve or quarter the tomatoes.  Combine in a medium bowl and toss with the olive oil.  Salt to taste, and add the vinegar.  If using romaine or onion, add those too.


To serve, I sometimes plate this in the kitchen to save washing serving dishes.   I would put a generous serving of the bean puree under 3 lamb patties.  The salad can cozy up next to the puree.  Fancy people might drizzle the puree with green olive oil and a sprig of basil.  Even not fancy people might, as it is so easy to do and it tastes so good!

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