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First course with lamb burgers and fries?

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I could use some ideas for a first course. This is a casual, in-the-kitchen dinner for 5. I'm making lamb burgers with pistachios which will be served on chickpea pancakes with a greens/onion/mint salad and tahini yogurt sauce. I don't want to repeat those flavors by serving hummus or the like, but don't want to go off into the Italian tastes that are my default. Any ideas? It can be somewhat complicated but please no really obscure ingredients. Thanks in advance.

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  1. How about a simple squash soup? The curry flavour is quite mild, or you could use a hint of fresh ginger instead.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/el...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jenni899

      I agree. A squash or a currried sweet potato soup would go well with your meal plan.

    2. cucumber salad? little mint, shallots maybe, feta, black olives....

      7 Replies
      1. re: mariacarmen

        Sounds good, but I'm already doing a salad with the burgers so would not want to do another. I like the soup idea since it is supposed to be rainy, but that still leaves me without that something you give people to much on when they arrive. I'd like that to be something more than a bowl of nuts or such...maybe something that picks up on mariacarmen's mention of feta.

        1. re: escondido123

          Ah, so you're really talking about an app or an hors d' ? What about a mixture of olive and feta cubes in olive oil? Simple but I sure love that :)

          ETA: BTW that sounds crazy good!

          1. re: c oliver

            Well the soup sounded so good, I decided to add that to the menu. Love the easy idea of olives and feta, if I added to that some roasted peppers I've got an app! Thanks so much all.

            1. re: escondido123

              Something else to add to that Greek appetizer platter besides roasted peppers, feta, & olives - some tinned stuffed grape leaves. They're quite good - in fact, I ALWAYS have some in the pantry for impromptu app platters or salads or snacking. Just chill them & serve with a few squeezes of lemon on top. Can be found in either the pickle area or the gourmet food area of most supermarkets.

              1. re: Breezychow

                We can get fairly fresh ones that are in the deli section which are not canned and quite fresh. For this particular dinner, I wanted little for the app since there was so much food. As it turned out, no one had room for dessert as it was!

            2. re: c oliver

              that sounds crazy good too! with some good crusty bread to sop up....

              yep,escondido, missed that about your salad.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                My husband makes a great loaf of bread every other day, and Sunday he'll make a new one so perfect.

        2. roast some red and yellow peppers, slice and dress with evoo, chopped black olives, fried lemon peel and chopped parsley. great do-ahead and delicious room temp.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Fried lemon peel sounds great. Never heard of that before.

          2. How about some roasted chickpeas? More special than a typical bowl o' nuts nuts if you make your own spice mix on them, and very different than chickpeas in your pancakes, I suspect?

            To rounds things out, I like the idea of olives and feta....maybe an oven-roasted tomato relish and some crostini or crackers as well?

            7 Replies
            1. re: 4Snisl

              I'm already making chickpea pancakes for the burgers, but the olives and feta seems like a winner.

              1. re: escondido123

                We were in DC several months ago and went to a local farmers market. A cheese vendor was selling cubed feta with some sort of seasoning (maybe peppercorns; can't remember now) in olive oil, in a jar. I brought one home with me :)

              2. re: 4Snisl

                Could you elaborate on roasted chickpeas please?

                1. re: c oliver

                  Certainly, c oliver! Like peanuts, the roasted and (only) boiled counterparts of chickpeas are so very different from each other.

                  You basically toss cooked, well-drained/dried chickpeas(either from a can or soaked/cooked from dry) in a little olive oil and roast them in a hot oven (about 400'F) for about 45 minutes till they are well-browned and completely crisp. Stir/shake the pan every once in a while for even cooking. Then remove from the oven, and while hot, toss with seasonings. (I particularly like smoked paprika, granulated garlic, salt , cayenne and fresh lemon zest.)

                  I want to hear more about the chickpea pancakes, escondido! Do they start with cooked chickpeas? Raw, soaked chickpeas? Roasted chickpeas? ;)

                  1. re: 4Snisl

                    As I said, this is from Mark Bittman's newest cookbook--which I heartily recomend--though I changed it a bit for what I had on hand. Canned chickpeas(though you could certainly cook your own), tahini sauce or tahini/lemon/olive oil all in the food processor. Egg and then some flour, along with cumin and some chili powder, beaten in by hand. When I started out they were too dry and would crack easily, so I added in the liquid from the chickpeas and another egg until I got more of a heavy crepe batter and they fried beautifully on the griddle with a little olive oil. First time served them with an agrodolce browned zucchini with pistachios and feta on top, tomorrow I will make them a little thicker for the burger "buns." The leftovers from the first time around became a wonderful snack when lightly heated and spread with a tahini yogurt mix. Now my mouth is watering. PS Onine I've seen the recipe for the same basic idea made with besan--chickpea flour.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Thanks for the details! I must have missed your earlier reference to the recipe source in this thread.

                      It's especially nice to know that they are also good leftover.....hope you have a wonderful party!

                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        Thanks, will report back.

              3. I had a gorgeous butternut squash soup at a restaurant, with crumbled bleu cheese and pistachios (very little of them) on top. I might never get over it! I was going to suggest tabouleh, but you do mention that you have a salad planned.

                1. I don't know if you can get these where you live, but I had a great lamb burger in my local bistro last week, and to start I had a half-dozen plump, briny oysters on the half shell, with nothing but a squeeze of lemon on top. Very nice segue of flavors.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: BobB

                    Thanks Bob, That sounds great but the dinner is over. Started with olives, feta home roasted peppers and homemade foccacio. Small bowls of butternut squash and pear soup--it started pouring rain outside about then. Lamb burgers with chickpea pancake buns....they worked very well but the burgers were too solid because of the low fat lamb. Took the leftover meat just now and mixed with some pureed canned chickpeas and roast pistachios which cooked up into a perfect, juicy, tender meatball burger. Everyone was so full that we skipped dessert....blueberry crostata just for the two of us!

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Sounds delicious! I learned, I think from Ana Sortun in her cookbook Spice, to add a glug of olive oil to ground lamb if it seems low fat. That really helps!

                      1. re: GretchenS

                        Great idea!

                      2. re: escondido123

                        What cut of lamb did you use? I grind pork and beef and keep meaning to do lamb. I'd probably do shoulder.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Whatever organic lamb they had already ground at the healthy market--$6.99 a pound.

                    2. Cream of asparagus soup with parmesan custards

                      Oops -- just saw that i'm too late. Well, think about it for next time. Also makes an excellent first course for Easter lamb dinner.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: rjbh20

                        I know how to make that soup, but parmesan custards? Please do tell--and how you combine the two.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Its a basic custard recipe (eggs & whole milk) except that you heat the milk first, add parmigiano and let it steep for half an hour. Add the eggs, beat until incorporated, then season with salt & pepper and, if you like, a grating of nutmeg. Strain and ladle into small well buttered ramekins, preferably ones that are taller than they are wide. Think of the dimensions of the cups in a popover pan.

                          Put the ramekins in a roasting pan, add boiling water to halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake at 325 for about 40 minutes or until firm. Take out of the water & let sit for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert into a soup plate (preferably white). Ladle the soup around it so it looks like a floating island. Garnish the top with a small blanched asparagus tip.

                          The same savory custard concept is useful as a side dish -- 86 the parmigiano and add caramalized shallots and you have a good go-with for seared duck breast. Add feta cheese and a touch of garlic & use with lamb. Etc., etc., etc.

                          1. re: rjbh20

                            When you say "steep" the parmigiano, I read that as saying you would then remove the cheese as you would a tea bag when steeping tea. I'm pretty sure I'm misunderstanding, but it would certainly be a good way to use some of my parmigiano rinds.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Just let the grated parmigiano (rinds might not diffuse enough flavor, but its worth a try) sit in the hot/warm milk off the stove until the milk is tepid. Then add the eggs, beat and strain. The straining removes the milk solids that can be a little grainy -- not essential, but makes for a better texture. Don't leave it too long or the milk can curdle.

                              Now that I think of it, this may also have some cream in it. Can't hurt, right?

                              BTW: To keep the soup nice and bright green, blanch the asparagus in a big pot of very salty water (like seawater) until just tender, then shock in an icewater bath until cold. Good luck

                              1. re: rjbh20

                                i make various savory custards, and always use cream rather than milk. no need to strain. i use room temp cream and eggs and beat with a mixer til the mixture has some texture. this makes for a lush velvety texture. i also make them in muffin tins since i don't have that many ramekins.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  How do you get them out of muffin tins one at a time without mashing them to pieces?

                                  1. re: rjbh20

                                    i cook them in a water bath, and grease the cups before adding the custard. if a pick pulls out dry, they're finished. i let them set a bit and then they slip right out when i turn over the tins. sometimes i need to draw a line around with a slim line, but have never had a problem.

                      2. Tabouleh salad and/or cucumbers.