Organic Lamb with Idaho and San Francisco Connections

A perfect lamb stew for a cold winter night.

Lava Lake Lamb of Idaho, 100 percent grass-fed and certified organic, is luscious, juicy and flavorful meat to be sure.

But what really sets this lamb apart is that all profits from the sale of the meat benefit land and habitat conservation efforts across nearly 1 million acres in south-central Idaho. Those efforts include restoration of wetlands, and studies of rare plants and songbirds.

I recently had a chance to sample some of this fine lamb and to learn more about this unusual enterprise near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Philanthropists Brian and Kathleen Bean of San Francisco purchased 20,000 acres of land on the Pioneer Mountain range-land. Of that, 7,500 acres were made permanently protected in a conservation easement held by the Nature Conservancy, where Kathleen worked for seven years. Her husband is an investment banker.

One of goals of the Beans was to run a sustainable business that sold lamb. The meat is now served at a number of Idaho restaurants. It also can be purchased on the Lava Lake Lamb Web site.

The rosemary garlic lamb sausages I tried made a simple, harried weeknight dish of pasta and tomato sauce something extra special.

The sample of lamb stew meat, tender and mild tasting, went into a recipe from “Flavors of Tuscany” (Broadway) by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

“Lamb with Black Olives” is an easy stew flavored with garlic, rosemary, a little tomato paste and some dry white wine. As the dish cooks, the lamb juices infuse the sauce, giving it a richer flavor. Like most stews, the taste is even better the next day after the flavors have really melded.

Jenkins suggests serving the stew atop polenta, which is what I did. A ratio of 5 to 1 of liquid to coarse cornmeal makes a nice, soft, spoonable polenta. If there are just two of you, a half cup of polenta with 2 1/2 cups stock makes a perfect amount. Heat the broth in a saucepan, then add the polenta, stirring regularly for about 30 minutes until the polenta is very creamy. I like to stir in a little butter and grated Parmesan right at the end just before serving.

It’s the perfect foundation for this comforting stew made with lamb that not only does a body good, but a swath of nature, too.

Lamb with Black Olives

(Serves 6 to 8 )

Nancy Harmon Jenkins writes, “The olives used in this traditional recipe are fresh, black, uncured, ripe olives, but wrinkled, salt-cured black olives will do just as well. If you do have ripe black olives from an olive tree in your backyard, drop a handful in rapidly boiling water for about 20 minutes, then drain and use in the recipe. This is often served with soft polenta.”

2 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in small stewing pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup black olives, pitted if you prefer

2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water

Pat pieces of lamb dry with paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

In a heavy saucepan or casserole, gently saute garlic and rosemary in oil over medium-low heat until garlic is soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add seasoned lamb, raise heat to medium, and turn lamb pieces, stirring constantly, until they have browned thoroughly on all sides. Add wine, let come to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half.

Stir in olives and the dissolved tomato paste, mixing everything together, then cover pan and continue cooking on very low heat for about 1 hour, or until sauce is very thick and lamb is cooked through. Check sauce periodically and add more wine or water if it seems necessary.

When lamb is done, serve it immediately, accompanied by polenta, if you wish.

From “Flavors of Tuscany”

More Recipes: Joey Altman’s Caribbean Grilled Lamb Skewers with Long Beans


Aziza Chef Mourad Lahlou’s Lamb Tanjia

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Date: Wednesday, 16. December 2009 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: General, Going Green and Sustainable, Meat, Recipes (Savory)

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  1. 1

    Sounds delicious! I can just imagine eating the polenta with the flavorful sauce! And I love that the proceeds of the sale of the lamb go to a good cause…

  2. 2

    This sounds incredible. I like the backstory, and I like lamb and black olives! At least I think I do, not sure I’ve ever had it before. It sounds great, though, and atop creamy polenta, absolutely perfect for a rainy winter night!

  3. 3

    Sounds delicious! Today is the perfect stormy day for lamb stew!

  4. 4

    Very cool, Carolyn. Maybe one of our local grocery chains will eventually carry this product. Using the word “mild” is key to quality domestic lamb. Being a lamb freak I’ll have to check them out.

  5. 5

    That is a fantastic dish with many wonderful flavors!



  6. 6

    Beautiful and tasty use of Lava Lake Lamb. I must try out the recipe over the holidays!

  7. 7

    This sounds great! I’m defrosting lamb right now actually and would love to make this tonight!

  8. 8

    What an absolutely wowing dish! I couldn’t look away at that first photo! :D

  9. 9

    WOW! Super droolworthy dish. Loving the olive addition.

  10. 10

    That is a beautiful story. I cooked lamb chops for the first time about a month ago, and they were amazing. Would love adding olives to the dish.

  11. 11

    I love lamb and this dish sounds like its taking it to the next level. I gotta make this soon!

  12. 12

    Good to know, I’m always looking for a good lamb source – thanks for the tip! The dish looks delectable.

  13. 13

    This looks great! We have Soay sheep on our farm and also find that there is nothing like organic lamb – the flavor is fantastic. I cook mine with port but will try this next time.

  14. 14

    That looks like a tasty meal!

  15. 15

    I used to work for The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii. Good people, great cause. I love that the profits from the lamb farm go toward conservation. A very noble endeavor.

    As for the recipe, it sounds delicious. I prefer Nicoise olives over blacks though.

  16. 16

    […] Lamb with Olives […]

  17. 17

    Do you know if Kathleen and Brian shoot and kill coyotes or stray dogs to protect their livestock? I’d like to buy lamb from a producer who avoids such practices. Does organic certification address this issue?

  18. 18

    Cynthia: I don’t believe organic standards would address that issue. That would more likely fall under humane animal practices. Probably your best bet would be to go to the Lava Lake Lamb site and send an email to ask that question. I’m sure they’d respond to it.

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