Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lamb Stew with Barley, Spinach, and Beans

Early spring is a good time to eat your greens. Local farmers are still producing them in greenhouses, and probably ramping up production as the weather warms up a bit. But if you still have a stash of root vegetables left, you could use some of them here, too. Balsamic vinegar and a handful of raisins add an unexpected sweet and tangy note to the stew, which plays nicely off the lamb and nutty barley.

Olive oil
1 lb stew lamb, cubed
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, more to taste
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2-2 cups cooked kidney beans
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 lb spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the lamb and brown well over high heat. If there's a lot of excess fat, pour it off. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and enough chicken stock to generously cover what's in the pot. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the liquid, scraping up all the stuck-on browned bits. Add salt and pepper, kidney beans, and barley, and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the stew for 45-60 minutes, until the lamb is tender.

When the lamb is tender, add the raisins and spinach and simmer another 5 minutes or so. Taste and add another splash of balsamic vinegar if desired. Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

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