Few foods are as quick to cook and delicious as grilled lamb cubes. Known as arrosticini in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy, it’s one of the most beloved foods, served with olive oil-soaked bread that has also had a quick sear on the grill. In Greece, Turkey, and other countries around the Mediterranean as well as throughout the Middle East, lamb cubes are often called kebabs and slipped from skewer onto pita or another flatbread. No matter what country lays claim to them, adding a dollop of Greek-inspired tzatziki adds creamy zest to this succulent meat.
For the tzatziki:
- 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 medium cucumber
For the lamb skewers:
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of any sinew and silver skin
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Coarse salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles, chopped (optional)
To make the tzatziki, in a large bowl, fold together the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, dill, and mint. Grate the cucumber using the side of a box grater with large holes or in a food processor outfitted with the grating disc (I like to leave on the skin for the extra fiber and nutrients). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the grated cucumber onto three or four stacked paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, and roll it all up, squeezing out as much of the remaining water as possible to avoid diluting the tzatziki. Then fold the cucumber into the yogurt mixture. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice as desired. Keep the tzatziki refrigerated until needed. Right before serving, drizzle the top with olive oil.
To make the lamb, cut it into 1-inch cubes and transfer them to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and rosemary if using; toss to thoroughly coat the cubes. Thread the cubes onto skewers close together (sides touching). Light your grill and preheat to medium high. Arrange the skewers on the grill grate, working in batches if necessary. Grill until the lamb is cooked through and has picked up some color, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, depending on the heat of your fire. Transfer the skewers to a platter. Serve with coarse salt, olive oil to drizzle, the tzatziki, and your choice of bread.
Yields 4 appetizer servings