Goat is a mild-mannered stand-in for lamb in these flavorful kebabs marinated in cumin, cinnamon, oregano and pomegranate molasses. Recipe below.
What is it with Americans and goat? Goats were one of the first animals domesticated by humans, 10,000 years ago or so. An amazing 70 percent of the red meat consumed in the world is goat. But while goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, for some reason, it’s been slow to catch on in the United States.
So what do Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino, African and Caribbean cooks know that we don’t? Well, for starters, goat meat’s slightly sweet flavor is lighter than beef and more interesting than pork. While it’s often compared to lamb or mutton, goat is generally less fatty and more subtle in taste.
It’s good for you too, rich in iron, potassium and thiamine. And it’s naturally lean, so it’s lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than beef, pork and even skinless chicken.
Perhaps just as important, goats are ideally suited to small, sustainable farming. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, “Raising goats can be a valuable part of a sustainable farm. Integrating livestock into a farm system can increase its economic and environmental health and diversity, thereby making important contributions to the farm’s sustainability. Goats often fit well into the biological and economic niches on a farm that otherwise go untapped. Goats can be incorporated into existing grazing operations with sheep and cattle, and they can also be used to control weeds and brush to help make use of a pasture’s diversity.”
The goat for these kebabs came from the highly sustainable Mint Creek Farm in downstate Illinois. When owners Harry and Gwen Carr started the farm in 1992, they added sheep as part of a plan to enliven and enrich the soil that had been so depleted by modern mainstream agricultural practices. Eventually, though, 100% grass fed sheep became their focus. If you go to their website, you’ll only find lamb listed for sale. But at farmers markets in Chicago, they sell goat as well.
I’d been thinking about doing something with goat for a while—and about trying to buy more sustainable meats. So when we saw goat at the Mint Creek Farm booth at Green City Market recently, we picked some up. I knew I’d figure out something to do with it later. After looking at Asian, Mexican and other goat recipes, I decided to adapt a Middle Eastern-inspired appetizer recipe for lamb from Bon Appétit and turn it into a main course. You can switch back to lamb, if you like, but I encourage you to try some goat. I think it will win you over.
Grilled Goat Kebabs with Pomegranate-Cumin Glaze
Makes 6 kebabs, serving 2 to 3 people
1 teaspoon cumin seeds [or 1 teaspoon ground cumin—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound trimmed goat meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 zucchini, sliced thin
6 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 1/2 hour [or metal skewers]
Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir until aromatic and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Grind cumin in mortar or spice mill. Mix pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin in 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add goat; chill at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
Remove goat from marinade. Thread goat piece, red pepper chunks and zucchini slices on skewers. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare grill [medium-high heat] or preheat broiler. Cook, turning often, about 5 minutes for medium-rare. I grilled over charcoal, covering the grill for part of the time to impart more smokiness, then finishing the kebabs uncovered. Serve immediately.
Cumin seeds or ground cumin? We are major users of ground cumin, but we also keep cumin seeds on hand. I toasted cumin seeds and ground them because the recipe called for it, but wasn’t expecting a huge difference. Boy, was I wrong. The freshly toasted, freshly ground cumin was so wonderfully aromatic in ways that even the freshest pre-ground cumin is not. For everyday use, ground cumin is fine. But if you have cumin seeds and a little extra time, grind your own.
Here we go again with the pomegranate molasses. Yep, Marion used it last fall to make a delicious Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Blue Cheese. It’s frequently used in Middle Eastern cooking and gives a fruity, tart liveliness to dishes. Pomegranate molasses is available at some supermarkets, at Middle Eastern markets and at Amazon.com. Or you can make your own, using this recipe by Elise at Simply Recipes.