Summer Eats With Iowa Lamb and Salad Fixings

Combining local lamb with a salad makes for a gratifying summer dish.

Writer: Wini Moranville

The Iowa Food Co-op makes it easy for people who, like me, love to snag great farm products and support local growers—but prefer to do so from the inside of their car and with the windows rolled up. Members can order products from local farmers on a biweekly schedule; items can be delivered or picked up curbside.

Yes, it’s like having the farmers market come to your door (or trunk).

Recently, I’ve been especially grooving to the ground lamb from Tesdell Farms. I love the way the meat is lamb-y enough to taste decidedly unlike beef, yet not at all gamy. Wanting to know a little more, I tracked down Lee Tesdell. Our conversation was held via phone, with sheep bleating in the background.

While Tesdell’s day job is teaching at Mankato State in Minnesota, he started raising lamb 30 years ago to provide his Jordanian wife with food of her heritage and also to help teach their then-young children where food comes from. His sheep and their offspring graze on 5 aces of hay fields near Alleman on land that his Norwegian ancestors first began farming in 1855. The mostly grass diet, he says, likely contributes to the great flavor of the meat.

I enjoy Tesdell’s ground lamb in simple lamb patties, which I sometimes season in the style of merguez (that bold and amazing Middle Eastern lamb sausage). For each pound of lamb, use about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin, crushed fennel seed and smoked paprika, plus two minced cloves of garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Spiced or not, the patties are fabulous on a Greek-style salad or anywhere you’d use a falafel (in a pita sandwich, for instance). Alongside, I serve two condiments: purchased harissa chili paste and a cooling mixture of plain yogurt, chopped fresh mint and parsley, and salt and pepper.

Locally grown greens from Bridgewater Farms plus Egyptian walking onions (akin to scallions) from Namaste Gardens (also available through the co-op) made my salad truly sing. And of course, such salads will only get better when I can get my hands on local radishes (coming soon!), cucumbers, tomatoes and other delights as they appear at the co-op.

Find out more about joining the Iowa Food Co-op on their website.

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