Lamb and mint both have such assertive flavors, but put them together and somehow they manage to simultaneously enhance and tame each other—it really is a magical pairing. I wanted to bring those two flavors to these skewers, but knew I needed some other ingredients to complete the marriage. First, a marinade to help the mint adhere to the lamb—one made from yogurt was the logical choice, since it only adds to the synergy of both the lamb and mint. Plus, yogurt helps ensure that the lamb stays moist and tender as it cooks over high heat on the grill.
But lamb, mint, and yogurt, as great as they are, are a little too two-dimensional all by themselves. To add some more depth and complexity, I worked a few other ingredients into the marinade, including cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, and paprika.
For a final touch, I added red onion and zucchini to the skewers, alternating it with the pieces of cubed marinated lamb. They provide a nice touch of freshness that ends up being a perfect balance to the rich meat.
Why this recipe works:
- Leg of lamb is perfect for cutting into cubes, and provides a rich lamb flavor without as much fat and sinew as other cuts.
- A yogurt and mint marinade helps keep the meat tender and juicy.
- Zucchini and red onion add a fresh contrast to the rich lamb.
- For the Marinade and Lamb:
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon zest from 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup tightly packed mint leaves
- 1/4 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- For the Skewers:
- 1 large red onion, sliced into 1 1/2-inch squares about 3 layers each
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use
- Type of fire: Direct
- Grill heat: medium-high
For the Marinade: Place yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, garlic, salt, paprika, and black pepper in the jar of a blender. Blend marinade until smooth. Place lamb cubes in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade into bag and seal, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 4 and up to 8 hours.
For the Skewers: Thread lamb onto skewers, alternating with onion and zucchini.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill skewers until well browned on all sides and center of lamb registers 130°F on an instant-read thermometer, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.