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Film Student's Souvlaki

While I was a graduate student, I rented a minuscule little cottage in West Los Angeles. It had a claw foot bathtub and a screened pantry with an ancient gas refrigerator that really worked. There were three of these little cottages on the property. It was bucolic there what with its ancient grape arbor, avocado trees and a feeling right out of Tennessee Williams. Aside from mine, one of the cottages was rented by an elderly lady living on a railroad pension. I remember that she used to eat a lot of Swanson chicken pot pies. The other one was rented by a film student from Greece.

On occasional Sundays I would see the Greek student cooking lamb on a small hibachi. It smelled wonderful and would catch me like those cartoons with Mickey Mouse floating on the aroma wafting from one of Minnie's pies. I was hooked.

My neighbor told me that whenever he missed his mother he would prepare this lamb dish. It reminded him of her and of home. He missed her quite a lot and made the dish every few weeks.

He would marinate chunks of lamb and then make a shishkabob combining the lamb with onions, peppers, and tomatoes; this he would grill on the hibachi. He would then take a flour tortilla (he said it was the closest thing here to the home-made "pancake" his mother made), spread it with sour cream, lay on the shishkabobbed lamb, sprinkle with chopped onions and paprika and roll it up like a burrito.

It was delicious. I've prepared it periodically ever since. So here's the recipe. By the way, the cottages are gone - victims of progress - and I have no idea of what became of the film student or the railroad widow.


2 lbs of lamb -- cut into 3/4" squares; leg of lamb preferred
2 medium red onions -- quartered and separated into "leaves"
3 green peppers -- cut into 1" squares
3 medium size hard red tomatoes -- quartered
1 8oz container of sour cream


Cut the lamb and marinate for about 3-6 hours in red wine, a chopped onion and a bit of olive oil. (You can experiment later by making a more complex marinade or can forgo the marinade completely if you are in a real rush.)

Cut up the onions, peppers and tomatoes as above and string on skewers with the lamb. Grill over a medium hot barbecue, turning frequently until done.

Now for the good part: Take a flour tortilla and spread with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Un-skewer the lamb and vegetables and place on top of the sour cream. Add some more sour cream if desired, add some finely chopped red onions and liberally sprinkle with paprika. Now roll into a burrito and enjoy. The sour cream and paprika are a real foil for the pungency of the lamb.

© 1996 Gary Fisher

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