December 20th, 2009

neutral

Yule Event Report

We had fun with our Yule event yesterday.  A lot of people arrived late, but we managed to juggle the schedule so that everything got done and we didn't run too much overtime.  We sang holiday carols, exchanged gifts, and shared stories about holiday traditions.  The feast included Egyptian leg of lamb, couscous, eggplant mousaka, rice pudding, pomegranate punch, and spice cake.  We also had a couple of birds carved from apples -- very cute! 

The main ritual was done entirely by candlelight.  We started out with a few altar candles and then lit many more candles around the room.  This ritual had an Egyptian theme, working with Isis, Ma'at, and Horus.  We even had some myrrh resin burning on charcoal.

Today was the cookie exchange, and we just got home from that.  I'm looking forward to sampling the results.
neutral

Funding Social Programs That Work

I'm not a fan of throwing money at problems without making sure the solution actually works.  So I'm really intrigued by this article about the White House seeking to identify social programs that show measurable improvements so that they can be funded and expanded.  If you know of a local or regional program in your area that is working, consider tipping them to this.

White House Embraces Social Innovation

We all know that our nation is currently struggling with serious social problems ranging from increasing homelessness, to worsening public health, to failing schools. 

However, there's tremendous hope in the capacity of social innovators to address these far-reaching problems.

It's in this spirit that the White House just launched new regulations for the Social Innovation Fund, which aims to identify some of the most promising, results-oriented nonprofit programs and to expand their reach throughout the country.  

Policy strategist Tom Sheridan – the man that The Hill newspaper has dubbed "A powerbroker for those without a voice" - writes for Change.org this week that this Social Innovation Fund has the power to radically shift the way Washington addresses social problems.

http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org/blog/view/white_house_embraces_social_innovation

Rather than continuing to attempt to solve community problems in a top-down way from Washington, the Social Innovation Fund will invest in programs run by social innovators already showing measurable results on the ground in their communities.

This makes the Social Innovation Fund one of the most promising new vehicles for scaling social change in the country, and one of the most important steps the Obama administration has taken thus far to support innovative nonprofit solutions to the problems Americans faces. It's also why we'll continue reporting on its progress at Change.org in the weeks and months ahead.

As always, visit www.change.org for all the top stories across the world of Change.

neutral

Recipe: "Egyptian Leg of Lamb"

This was the main dish at our Yule feast yesterday.  We had eight people, and just enough lamb left over to make a nice shepherd's pie later.  (I'm still tinkering with the recipe for that one.)


Egyptian Leg of Lamb

Ingredients:
3-5 lb. boneless leg of lamb

For marinade:
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch fennel seed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

For coating:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin


Directions:

In a mortar and pestle, combine 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, and a pinch of fennel seed.  Grind coarsely.  Pour the combined spices into a gallon ziplock bag.

Add 1/2 cup red wine vinegar to the bag.  Shake to distribute spices.

Rinse the leg of lamb, then shake off excess water.  Place the lamb inside the bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal.  Turn and squeeze the bag to distribute the marinade and spices evenly around the meat.

Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for 2-5 hours.  Rotate it several times so that all parts of the lamb are evenly exposed to the marinade.

Preheat oven to “rotisserie” setting (about 450ºF) for 10 minutes. 

Remove lamb from bag.  Rinse briefly; don't worry about getting all the spices off.  Set the lamb on a plate or cutting board.

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.  Stir spices together.  Sprinkle spice blend evenly over all surfaces of the lamb.

Insert rotisserie rod through center of lamb.  Fasten the rotisserie forks into the ends of the meat.  Insert the rod into the oven.  Place an oven rack in the lowest position with a shallow pan to catch the drippings.  Set the oven to the “rotisserie” function and turn it on.  Set the timer to allow 20-30 minutes per pound of meat.  So for a 3 lb. leg of lamb, 60-90 minutes; for a 5-lb. leg, 100-150 minutes.  (20 minutes per pound leaves the meat quite rare, 25 should leave it medium, and 30 leaves most of it well done with just a few pink spots.)  Lamb should register at least 145ºF when done.

Remove from oven.  Remove rotisserie forks and rod.  Set the lamb on a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.


Notes:

Lamb is a tender and delicate meat with a rich flavor.  It benefits from rotisserie cooking, as this allows the fat to melt nicely into the meat and develop a tasty crust with the herbs.

This recipe uses many traditional Egyptian spices, and lamb is a classic feast food in Egyptian culture.  The flavor is quite different from the more common Greek recipes using leafy herbs.

Ideally, the marinade should be made with all whole spices, freshly ground in a mortar and pestle.  I used ground coriander because I couldn't find whole coriander seed.

If you don't have sea salt, ordinary table salt will do.  The vinegar needs to be robust in order to complement the flavor of the meat; if you can't find red wine vinegar, a dark apple cider vinegar will work.  Don't use plain white vinegar.