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Lamb in Lettuce Cups

By Melissa Harrison From Moveable Feast Season 4, Ep.2

Servings: 8 as an appetizer

Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky enough to find either green garlic or garlic scapes. The scapes are the long, green, flower-bearing shoots that signal the first growth of the garlic plant. They are harvested in late spring or early summer by snipping them off the forming bulb. Green garlic is the immature garlic bulb. Looking something like scallions, these are pulled from the ground to thin the crop. When cooked, both yield a delicate garlic flavor.


For the tomatillo salsa

  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos washed and dried (about 6)
  • 2 small serrano chiles
  • 1/2 large white onion, skin on
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro with stems
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar

For the lamb

  • 8 medium scallions, for serving
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped green garlic, or garlic scapes (see tip below)
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, for serving
  • Cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Mint leaves, for serving


Make the salsa

  • Position a rack in the oven about 8 inches from the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Put the tomatillos, serranos, and onion on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  • Broil, turning occasionally with tongs, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to char, 13 to 16 minutes. When cool to the touch, remove the skin and seeds from the peppers and the skin from the onion. Coarsely chop the tomatillos, peppers, and onion. Transfer to a blender along with the juices from the pan. Add the cilantro, garlic, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and pulse until the mixture is medium coarse. Refrigerate overnight. Adjust the seasoning with sugar, salt, and pepper before serving.

Make the lamb

  • Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toss the scallions in the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Cook the scallions in the heated pan, turning occasionally, until they begin to char, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Roughly chop and reserve.
  • Heat the avocado oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the green garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and add the lamb, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Break the lamb up with a wooden spoon while stirring frequently. Sauté until cooked through and beginning to brown, 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

  • Separate the lettuce into leaves and select 8 that are the most cup-like and uniform in size and shape. Put a heaping tablespoon of the lamb mixture in the center of each leaf. Top with a drizzling of the tomatillo salsa and sprinkle with the chopped scallion and the cilantro and mint leaves. Serve with additional salsa on the side.


If you can’t find green garlic or garlic scapes, substitute 1/2 cup coarsely chopped leeks, white and light green parts only, and 3 cloves blanched garlic, coarsely chopped.

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