Sahadi’s market in Brooklyn is an amazing place to shop, and their resident expert, Robert, always has new ideas for using olives creatively. A few months ago he suggested cooking with the brine from a Tunisian spicy olive blend and I haven’t looked back since. Adding just a small amount to this stew infuses each ingredient with big flavor.
The gremolata adds a freshness and sweetness that balances the acidity of the stew. It’s a riff on Suzanne Goin’s fresh date relish. My take uses dried dates, mint instead of cilantro and a lot of lemon zest.
For the Lamb Stew
1 1/2 pounds
lamb shoulder, cubed
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
red onion, chopped
stalk celery, chopped
clove garlic, chopped
dried chile de arbol
spicy tunisian olive brine
whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand
Heat a large dutch oven over high heat, and add the olive oil. Salt and pepper the lamb and sear until it is golden brown on all sides. I do this in 2 batches in order to give the lamb room to sear and not steam. Remove from pot.
Add the onion and celery, and sauté until golden brown, scraping up any brown pieces from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, cardamom, coriander and chile and sauté for another minute. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until paste has turned to a deep maroon.
Add olive brine and cook until it's reduced by half. Return meat to pot and add tomatoes, stock, dried apricots and lemon rind. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for an 1 hour and half, or until meat is tender. Add the olives during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Make the gremolata by combining all the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper.
To finish and serve: Pour the cous cous into an empty casserole dish. Pour the stew on top, do not stir, and cover with aluminum foil. Cous cous should be cooked after five minutes. Serve stew topped with a healthy heaping of gremolata.