What to Drink Now: Zinfandel


Photo by Terry Brennan

Lamb Stew with Dates and Zinfandel

Serves 6 to 8

Dried dates, fresh ginger, and Zinfandel create a slightly sweet sauce reminiscent of a Middle Eastern lamb stew. Dates are grown in Indio, California, close to Palm Springs, where they have their own festival with date recipes and camel rides.


6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 1/2 pounds leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine such as Zinfandel
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup chopped pitted dried dates
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and sauté for another 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Pat meat dry. Place flour in a large lock-top plastic bag and add salt and pepper to taste. Shake to mix. Place lamb in bag and seal tightly. Shake until lamb is lightly coated on all sides with flour.

Add 2 tablespoons of remaining olive oil to casserole over medium high heat. Add half of the meat and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes, transferring browned meat to the bowl with the vegetables as they brown. Add remaining oil, if necessary, and brown remaining meat. Return onion-meat mixture to casserole.

Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and ginger and stir to coat meat and vegetables, about 1 minute. Add wine, stock, and tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pot. Add dates and orange juice and zest and return to a boil.

Cover casserole, transfer to oven, and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until meat is tender. If sauce is very thin, remove meat and vegetables with slotted spoon and boil sauce on top of the stove to thicken it. Return meat and vegetables to casserole and stir. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh parsley and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Serve the same wine, perhaps a fruity Zinfandel, that you are using in the dish. Zinfandels from the Paso Robles region would be a good choice.