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Originally published May 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 22, 2008 at 4:44 AM

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Nancy Leson

Book goes "Beyond the Great Wall"

Excerpts from her blog, All You Can Eat Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid don't just write cookbooks, they take you on extraordinary voyages...

Seattle Times food writer

Excerpts from her blog, All You Can Eat

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid don't just write cookbooks, they take you on extraordinary voyages to places you never knew you wanted to see. Then they make you so much better for having seen them. Reading about this couple's travels, and absorbing the photographs in their six cookbooks, I feel as if I'm seeing, tasting and smelling along with them while learning so much more than how to prepare the recipes.

Their latest effort, "Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China," may be their best effort yet. And that's saying a lot. More good news? They're coming to Seattle Thursday to promote it, signing books and showing slides from the "other" China — the one that takes us far beyond moo shu pork and General Tso's chicken — at a Cooks & Books event at Culinary Communion (for details, go to www.kimricketts.com/events or call 206-632-2419).

I spent much of a recent weekend poring and "peering" over "Beyond the Great Wall" — when I could pry it out of my husband's hands. (Their "Seductions of Rice" is his favorite cookbook.) And I cooked from it for the first time, making Uighur Lamb Kebabs after learning that the Uighur people of Central Asia speak a Turkic language and cook over a wood or charcoal fire, and that their sheep and goats forage in the hills and oases of Xinjiang.

In preparation, I went foraging at my local supermarket, scoring the few ingredients I didn't have on hand: boneless lamb leg or shoulder and pomegranate juice. I could have substituted fresh lemon juice mixed with sugar to approximate the (far more expensive) pomegranate juice, as noted in the recipe. And I bought closer to two pounds of lamb shoulder than the single pound specified, which was a good thing since a couple of my son's friends stayed for dinner.

The success of these kebabs involves a quick prep and two-hour marination, followed by a brief grilling. Which made this an easy meal.

First, I trimmed the meat from the bone, cutting it into chunks, leaving some fat as directed, though you can certainly choose not to if you're persnickety about such things. I made sure to save the scraps and the marrow-filled bones for roasting — "Waste not, want not" and all that. The marrow, by the way, was divine. It looked like a miniversion of those bodacious bones they're selling at places like Quinn's and Cremant.

After mixing the rest of the ingredients, I added the meat to the marinade, stirred it around till all the meat was coated, covered it and let it sit in the fridge for two hours. I grabbed some small bamboo skewers, soaked them in water as directed and threaded the meat onto the bamboo. (You can also use metal skewers.)

For a side, I put together one of my favorite quick-and-easy salads, dicing sweet red pepper and cucumbers, sprinkling them with dried mint and tossing with a little oil and rice-wine vinegar. My husband fired up the Weber kettle grill, using a mix of Kingsford, natural wood charcoal and some cuttings from our dried fruit-tree stock, which helped keep the recipe authentic. We'd used the kettle the night before, otherwise we'd probably have gone the lazy route and used the gas grill.

Those spicy kebabs, as promised in the recipe's headnote, were "succulent" and had a "tart-edged garlicky taste that could almost have come straight from Istanbul." Jeffrey and Naomi would know, and I sure wish that someday I'll get to savor kebabs like these in Istanbul or the "other" China.

This material has been edited

for print publication.

Nancy Leson's blog excerpts appear Wednesdays. Reach her at 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com

Nancy Leson on KPLU

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Nancy Leson
Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants. Check her latest thoughts in her All You Can Eat blog. Her column appears each Wednesday. Her restaurant roundups appear monthly, on Fridays, in the Restaurants and Entertainment sections.
nancyleson@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8838 | Blog

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