Pesto-brushed lamb chops

Presto: it’s pesto

Originally appeared in the October 11, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Well, Indy is inching its way toward the chilly chapters of the season—time to think about your culinary reserves.  Of course, when it comes to our pantries and fridges, there are items that keep better than others.  What I like to do is maintain a few ingredients and incorporate them sparingly throughout the autumn and winter; and as it happens, homemade pesto is just such a culinary concoction.

Many Italian factions contend that traditional pesto—a mixture of fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cheeses (though there are countless variations)—is associated with the combination of mortar and pestle (which makes sense, etymologically speaking).  What’s more, there are pockets of food enthusiasts that won’t budge and that aforementioned execution.  Honestly, as long as it’s prepared with care, you can produce a noble pesto in a blender or food processor.

Though the key ingredients are delicate, pesto freezes quite well.  And here’s a tip for the fridge: in an seal-top container, add additional olive oil to the top layer to prohibit too much oxygen from penetrating your pesto.

And it doesn’t stop here; so don’t be surprised if you see another pesto permutation emerge in these pages in the months to come.

Pesto-brushed lamb chops

Serves 2 (2 chops per serving)

  • 6 fluid ounces olive oil
  • 1 ½ ounces pine nuts
  • 4 ounces fresh basil leaves
  • ½ tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces Romano cheese, grated
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4, 4-ounce lamb chops
  • As needed, pickled capers (for garnish)

1.  Pour ½ of olive oil in a food processor or blender, and add in following six ingredients.  Blend or process until a smooth paste forms; with motor running, slowly pour in remaining olive oil to evenly incorporate.  Reserve pesto in a bowl or dish and set aside.

2.  Preheat both an oven-safe sauté (or grill pan) along with an oven (set to roughly 400° F).  Using a pastry brush, apply a bit of the pesto to the exterior of the chops; add a small amount of olive oil to the pan and add lamb chops.  Sear on all sides, brushing on more pesto before placing in oven to finishing cooking to desired doneness.

3.  Remove lamb chops from oven and allow to rest for 7 – 8 minutes.  Serve the chops with a fresh vegetable, and sprinkle plates with pickled capers.

Published in: on October 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A lamburger that’s baaad to the bone

Originally appeared in the September 6, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

You might have to do some investigating at your local market, but ground lamb is indeed available.  And while I didn’t include any cheese with this particular recipe, you could certainly do worse than add a bit of feta to the top of this lamburger.

Now, let’s talk about the “quickles.”  These are quick pickles, meaning that you can have them finished and cooled overnight, but they must remain refrigerated throughout their brined lifetime.  And owing to the subjectivity involved with the size of the cucumbers and desired application, I’ve kept the execution (read size of the pickling jars, the amount of garlic and arbol) rather loose.  And as this is a sort of basic “quick” brine, this is a really fun way to transform existing produce into a salty treat, and a wonderful way to get the kids involved in creating a personalized product.

Serve your lamburgers and quickles and some sort of crunchy side—fries, kettle chips, it’s your call.  And as I’ve indicated in the picture, fresh arugula—because of its peppery profile—is an appropriate accompaniment to your savory sandwich.  And though I invoke one of my former chefs who used to say, “You can never cook lamb too rare,” I encourage my readers to simply be judicious and create something delicious.

Lamburgers with homemade “quickles”

Serves 2

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A few dashes Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chive
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For pickles (to be done at least 24 hours ahead of time):

  • As needed, lid-and-band pickling jars (such as Ball brand)
  • 64 fluid ounces purified water
  • 3 ½ ounces seas salt
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 – 3 large cucumbers, cut into spears
  • As needed, fresh dill
  • 1 – 2 heads fresh garlic, cloves removed from skin
  • As needed, dried arbol chiles

1.  In a large stock pot, combine water, sea salt, and cider vinegar; bring to a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Bring a separate stockpot of water to a gentle boil (this will be for sealing jars, so make sure you account for the height and amount of water that will be displaced).  In prepared pickling jars, arrange cucumber spears with a judicious mixture of fresh dill, garlic, and arbol chiles.  Carefully fill each jar with brine mixture to the rim.  When jars are sealed tightly, place in boiling water and allow tops to pop, this will indicate the lid-and-band seal is tight.  Remove jars from water and allow to cool before placing in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

2.  Preheat sauté pan or grill to medium-high.  Combine ground lamb with garlic, Worcestershire, basil, chive.  Divide in half and form two large patties.  Season exterior with kosher salt and cracked black pepper and place on preheated device.  Allow burgers to cook to desired doneness before removing from heat and allowing to rest for 7 minutes.  Serve burgers with homemade “quickles.”

Lamb meatballs with sun-dried tomato polenta

Don’t be sheepish, it’s easy

Originally appeared in the December 08, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

Ah, meatballs—those savory spheres of gastronomic goodness.  But sometimes a subtle change of pace is nice.  With a slight deviation in your typical butcher-counter encounter, you could easily trade out the ground beef for something a little more exotic.  Lamb offers just enough personality to wake up a plate without overpowering your palate.  More after the jump: (more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grilled lamb chops with herb butter

Top chops

Originally appeared in the February 17, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

Despite the prognosticating prowess of that woodchuck over in Punxsutawney, and notwithstanding the recent Midwestern warm-up, you may think it untimely to be discussing the grill.  Yet, with the proper equipment, there’s no season in which grilling is off limits.  More here: (more…)

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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