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Date Night: Rosemary Lamb Chops with Mascarpone Stuffed Zucchini Planks & Couscous

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Lamb is one of those meats people love or hate. I am on the love side! Lamb chops are one of my favorites because they make for an elegant, incredibly flavorful dinner and grilling them takes only a matter of minutes. There are so many delicious ways to prepare them, but here’s a quick and easy recipe that has always been a hit with my family and friends. While admittedly the chops are quite expensive, lamb ribs are a much more budget friendly and equally tasty alternative. The chops just score a few extra points for wow factor!

Add a couple of quick sides and you have a date night dinner that looks like you slaved away when you only spent about 30 minutes preparing it.

Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Lamb Chops

This is such a forgiving recipe. When I’m low on garlic or rosemary I just add more olive oil to stretch the marinade and it comes out great.

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Ingredients:

4 to 6 lamb chops (lamb loin chops or lamb rib chops)

12 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped

3 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary

6 TBSP olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

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Instructions:

Pre-heat grill on high.

When selecting lamb chops I try to find ones that look nice without too much excess fat on them. The fat causes the grill to flare up. While you want some fat, trim some of the thicker areas if needed.

Salt both sides of the lamb chops.

Crush and roughly chop about 2 cloves of garlic per lamb chop.

Stem and chop about ½ TBSP of rosemary per lamb chop. Hold a couple of small sprigs aside for garnishing your stuffed zucchini planks.

Place both in a mini food processor and process while streaming approximately 1 TBSP of olive oil in per lamb chop.

The mixture does not have to be perfectly smooth.

Pour mixture over lamb chops flip and coat the second side place in refrigerator on platter while you prep your other ingredients. They can sit out for 10 to 15 minutes, but any longer and you should put them in the refrigerator until about 10 minutes before you plan on grilling them.

Reduce heat on grill to medium high. Place lamb on grill and flip once you have good grill marks. The oil in the marinade will cause the flames on the grill to flare up so you may need to move them around a bit if the flames last too long.

Grilling should take just a few minutes per side depending on thickness and on how done you like your lamb, I like mine rare to medium rare. For medium rare cook to internal temp of 120. They will continue to cook to about 130 once pulled from the heat.

Add some fresh ground pepper and let the lamb chops rest for 10 minutes in a warm area.

Mascarpone Stuffed Zucchini

I came up with these when I was looking for vegetable based appetizers I could pass around to go with a grill themed small bites dinner. The planks are stuffed with an orange and lavender flavored mascarpone and finished with an aged balsamic vinegar and flaky sea salt for a little crunch.

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Ingredients:

1 nice sized zucchini that is fairly even in diameter (approx. 6 planks per zucchini)

1 orange for zesting

A couple of pinches of dried lavender (fresh is fine too)

2 TBSP of mascarpone

1 TBSP Olive oil

1 tsp high quality aged balsamic

Flaky finishing sea salt

Kosher salt

Ground pepper

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Instructions:

Remove ends from zucchini.

Slice the zucchini into lengthwise planks using a mandolin at the setting in between 1/8 and ¼ inch.

Sprinkle planks with kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper, toss in olive oil and place on platter for grill.

Use a microplane to zest the orange.

Mix the mascarpone with about ¼ to ½ tsp of the orange zest and a pinch or two of lavender. A little dried lavender goes a long way. You can always add more afterward.

Heat the grill to high. Reduce heat to medium high and grill while you grill the lamb. These grill up fairly quickly. Remove from grill to platter once you have nice grill marks on both sides and planks are pliable enough to roll.

To assemble, take a small teaspoon of the mascarpone mixture and place it on one end of the zucchini plank and roll. Be sure to let the planks cool down to room temp or a little warmer before stuffing so the mascarpone doesn’t melt.

Once you plate these, you will drizzle with just a couple of drops of the syrupy aged balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with just a bit of flaky sea salt and garnish with a little sprig of rosemary held aside from the lamb.

Tomato Feta Couscous

Roasted baby red potatoes with bacon and green onion are great with lamb, but I like to mix it up occasionally. The texture of the couscous with the toasted pine nuts and tomatoes is wonderful and combined with the salty feta it’s a perfect side dish with lamb.

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Ingredients:

¾ cup couscous (use the tiny grained Moroccan couscous)

1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

2 tsp olive oil

2 – 3 TBSPS crumbled feta cheese

Handful of grape or cherry tomatoes

2 TBSP pine nuts

Sea salt

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Instructions:

Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over medium low to medium heat. These can burn quickly so keep an eye on them. Lightly salt while toasting.

Bring the broth and olive oil to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.

While broth is coming to a boil quarter the tomatoes and set aside.

When ready to serve, remove cover, fluff with fork, toss in quartered tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and crumbled feta.

Timing tips:

  • I usually start by salting the lamb and letting it rest for a little bit while I get the marinade for the lamb going. Once the marinade is ready, get it slathered on the lamb while you get your other ingredients ready.
  • Grill the zucchini planks while you grill your lamb.
  • You can cook your couscous while the lamb rests. Have your ingredients ready to go so that it is done by the time your lamb is done resting.

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To plate use an ice cream scooper to serve the couscous. Place 2 to 3 chops per plate, add 3 of the rolled stuffed zucchini planks, drizzle with the aged balsamic and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen. Together, she and her sister, Shan are Simply Wilde, a small boutique catering business focusing on in-home entertaining.
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