Cooking for someone special: my mom’s favorite meal gets updated with a creamy and unique mint-basil-feta pesto.
Garlic and Rosemary Lamb Chops with Mint-Basil-Feta Pesto
Simply seared lamb chops with a flavorful, creamy pesto that you'll want to put on absolutely everything.
One of the things I enjoy most about cooking is preparing meals especially made for a certain person to enjoy (so long as they bring the wine, of course). Making someone’s favorite food is kind of like giving them a little gift, and I think that’s such a unique thing to be able to do. My mom absolutely loves lamb, which isn’t something I prepare often (is it just me, or do lamb chops feel like a lot of work for very little meat?), but this week I wanted to make it for her because I know how infrequently she gets to have it. I also wanted to make a meal that she wouldn’t usually take the time to make for herself, so I created a few side dishes and a special pesto (another one of her favorite foods) to go along with the lamb.
I served the lamb chops (which I marinated beforehand) with roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh herbs and lemon and an Israeli salad. I also made a mint-basil-feta “pesto” to pour over the top of the lamb. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got to include mint whenever you serve lamb (a lesson I learned from my papa), but I’ve found that the typical mint jellies served with lamb dinners at restaurants are just way too strong and sweet for my taste. I figured I could create something refreshingly and traditionally minty that had a bit more balance, so I came up with the recipe for this pesto, and it was a total hit. There’s fresh herbs, lemon juice and plenty of garlic, plus a healthy dose of feta cheese to give it a creamy, rich flavor and tangy kick. I will definitely be using it again on all sorts of foods. (I actually used it the next day on a sandwich with turkey, salami and mozzarella cheese and it was perfect, and my mom used it a few days later as a pizza topping.)
A tip I have for creating a really thoughtful and well-balanced meal, especially when using a lot of fresh herbs as this recipe calls for, is to include flavors from each aspect of the dish in other aspects of the dish. For example, in this meal, I used rosemary on the lamb, so I also tossed a few sprigs of rosemary in with the potatoes. I used a good amount of garlic in both the marinade for the lamb and the pesto, and there’s lemon in every part of the dish.
In fact, I used one lemon for the whole meal and I used every single part of it – I squeezed the juice, shaved the zest and, when the lemon was (quite literally) nothing but a shell of its former self – I cut it into slices and tossed them in with the potatoes before roasting. Following this simple tip can create so much congruity and flow within the meal, and it just elevates the whole dish to something really special, which is sort of the whole point when you’re preparing something specific for someone.
My mom and dad have been so wonderfully helpful over the last few months, which haven’t been easy as I’ve gone through the process of selling my house, leaving the legal practice and beginning my move to the U.K. Cooking them a nice meal certainly doesn’t “repay” them for their support and generosity, but it’s nice to be able to do something small for them that I know they’ll enjoy. Cooking something special is a such a great way to show someone you appreciate them, so find out a loved one’s favorite recipe and get in the kitchen the next time you need a new way to say “thanks.”
Below are the recipes for the lamb, the pesto and the Israeli salad. I’ve provided a link to the roasted potatoes here. I recommend preparing the pesto and Israeli salad ahead of time so that all you have to focus on when the time comes is the lamb and potatoes. Stick the potatoes in the oven, and when they’re about 15 minutes from being done, cook your lamb. That way, everything is ready at the same time.
6 lamb chops
4-6 tbsp olive oil, depending on size of chops plus 2 tbsp for cooking
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients in Ziploc bags and coat the chops in the marinade. Chill for at least one hour and remove from refrigerator approximately 30 minutes before cooking.
*I use two bags and marinate three chops in each bag with half the ingredients in each bag.
Coat a skillet with reserved olive oil and heat to medium heat. Add chops, three at a time and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until chops are medium-rare.
1 1/4 cups fresh mint
2 1/4 cups fresh basil (I measure the mint and basil by simply tearing the leaves from the stem and packing them lightly in a measuring cup, without chopping them. Basil leaves are much bigger than mint leaves, which is why the measurement for the basil seems so much larger than that for the mint.)
Juice from 1/2 lemon plus 1 tsp
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 rounded tbsp crumbled feta cheese
Combine all ingredients except for feta in blender or food processor. Blend to desired consistency. Add feta and pulse until combined.
Ingredients (Israeli salad):
3 medium-sized roma or plum tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Directions (Israeli salad):
Combine all ingredients. Chill before serving.