Ciao'd with a cup of Cup o' Soup.
An Italian Pasqua (Easter) is not complete without lamb. The tradition harks back centuries. A Christian culture with deep Catholic roots, Italians revere the "lamb of God," as a symbol of Jesus, innocence, and sacrifice. On a more prosaic level, harking back to Italy's agrarian history, lambs are born in the spring and baby lamb (abbacchio) is a treasured accompaniment to the Easter festivities.
My recipe features rack of lamb. Because it's so easy to prepare and lends itself readily to an impressive presentation, I serve rack of lamb frequently, varying the flavors of the crust with the seasons. Here, I've created a fragrant Moroccan rendition of the traditional Italian gremolata, which is a mixture of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. I've substituted mint for the parsley and added orange zest and cumin to the mixture. It's a sprightly dish for a spring celebration.
RACK OF LAMB WITH MOROCCAN GREMOLATA
Have your butcher trim off, or french, the thin strip of meat and fat between each chop. I served the lamb with couscous blended with orange zest, chopped green onions and a dash of chili oil. Orzo with parsley and butter and/or asparagus would make a great side dish, too.
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated orange zest
1 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 racks of lamb (8 chops each), cut in half
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the mint, garlic, citrus zests, cumin, salt and pepper, to taste. Score (make small cuts) the fat sides of the lamb. Pat the mint mixture over the racks to form a crust.
Place the racks on a baking sheet, crust side up, and roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.
To serve, slice the lamb between the ribs and serve 3 to 4 chops per person.