Ciao'd with a can of Yerba Mate.


Do you remember the children's rhyme about weather? It goes something like this: "January snowy, February flowy, March blowy, April showr'y, May flowr'y," etc.  How prescient, even for a poem written in the 19th century when "global warming" wasn't part of the conversation.  

Easter and Passover are snowy, flowy and blowy this year, yet they bring a message of hope and celebration for the fresh start that is spring. Proof positive that there is a tender shoot even in the coldest ground, March shepherds in daffodils, robins, and spring lamb.

Across the globe, lamb is the most popular Easter symbol. Back in the day, the lamb was considered a lucky omen, especially at Easter time. I won't go into the religious symbolism other than to say the lamb is a symbol of peace. For centuries, the pope's Easter dinner has featured a whole roast lamb. And so, here we are with a recipe for lamb. 

Roasting a whole lamb is a bit cumbersome, even if you can find one. My recipe showcases tender, juicy loin lamb chops. They're quick to grill (or broil) and present beautifully on the plate. A flurry of herbs and a healthy spritz of lemon complement the earthy richness of the lamb. Serve the chops with other spring yums such as tender asparagus followed by sweet strawberries.

Some say January is the month for resolving to do something new. I say it's spring. Why else would a season be synonymous with leaping, launching, and jumping off? Happy landing! 

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Tender lamb chops are quick to cook yet elegant enough for a dinner party. Feel free to substitute other herbs such as thyme or mint for the rosemary and oregano.

Serves 4

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
8 bone-in lamb loin chops, each about 6 oz. and 1-inch thick
Kosher salt and black pepper

In a shallow bowl or baking dish, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper and add to the dish, turning to coat with the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Remove the lamb chops from the marinade (discard the marinade). Grill over high heat or broil for 5 minutes. Turn the chops and grill another 5 minutes for medium-rare, or until done to your liking.

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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.



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. 

Serves 6

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.