A couple of weekends ago, it was just the three of us for the weekend in Southampton. No house guests, no dinner guests, nada. We enjoyed the peace and quiet (or as much as peace and quiet as you can have with a two year-old), and on Saturday evening after Julia went to bed, David and I thought we’d have a little dinner party just for ourselves –flowers, candles, the works.
The dish I made was one of our dinner-party favorites, but it’s also quick and easy enough to make for family on a weeknight (or pull together after the kids go to bed). The only advance planning required is to marinate the lamb a few hours in advance. The marinade is simple, though, and all of the other prep and cooking takes just minutes. To speed things up at mealtime, you can even make the salsa verde at the same time as the marinade and keep it in the fridge until you grill the lamb.
The flavors here are big and lush. The vibrant herbal sauce beautifully balances the richness of the lamb, and the tangy, creamy feta cheese adds a luxurious touch. For a nice dinner party, little lamb rib chops are an elegant cut, but chunks of sirloin or leg on skewers are an equally flavorful but less expensive choice.
(Adapted from Lamb Skewers with Lima Bean Puree and French Feta Salsa Verde in Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber. Serves six.)
For the lamb:
About 2 1/2 pounds (1.2 kg) lamb (sirloin, leg or rib chops)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
For the feta salsa verde:
1/4 pound (113g) feta cheese (I like French feta for this dish.)
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
1/4 cup (60ml) coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 cup (240ml) coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup (175ml) olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, chopped
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 lemon for juicing
1. Toss the lamb with the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. Make the salsa verde. (This can be done well in advance.) Put the marjoram or oregano, mint, parsley and oil in the jar of a blender (or work bowl of a small food processor) and pulse. Add the garlic and anchovy and pulse again. Don’t puree –the mixture should still contain distinctive pieces of the herbs. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Coarsely chop the capers and stir them in. Add a squeeze of lemon and some ground pepper. Taste for balance and seasoning. (The salsa should not need salt.)
3. Just before you serve the dish, crumble the feta into the sauce and stir.
4. About 45 minutes before you grill, take the lamb out of the refrigerator to allow it to warm to room temperature. Don’t salt the lamb before you cook it –the feta salsa verde is quite salty.
5. Cook the lamb over a hot grill, turning twice to give it a nice color. I like lamb medium-rare, so I pull it off the grill when the thickest part of the meat registers 145F (63C) on an instant read thermometer and let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5-10 minutes before serving.
6. To serve, drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the feta salsa verde over each serving of lamb and serve the rest on the table.
I like to serve this dish with mashed potatoes and a handful of fresh arugula leaves, dressed only with a little oil and a squeeze of lemon. I think it would also be nice with plain rice our cous-cous, or polenta in the winter months.