Fresh mint is springtime’s swap in classic pesto

When it comes to condiments, I don’t keep many on hand beyond the basics. But one, at least, confers instant meal status to almost any food.

Pesto stocks my freezer all winter before summer’s abundant basil challenges us to use it all. The end-of-season effort, of course, secures our pesto supply for months to come.

A couple of those jars accompanied a few pantry staples for my family’s recent vacation in a mountain cabin. Tossed with rotini, cannellini beans and canned albacore, fresh-from-the-freezer pesto made us feel like we were dining well, rather than making do.

A reasonably well-stocked kitchen, however, makes pesto easy to concoct at mealtime. More concept than recipe, pesto can combine almost any leafy herb or vegetable with the gamut of nuts or seeds and cheeses. Lemon juice is fairly indispensable but can give way to lime. Oil, likewise, can impart a distinctive note depending on the type. Think Asian pesto with cilantro, almonds, lime and sesame oil. A previous post to this blog furnishes more ideas for personalizing pesto.

Mint is an obvious swap for basil this early in the growing season. And there are few meats that benefit like lamb, long considered a springtime food. Augment this recipe from the Chicago Tribune with quick-cooking couscous or quinoa for an elegant dinner that comes together in a flash.

Tribune News Service photo

Mint Pesto Lamb Chops

1 lemon

1 garlic clove

2 cups fresh mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1/3 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

8 single-cut lamb rib chops, about 1 pound

Zest the lemon and squeeze its juice. Peel the garlic clove.

To make pesto, in bowl of a food processor, with motor running, chop garlic. Add the mint leaves, lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper; pulse a few times. With machine running, drizzle in the 1/3 cup olive oil, making a thick pesto. Add the almonds and feta cheese. Pulse a few times.

Divide half of pesto among the lamb rib chops, smoothing it to cover both sides of each chop. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Cook chops until crisp outside and just done inside, for about 3 minutes per side. Serve with remaining pesto.

Make 2 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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