May it Please the Palate: Lamb Chops and Pea Shoots

On a cold winter's day, I ducked into Café Zola to get a quick soup for takeout. As I was waiting, I saw owner Hediye Batu sitting at the counter with a simple lunch of grilled lamb chops and sautéed pea shoots. Man, that looked good.

Alhough my vegetarian chili with warm bread and herb butter was perfectly wonderful, I kept coming back to those lamb chops and pea shoots. Besides looking delicious, they made me think of the "Paleo" diet. Proponents of that lifestyle believe that the healthiest way to eat is like a hunter-gatherer "cave man" in the Paleolithic area, over 10,000 years ago. The focus of this diet is meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Now never mind that the average life span in those days was about 16 years. We're going to assume that today's urban dwellers are not going to get gored by a mastodon on the way to the office. But we can still eat like our ancestors at the end of the day, and dine on lamb chops and pea shoots.

Pea shoots are the delicate leaves of the garden pea plant, and have the advantage of being ready to eat sooner than the peas themselves. They are delicious raw in salads, stir fried or sautéed, baked, wilted, or even chopped into a pesto-like recipe. They can be found at your local farmers' market or well-stocked grocery store.

Lamb chops are, well, you know. "Baaa!" (Whistling spear ... silence ... Og going home proudly with the kill.) "Ooga, invent fire and make dinner. I'll be out drinking fermented beverages with the boys."

What was ancient is now trendy. This recipe is from The Los Angeles Times. Once you whip up the pesto in the food processor this is easy.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto and Wilted Pea Shoots

(4 servings)

12 Lamb chops (2 1/2 lbs total)

Salt and pepper to taste

Large bunch mint leaves--

(about 1 1/2 cups)

Bunch parsley

Bunch cilantro

1 TBS chopped jalapeño

3 TBS garlic cloves (large)

1/4 cup olive oil--divided

2 TBS Lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

3 TBS fig balsamic vinegar

2 TBS water

8 cups garden pea shoots

1. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Place the mint, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, 3 tablespoons of the oil, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Using the pulse button, puree in 10-second intervals, stopping once or twice to scrape down the edges of the bowl. It should take about 1 minute to puree.

2. Spray a grill pan or large skillet with cooking spray and heat it over high heat. Add the lamb chops and cook them until lightly seared, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Drain the fat from the pan.

3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the balsamic vinegar and water. Season the pea shoots with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan, and toss them briefly, about 10 seconds.

4. Serve each chop with small dollop of the mint pesto on top, with the pea shoots on the side.

If you don't have "Fig Balsamic Vinegar" around the house I'm sure you can find a reasonable substitute. I suspect Ooga could manage a mean mint pesto without it--or even skip the dollop altogether--without Og noticing the difference.

Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Published: Mon, Mar 4, 2013

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