A year ago, we were blessed to travel to Greece with some friends, and fell in love with the honest, hardworking people we met there. Even in the midst of their country’s deep financial crisis, the Greek people were cheerful, friendly and optimistic. Their simple village lives were filled with sunlight, friends and fresh-picked, home-grown food.
Lamb, of course, is a Greek staple. In recent years, it has become more accessible and more popular here at home, and restaurants and home cooks seem to be using lamb more and more as an alternative to beef. Grilling is the perfect method for cooking lamb. The char on the outside seals in the rich flavors and leaves the meat moist and tender throughout.
The key to excellent lamb is not overcooking it. Just a few minutes per side will do it for a perfect medium-rare piece of succulent meat. Of course, we had to throw in some mint, which just seems to be a necessity when serving lamb. I could probably drink this refreshing pesto, which is an amazing counterpoint to the rich taste of lamb. I think the Greeks might be onto something here!
- 6 lamb tenderloins
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lemons
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 cup fresh herbs: basil, oregano, thyme and/or mint
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts or walnuts
- 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more, if needed)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the lamb loins with the next six ingredients in a large ziploc bag.
- Seal bag and turn several times to coat meat with marinade.
- Place in refrigerator and marinate 4-8 hours.
- In the meantime, make the pesto.
- Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.
- Refrigerate, covered, until using.
- Take meat out of fridge 1/2 hour before cooking.
- Preheat grill on high for 10 minutes.
- Place lamb on grill and turn heat to medium.
- Grill 4-5 minutes per side, until medium-rare.
- Let meat sit for 5 minutes to absorb juices.
- Serve with mint pesto.
We used thick lamb tenderloins for this recipe. If you use Frenched baby lamb chops, which look like lamb lollipops, cut the cooking time in half for medium rare. (To "french" a rack of lamb is to cut the meat so the bones are still exposed. This is a classic way to serve lamb.)
Note the active prep time is 30 minutes, but the lamb can marinate for 4-8 hours or longer.