Celebrating Spring and Holding the Salt: Lamb with Fennel and Mint
With spring in swing, it’s the time to welcome warm weather but also a bounty of new ingredients — like spicy radishes, buttery lettuces and beans and sweet peas. Which means you can give your spice rack a break and make natural flavors the star of the meal. And this month I’m excited to highlight a recipe that puts some of April’s arrivals to good use.
In this Easter and Passover-worthy salad, fennel, endive, mint and lamb provide all of the seasoning you need — no salt necessary. Fennel offers an herbaceous, licorice-like taste. The endive brings a welcome bitterness. The juicy lamb provides a natural salty kick. And a little fresh mint, lemon juice and olive oil add the right touch of sweet and sour to balance it all out.
Fennel, Endive and Mint Salad with Lamb Loin Chops
Serves 2 to 4
1 large fennel bulb
2 Belgian endives
4 small lamb loin chops
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons sliced mint
1 lemon, juice and zest
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Trim off the bottom of the fennel bulb and then, using a mandolin or extremely good knife skills, thinly slice the fennel bulb until you reach the stalks, making about 1 to 1½ cups of fennel shavings. Reserve some fennel fronds and save the stalks for future soup broths and salads.
Then, cut off the end of the endives and pull the leaves apart. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and when ready, add the endive leaves to the pan in a single layer. Let them sear until they develop some char marks, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the endive and the fennel in a medium mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the dill and pepper. Then rub the mix all over the lamb chops. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to your skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When ready, add the lamb loin chops in a single layer and sear, 3 minutes per side. Then place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking the lamb, about 6 to 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. Remove the pan from the oven and let the lamb rest, 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Add the mint to the fennel, endive mixture. Then add half of the dressing. Use salad tongs, your hands, or even a salad spinner to mix.
To serve, lay the fennel, endive salad on a large platter. Then lay the lamb chops on top. And sprinkle leftover fennel fronds over the lamb, serving extra dressing on the side.
Sodium Content: lamb loin: 65 mg per 4 oz; Belgian endive: 12mg per cup; fennel: 45 mg per cup
All sodium content from the USDA National Nutrient Database, release 26, and based on values for raw ingredients for traditional serving sizes.