The inspiration for this main course comes from a fabulous dish I sampled in Paris last month in a neighborhood restaurant. When I couldn't decide what to choose, our waiter recommended the 7-hour roasted lamb. Slowly roasted in the oven until fork tender, the lamb was delectable, but it was the simple, elegant presentation of the entree that caught my eye. Set in the center of the plate on a bed of pureed eggplant, the meat was surrounded by a garland of roasted cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic cloves. It was this striking garnish that made the dish so attractive.
For my version, I'll replace the slow-cooked lamb with marinated, grilled chops, which take far less time to prepare. And, in place of the eggplant, I'll make quick-cooking couscous scented with a pinch of turmeric that will turn the grains golden yellow. The roasted tomatoes and garlic will be identical to the original recipe.
As a prequel to the lamb, try a chilled soup such as cucumber. Serve the lamb with couscous and include a good crusty baguette.
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH ROASTED GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES
12 small rib lamb chops, about 3/4 -inch thick, trimmed of all excess fat (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces each when trimmed)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil plus extra for oiling the grill rack
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
GARLIC, TOMATOES AND GARNISH:
12 large unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, vine-ripened if possible (see note)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
Put lamb chops in a shallow, non-reactive pan. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pour over chops. Turn several times to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes or up to 5 hours, turning occasionally.
Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic cloves in a small, oven proof baking dish. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon water over them. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover dish tightly with foil, and bake until cloves are soft when pierced with a sharp knife, about 50 minutes. Remove foil and set garlic aside. (Garlic can be prepared 4 hours ahead; leave uncovered at cool room temperature. Reheat uncovered in a 350-degree oven, about 5 minutes, or in microwave in a microwave proof container about 60 seconds or according to manufacturer's directions.)
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Put tomatoes in a shallow baking dish, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss gently to coat. Roast tomatoes, uncovered, until hot and some are just starting to split slightly, 12 to 15 minutes. Watch carefully. (Tomatoes can be roasted 4 hours ahead; leave, uncovered, at cool room temperature. Reheat uncovered, in a 350-degree oven, about 5 minutes, or in microwave in a microwave proof container, about 60 seconds or according to manufacturer's directions.)
Oil grill rack lightly and arrange about 5 inches from heat source. When grill is hot, add chops and grill until rosy pink inside, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cooking time can vary depending on intensity of heat.
Remove and arrange 3 chops in the center of 4 dinner plates. Make a border with 3 tomatoes and 3 garlic cloves on each plate. If desired, sprinkle each serving with crumbled feta. Press on the garlic with a fork or knife to release it from the skin.
Note: Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes (packaged still on their vines) and "petite" romas both work well in this dish, but if unavailable, regular packaged cherry tomatoes are fine.
Per serving: 544 calories, 42 grams protein, 39 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 134 milligrams cholesterol, 286 milligrams sodium. Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.