I admit to being more than a little sentimental when it comes to lamb (and deer). But the truth is that lamb meat is a real nutritional bonanza. It contains more iron than chicken or fish, its fat is evenly divided between monounsaturated and saturated, it’s a good source of vitamin B, and—best of all—it’s generally not shot full of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones the way factory-farmed beef is. Most of the lamb we eat comes from Australia and New Zealand, neither of which generally raises sheep on factory farms.
And then there’s the taste. These chops are moist and flavorful. Your mouth will water when you smell them grilling.
Like any meat or fish, lamb chops shouldn’t be grilled on super-high flames. Those flames look pretty, but they create bad compounds that you really don’t want to put into your body, including HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). So keep the flame low, savor the smell, and enjoy the incredible taste of this delicious spring dish. —Dr. Jonny
Featured ingredient: Olive Oil
True extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is highly anti-inflammatory and rich in biophenols that help protect cholesterol from oxidative stress (and cholesterol isn’t really a problem until it’s damaged by oxidation). And research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with four or more tablespoons per day of EVOO resulted in a 30 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and stroke compared to a conventional low-fat diet.
Be aware, however, that olive oil comes in many forms. There’s refined olive oil, which you really can’t buy since no manufacturer will put “refined” on the label. But you can buy “olive oil” that is almost always a blend of refined oils and virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Refined olive oil is no health food—it has no natural antioxidants and it’s high in trans fats. But it makes up about 85–95 percent of what goes into bottles simply labeled “olive oil.”
“Extra light” and “pure” are marketing terms. Stay away from both. They have a paler color than plain olive oil, they’re low in flavor, and they’re low in antioxidants. “We send our really crummy oil to Europe, and they refine it and sell it back in the U.S. as ‘extra light’ or ‘pure’ olive oil,” one olive oil manufacturer told me on condition of anonymity. If you happen to encounter a bottle of “pure” olive oil, try to identify its smell. You won’t be able to. Why? Because it has none! And that’s an important tell, since smell is a strong indicator of antioxidant content. Ideally, olive oil should have a grassy or nutty smell (and flavor).
Virgin olive oil is fairly high in natural antioxidants, but it’s still a lower grade than extra-virgin. Extra-virgin is the highest grade of olive oil, with the most natural antioxidants and polyphenols. Plus, it’s entirely trans-fat free. EVOO is extracted from the olives using no chemicals or solvents. Another difference between virgin and extra-virgin is acidity. Virgin olive oil needs to have an acidity of less than 2.0, but extra virgin has a higher standard: less than 0.8.
The sad truth is that fake versions of “extra virgin olive oil” are common. According to the best-selling book, Real Food, Fake Food by food critic Larry Olmsted, many Americans have never even tasted real, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil because fake versions are so common.
For an authentic extra-virgin olive oil that’s widely available at a fair price, try Cobram Estate. I vetted the company, and it’s the real deal—and the best-tasting olive oil I’ve ever had.
Although loin chops are the leanest cuts of lamb, they are also the priciest. The blade cut, significantly cheaper, is only slightly higher in fat and is very flavorful and tender.
Notes from The Clean Food Coach
Try serving hot chops with a sprinkling of feta cheese or a bit of mint jam and rosemary roasted sweet potatoes. You can double this recipe and slice the other half for cold lamb salad the next day.
Citrus-Herb Grilled Lamb Chops
- In small bowl, combine olive oil, tamari, and lemon juice, and whisk until lightly emulsified. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, mint, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
- Place lamb chops in shallow glass baking dish, and pour marinade evenly over all. Cover, and marinate at least 30 minutes, flipping several times.
- Grill chops over medium heat, 6–7 minutes. Flip, and grill 4–5 minutes more for medium rare, or longer to desired doneness.