Everywhere the lamb went, the mint was sure to go

FASTLANE FEAST

July 31, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Many of us can't understand the fascination with mint jelly on lamb. It is always too green, too wiggly, too fake.

But even a cynic won't deny that the flavors of mint and lamb are as compatible as Bogie and Bacall. You've just got to find the right formula. Instead of mint jelly, think mint sauce. I worked with some adaptations of the classic Italian mint sauce -- a combination of fresh mint and parsley, bread crumbs, vinegar and olive oil -- and came up with a flavorful, sauce that can be as complementary to chicken or fish as it is to lamb. For extra flavor, this version uses flavored Italian bread crumbs, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil leaves.

If you desire a lower fat version, you can cut the olive oil to 1/4 cup and the bread crumbs to about 1 cup. But, remember, even with the original Fastlane Feast version the sauce is chunky, not liquid.

The lamb is served with Italian cannellini beans, flavored with garlic, peppers and basil. Sometimes it is difficult to find cannellini beans in a chain supermarket and the recipe works just as well with Italian chick peas.

Start your 30-minute meal by putting the lamb chops on to broil. Then make the mint sauce and the cannellini beans. End the meal with chocolate biscotti and the beverage of your choice.

Items you should have in your pantry include: white wine Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, garlic, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, white bread crumbs made from stale bread, Italian seasoned bread crumbs and green onions.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

* 4 loin lamb chops

* 1 bunch Italian parsley

* 1 bunch mint leaves

* 1 bunch basil leaves

* 1 can (14 ounces) cannellini beans or 1 can (19 ounces) chick peas

* 1 green pepper

* 1 red pepper

* chocolate biscotti

Broiled lamb chops with chunky mint topping

Serves 2.

4 loin lamb chops, about 1-inch thick

white wine Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

MINT SAUCE:

1 large garlic clove

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, stems removed, tightly packed

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh white bread crumbs

1/2 cup store bought Italian seasoned bread crumbs

To make sauce: Put garlic, mint, parsley, basil, vinegars and olive oil in food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until mixed well. Add bread crumbs and mix again until well blended. Set aside.

Season lamb chops with a drizzle of white wine Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste. Broil in a broiling pan about 4 inches from the heating element for about 5 minutes. Turn, season flip side the same way and broil another 4 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness and how well you like your meat cooked. Serve topped with mint sauce.

Warm cannellini bean salad

Serves 4.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

3 green onions, chopped diagonally

1/2 red pepper

1/2 green pepper

1 can cannellini beans (14 ounces, Progresso brand), drained except for 4 tablespoons reserved liquid

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

basil leaves, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan until hot. Add garlic, onions, peppers and saute on medium high until the peppers are soft. Add beans, reserved liquid and basil and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil and serve.

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