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Light spring lamb dishes

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Lamb recipes for spring

Lamb dishes can be notoriously heavy, but in the spring when lamb is traditionally eaten, lighter versions should be on the menu. Cook up these light and delicious lamb recipes to celebrate the spring season.

Roasted Lamb Chop

Cuts of lamb

Preparing lamb can be daunting to the newcomer to this popular meat, but it need not be intimidating. You must first start with the type of dish you want to cook -- different cuts of lamb meat are cooked in different ways and in specific dishes -- then preparing the lamb is easy.

Rack of lamb: The rack of lamb, typically the best part of the lamb, is one of the most popular cuts and is usually Frenched and roasted whole or sliced into chops and roasted.

Leg of lamb: The leg of lamb is another go-to cut. The leg can also be roasted (sometimes on a spit) or grilled.

Lamb loin and shank: Lesser known cuts of lamb include the lamb loin and shank. Roasting, broiling, grilling and sauteing is recommended for the loin, while braising or stewing works well for the shank.

Ground lamb: Ground lamb makes great burgers, meatballs and meatloaf and can also be included in a meat sauce for lasagna or pasta. Ground lamb can be used the same way as ground beef.

How to buy lamb

Once you have decided on your dish and the required cut of lamb to use, purchase lamb that is fairly pink and firm with a little give when touched. If possible, purchase lamb from a butcher; you can specify which cut of lamb you would like. Buying lamb from your local grocery store will suffice as well as long as it's fresh. Ask the meat counter staff the origin and age of the lamb behind the counter and bypass lamb that is old.

Properly store lamb

When you get the lamb home, you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to three days, or freeze it for up to six months. When you are ready to cook lamb after freezing, place it in the refrigerator the day or two before to thaw safely.

Cooking lamb

Many different flavors pair well with lamb. Classic flavors include mint and rosemary, but honey, soy sauce, garlic and basil also are great flavor enhancers. Just about any sauce or herbs and spices you use with beef can be used to prepare lamb. But even simply seasoning with salt and pepper to enjoy the fresh lamb flavor is a great way to enjoy this juicy meat.

Spring lamb Recipes

All recipes courtesy of Australian Lamb

Porcini Crusted Rib Chop

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
12 lamb rib chops
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dried, sliced porcini mushrooms
2 leaves fresh basil, torn
1/2 cup cubed crusty bread

Directions:
1. Brush lamb ribs with olive oil and season both sides to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Combine mushrooms, basil and bread in a food processor and pulse until very fine crumbs are made. Move crumbs to a plate and press lamb ribs into them, covering both sides.

3. Arrange lamb on a plate, cover, and let rest for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 8 hours.

4. When ready to cook, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place lamb in skillet and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare lamb. Let cool slightly before serving.

Olive and Blue Cheese Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup Kalamatta olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 leaves fresh basil, shredded
1 boneless lamb leg, trimmed of fat and butterflied
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 bunch fresh thyme

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine olives with blue cheese and basil. Season the inside of the lamb with salt and pepper and spoon stuffing mixture evenly over meat. Roll lamb well and secure with kitchen twine.

3. Place thyme leaves around a roasting pan and arrange tied lamb in pan. Cook lamb for 1 to 1-1/2 hours for medium rare. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

Shredded Lamb Shank Spaghetti

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces spaghetti

Directions:
1. Dust lamb with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add lamb, browning on all sides. Take lamb out of skillet and reserve.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet and saute onions, carrots and celery for a few minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Place lamb back in skillet and add thyme, tomatoes, stock, wine and enough water to just cover the lamb. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until lamb is falling off the bone.

4. Meanwhile, add parsley, mint, garlic and pine nuts in a blender or food processor and blend until finely chopped. Blend in cheese then drizzle in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in a steady stream until a thin paste begins to form. Spoon mixture into a bowl and reserve until ready to serve.

5. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, cook spaghetti according to package directions then toss with half of the pesto sauce. Place pasta in a large bowl and top with lamb and remaining sauce.

Note: Lamb is an excellent protein for low carb dieting. To make this pasta dish low carb friendly, replace the regular spaghetti with your favorite low carb or high fiber pasta. You can also cut the portion size of pasta in half to further reduce the total carbs.

More mouthwatering lamb recipes

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