It’s citrus season in California right now, and in our catering kitchen we have a huge bin, filled with different varieties of oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes. We’ve been incorporating citrus into many of our menus and, when our events are over, and I’m left with the extra. So, I’m constantly trying to think of new ways to use them up. I made this dish for dinner a few weeks ago for my husband and his best friend and they loved it. The spicy flavors of the Ras el Hanout rubbed lamb work really well with the sweet, bright citrus salad. I love the way that the colors look on the plate together too.
Don’t be scared by the Ras el Hanout blend at the top of this recipe. I love making my own spice blends and enjoy writing recipes for them, but I know that most of you don’t have time or don’t want to spend the money buying all of the spices to make the blend. There are some great prepared spice blends on the market that you can purchase, and they will make this dish even easier to make. I recommend Oaktown Spice Shop’s blend, but know that Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods and many local markets stock versions of this blend. Ras el Hanout means “head of the shop” and is each shopkeepers blend of their best spices. My version is below, and you can follow it or you can make your own.
If you’ve never cooked with sumac before, I bet that you’ll love it. It also has tangy, citrus notes and is great in salad dressings, marinades and rubs. If you invest in a bottle of sumac, it’s worth it because you can add it to so many different dishes. It’s also great sprinkled on hummus with a little bit of olive oil.
Active Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Serves 2 to 3 people
Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground rosebuds (optional)
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 rack of lamb with 8 or 9 chops, Frenched
Olive oil for searing
Red Pepper Sauce
¼ cup toasted almond slivers
½ teaspoon packed orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice (from salad oranges)
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 6oz jar roasted red bell peppers
1 teaspoon harissa – spicy red pepper paste from Morocco, this is optional
2 to 3 handfuls baby arugula
1 small fennel bulb, thinly shaved
1 blood orange, rind removed, fruit cut into ½-inch rounds, juices reserved for red pepper sauce
1 cara cara orange, segmented, juices reserved for red pepper sauce
1 pink grapefruit, segmented
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup roughly chopped good black olives – I like Gaeta olives because they’re oil cured and have a sweet, caramelized flavor
¼ cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon sumac
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons good olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Ras el Hanout
Combine all spices. If you have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle blend the spices that way to bring out a little bit more flavor.
Rub as much of the spice mixture as you can on all sides of the lamb. Let the rack rest for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature. For deeper flavor, you can make the spice blend one day in advance and marinate the lamb overnight. Bring the rack to room temperature before cooking.
Heat a sautée pan over medium-high. Add olive oil right before adding the lamb and sear the rack for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown and the spices are fragrant.
Transfer the rack to a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the rack reads 135° F. Place the rack on a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into chops.
Red Pepper Sauce
Put all ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth.
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, or put all ingredients into a jar and shake (my preference).
Place a few lamb chops on each plate, or serve the rack on a platter, family-style. Fill a ramekin or small bowl with the red pepper sauce and put it on the table to pass. To make the salad, toss the greens with a little bit of the sumac dressing and divide between plates or put on the family-style platter, next to the lamb. Top with the shaved fennel, citrus rounds and segments, olives, feta and pistachios. Drizzle the salad with more of the dressing and serve.