Lamb is growing more common in the U.S. as the flavor tones down and becomes much less “muttony” or gamey than it used to be.

The age of the lamb and the cut of the meat also play a part in how strong the flavor is. The older the lamb, the more strongly the meat will taste, and stew meat or shank meat tends to be a bit more full-flavored, just like the dark meat on turkey compared to the white breast meat.

The meat from a lamb chop is very tender and perfect for grilling. It can be very elegant and a bit expensive, so perhaps not for every day. On the other hand, when I was testing this recipe, we ate it very informally, picnic-style, sitting outside in our Adirondack chairs as a family, and the kids ate it right up. The point being, you don’t need to break out the crystal to have wonderful food.

It’s important to develop a relationship with a good butcher in your area, as they will be able to answer most questions you have about preparation of your meat. They’ll also be able to tell you where the meat came from and how old it is.

Too often in a chain grocery store, the person handling the meat is the last in a long line of folks, and they may or may not have useful information about what their chain sells.

We buy three or four whole lambs per season and use them over the course of the summer for curried lamb and lentil stew (and rosemary lamb riblets as an appetizer), and in the winter, I use the shanks for family or entertaining. I’ll share these recipes with you another time, perhaps in a winter column.

The dessert for this menu includes one of my favorite fruits – maybe it’s really a vegetable; foodies are still haggling over which.

Whatever it is, I love it, and I have great family memories of rhubarb growing behind the garage at my childhood home. I’d love to eat the stalks raw, and was a little bit titillated by the fact that the leaves were poisonous to eat.

We’d make small houses, boats, hats, wings and clothes with the leaves, and they were fascinating because they were so big to us. Rhubarb is great on its own or combined with other fruits like strawberries, apples and blueberries.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH MINT DIJON SAUCE

Lamb Chops:

8 to 12 loin lamb chops, 1 1/2-inch-thick

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons paprika

On a platter with a turned-up edge, combine the olive oil, Dijon mustard and paprika. Rub the lamb chops with the mixture and let marinate for at least half an hour. If you want to work ahead, they can marinate for up to 24 hours.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the lamb chops 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes covered while you call everyone to the table and do any last-minute details.

Servings: Four to six

Mint Dijon Sauce:

This is a tangy sauce that is great for the summertime — fast and no heat required. It’s also good with grilled shrimp.

1 clove garlic

1 cup fresh mint leaves, lightly packed

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Blend well and then drizzle the olive oil into the mixture.

Makes 3/4 cup.

RED PEPPER AND EGGPLANT POTATOES

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; about 4 to 6 potatoes

1 red pepper cut into 1/2-inch pieces; about 1 cup

1/2 eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 2 cups

1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 2 cloves

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon fresh black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil and then the potatoes, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring infrequently.

Add the peppers, eggplant, garlic and salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

Servings: Four to six.

STEAMED BROCCOLI RAAB

1 bunch broccoli raab

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Rinse and trim 1/4 inch from bottom of stems. Bring 1/2 inch water to a boil in the bottom of a saute pan. Add the broccoli raab and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until slightly tender but still bright green. Serve immediately.

Servings: Four to six.

RHUBARB-RASPBERRY CRISP WITH PECAN STREUSEL

Filling:

6 cups chopped rhubarb, 1/2-to 3/4-inch pieces; about 6 thin stalks

2 cups raspberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Streusel:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the filling ingredients and spread evenly in an ungreased, non-reactive (enamel or stainless steel) 9-by-13-inch pan.

In a separate bowl, combine the streusel ingredients and coarsely blend. The mixture should be crumbly.

Spoon streusel mixture evenly over filling mixture and bake for 1 hour. The edges should be bubbly and the top golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or vanilla flavored whipped cream. As a garnish, you could chop a few more pecans or grate some fresh nutmeg over the ice cream or whipped cream.

Servings: Eight to 12.

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea.” She can be reached at: [email protected]