Chef Jeff Anderson loves to grill year-round.
“We’re in California,” he said. “Why not?”
One of his favorite grilling tools comes from his stovetop: a cast-iron skillet.
“You can cook with cast iron directly on the grill,” said Anderson, Safeway’s executive chef and recipe-maker. “That way, you don’t heat up the house, but the meat still has that nice cast-iron sear and flavor.”
For May meals (especially in warm weather), Anderson gravitates to seasonal ingredients such as lamb with spring vegetables.
“I’m a big fan of lamb with peas and asparagus,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite flavors.”
To stretch his budget, Anderson slices a rack of lamb into eight chops.
“In restaurants, they serve a whole rack per person; that’s way too much,” he said. “Lamb is so rich. By cutting the rack into eight chops, you have two generous portions. With more side dishes, you could get three to four portions (from one rack) or more to serve as appetizers.”
Using the grill, he sears marinaded chops in a cast-iron skillet. Meanwhile, he grills asparagus directly on the grill.
“Grilled asparagus is fantastic,” Anderson said. “Most people overcook asparagus. I like asparagus when it still has a snap to it. So, I grill it; 45 seconds to a minute a side. Serve it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum!”
The result is veggie finger food that’s fun for the whole family, he said.
“Any time you can get kids eating with their hands, they feel better about food,” he noted. “I like to teach kids how to snap asparagus; that gets them involved with the preparation, too. It’s fun because it gets everybody involved in the meal.”
Anderson also likes asparagus served raw, shaved and tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. “That’s a great salad,” he said.
Peas, another spring staple, also benefit from simple treatment.
“I love peas,” he said. “That’s why I like to cook peas. I keep it very simple. I put the (shelled) peas in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper and just a splash of water. I turn on the burner. When the water comes to a boil and the butter melts, the peas are done.”
He serves the peas alongside the lamb chops with horseradish-spiked mashed potatoes. Or he may use those peas in a couscous salad, another cool idea for hot weather meals.
“Couscous is so fast and easy to prepare,” he said. “And you can re-purpose the leftovers. This couscous salad makes a delicious filling for chicken breasts.”
For dessert, Anderson goes for strawberries, but he uses a secret ingredient to accent their sweetness.
“Black pepper and strawberries – that’s delicious,” he said. “A twist of black pepper really brings out their flavor. One of my favorite (desserts) is to warm sliced strawberries with a little tiny bit of Grand Marnier, a tablespoon of orange juice, a bit of butter and that twist of black pepper. That’s a wonderful topping for ice cream or shortcake. Or use it as a filling for upside-down cake.”
CAST-IRON LAMB CHOPS
Makes 2 servings
Chef Jeff Anderson of Safeway loves to use his cast-iron skillets on the grill so preparing dinner doesn’t heat up the house. These chops also can be cooked on the stovetop.
Recipes courtesy chef Jeff Anderson of Safeway.
1 rack of lamb, cut into individual chops
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus a little more for cooking
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Prepare the lamb chops by cutting between each bone to divide rack into chops. Tenderize or pound each lamb chop to flatten eye of the chop.
Mix ingredients for marinade. Put chops into bowl, add marinade and coat each chop; allow to marinate 30-45 minutes.
While lamb chops are marinating, prepare couscous for salad. (Recipe below.)
Heat pan over medium-high heat, add oil, then add lamb chops and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side; reduce heat as necessary to prevent excessive coloring.
Remove from pan and let lamb chops rest for 3 to 4 minutes, then plate with couscous salad and serve.
1 cup couscous (cooked per package instructions)
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into small slices or halves
1/4 cup sweet peas (frozen), warmed in hot water or microwave, or fresh
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
Prepare couscous according to package instructions. Cool to room temperature. Combine cooked couscous with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, peas, olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.
Toss lightly and serve.