There are some summer evenings so steamy that the only thing I can bear to eat is a giant bowl of leafy salad. And this whole month of August has been full of those kinds of nights, one sticky sunset after the next.
But on what must have been our umpteenth salad, something had to give. Surely adding just a few dainty lamb chops to a whole lot of romaine wouldn’t disqualify it from salad status — just as long as I kept the balance of charred meat to lettuce decidedly in the romaine’s favor.
The result is what I like to think of as a sort-of salad: meaty and satisfying, but still fresh and sprightly enough for any late-summer evening.
You can use any type of lamb chops here, but pricier rib and loin chops will be leaner than economical shoulder chops, which tend to be fattier and gristlier. (I write this with love for fat and gristle.) Cooking shoulder chops to medium-rare helps caramelize the fat and tenderize the meat while still keeping them juicy on the inside; loin and rib chops can be as rare as you like.
If you did spring for a great piece of lamb, the usual rule is not to marinate it first. A little salt is all you need to bring out its brawny, mineral essence.
This said, I’ve never met a lamb chop that wasn’t improved by a little garlic and some herbs. Both are used in profusion in this dark green seasoning paste, which I rub onto the chops about 30 minutes before grilling — or the day before if I’ve planned ahead.
That herb paste serves another function as well. After smearing some on the lamb, the rest is mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk and turned into a creamy, tangy ranch dressing for this sort-of salad.
Romaine hearts make a cool, crisp contrast to the char and savory juices of the meat. But floppy lettuces and arugula are also salad-worthy, albeit in a soft rather than crunchy way.
But really, when you have tender lamb chops and homemade ranch dressing together in one dish, any kind of vegetable will be happy to join in, whether tomatoes, grilled zucchini or a pile of sliced cucumbers or radishes. Or try them all and skip the lamb entirely. You’ll have plenty of chances as August burns on.