I hear people become more extraordinary versions of themselves in extreme situations. You know, suddenly have the strength to lift a mangled Cadillac to release a trapped baby, find courage to run inside a burning building to save an elderly woman’s cat, selflessly throw yourself in front of a speeding bullet, figure out what to do with half a butternut squash and lamb chops that were picked up on a whim…
You can probably guess which of these situations I found myself in recently and I am happy to say the old lady and her cat are very happy to have both survived the blaze. It was nothing, really. I’m sure you would have done the same.
Oh, you don’t buy it?
Fine, you win, it was the one about the squash and the lamb and it felt pretty extraordinary at the time. It was one of the weeknights where I was cranky and tired and really just wanted to come home and crash, not cook, and definitely not take a zillion food pictures. But that boyfriend of mine happened to be coming home at the same time and just had to stop by the grocery store and discover lamb loin chops were on sale.
Matt has the tendency to go to the store, make a bee-line for the meat or fish counter, buy whatever looks good, and count on me to come up with the rest. When I’m in the right mood, it’s fun and I can pretend I’m on Iron Chef, without the pressure. When I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking it feels more like a chore for a taken-for-granted housewife.
But I have a cooking blog now. I’m not just cooking for myself or Matt, I’m cooking for all of you. It’s my duty and an honor. Plus, there were lamb chops on the line. I had to rise to the occasion. So I stepped out of my cranky-pants, rooted around the fridge, and became the more extraordinary version of myself.
What did I find in the refrigerator? Half a squash, green olives, mint, red onion, a lemon. Let’s grab some currants, cinnamon, and vinegar from the cupboard and see if we can land this dish somewhere between Sicily and Morocco.
No time to dilly-dally, we’re on a mission. Let’s chop the onion, get it sizzling, and put it all together.
Let it bubble and perk. This is going to taste way more complex than you’d think possible for a thirty minute simmer. Sear your chops, make some couscous, and you’re there. Dinner! You did it. You’ve uncovered your extraordinary self. You stepped up, impressed yourself, impressed that person you sometimes feed. You’re good under-pressure and this beats moping around in your crabby-pants.
- 2 c. Butternut Squash, cubed
- 2 c. Tomatoes, crushed
- ½ medium Red Onion, diced
- ¼ c. Dried Currants
- ½ c. Green Olives, pitted and chopped
- 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ tsp. Fennel Seeds
- Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon Peel, julienned
- 1 Tbsp. Honey
- 1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. Fresh Mint
- 1 Tbsp.. Fresh Oregano
- 4 Porterhouse Lamb Chops (loin chops)
- Prepared Couscous
- Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add red onion, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, season with salt and saute until the onions take on a little color, 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil squash until it is slightly tender, about 5 minutes, and drain. This will speed up your dinner significantly.
- Add crushed tomatoes and squash to onions along with cinnamon stick, lemon peel, currants, olives, honey, and vinegar. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and maintain a simmer until the squash is tender, the tomatoes have reduced, and the flavors have married, about 30 minutes, adding water if pan becomes too dry.
- In the final 10 minutes of cooking, prepare couscous and lamb chops. The lamb chops are seasoned with salt & pepper and seared in a lightly oiled pan 2-3 minutes per side. Allow to rest while you finish the ragu.
- Season ragu as necessary with additional honey, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Stir in chopped mint and oregano.
- Serve ragu over couscous and top with lamb chops. Sprinkle with additional herbs, if desired.