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An alternative to the fancy beef dinner

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Valentine's Day is an occasion for romantic dinners and date nights, and with the shadow of a multi-million-pound recall hanging over beef, you might be casting about for another dish to serve that important other on The Night.

Lamb is a very popular dish on any night, and the fine lamb that I buy from time to time at Sprouts is impressive indeed. I believe that the price of lamb is headed for an increase because it seems logical that, if beef takes a hit and people head for lamb more often, the producers will see a window of opportunity. For that reason you might want to buy some soon and try it with this recipe.

Lamb can stand up to a red wine, but for myself I would tend towards something lighter. One imported wine that remains popular is Mateus Rose, which is from Portugal. I remember the distinctive bottles every time I go to look for it at the stores. You can find it at most wine displays because it isn't particularly expensive or exclusive, which is always good.

If you serve this light lamb dish, you could augment it with a potato dish, perhaps the divinely-simple Potatoes Anna, or crusty bread and butter. Then you will have room for a fancy Valentine's Day dessert like chocolate lava cakes or cupcakes, for which you can find many recipes on the Internet.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH MARJORAM BUTTER AND ZUCCHINI

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon minced fresh marjoram (scant)
1 medium clove garlic, finely grated
¾ tsp fresh lemon juice
Sea salt
freshly ground pepper
12 4-to 6-ounce lamb rib chops
Olive oil, for brushing
2 medium zucchini—halved lengthwise, seeded and cut crosswise 1/2 inch thick

In a small bowl, mix 6 tablespoons of the butter with the marjoram, garlic and lemon juice. Season the butter with salt and pepper. Wrap the butter in a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a log. Twist the ends to seal and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the lamb chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once or twice, until nicely charred outside and medium-rare within, 6 minutes total.

Transfer the chops to a platter and immediately top each one with a slice of the marjoram butter.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of plain butter. Add the zucchini and a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over high heat, tossing, until crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Serve the lamb chops with the zucchini and the remaining marjoram butter.

Make sure that your zucchini are tender rather than crisp, by the way. Uncooked squash of all varieties is not very appetizing. And if you make this lovely dish, remember that extra-virgin olive oil is not intended for cooking. Any good olive oil will be fine for this dish.

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