Grilled Rack of California Lamb with Collard Almond Pesto

Grilled rack of lamb
Photo by Jenny Huang / Food styling by Michelle Gatton / Prop styling by Nicole Louie

Courtesy Tanya Holland, owner/chef, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Oakland, CA

“If I could, I would probably eat all my food off the grill,” says Tanya Holland, owner and chef of Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen. A Golden State resident since 2003, Holland was raised in New York by parents who made their way north from rural Louisiana and Virginia. Here, she marries these diverse influences by topping a juicy lamb chop with a collard green pesto and serving it alongside a plum salad in a vinaigrette made from California Zinfandel.

Ingredients for Grilled Rack of California Lamb
  • ½ bunch (about 4 cups) collard greens, cleaned, center ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ÂĽ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 California rack of lamb, 6–8 bones, cleaned
Directions for Grilled Rack of California Lamb

Prepare gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling. Keep one side of grill hot.

To make pesto, add collard­ greens, garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, almonds, ½ cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons warm water to food processer. Blend until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside half of pesto for serving.

Season rack of lamb with salt and pepper, and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Place lamb, meat side down, on hot part of grill. Cook until meat is well marked, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until bone side is well browned, about 4 minutes. Move lamb, bone side down, to cooler side of grill. Brush with half of pesto. Close grill lid and cook to desired temperature, about 10–15 minutes for medium-rare (145˚F on probe thermometer). Serves 4.

Ingredients for Grilled Plum and Sweet Onion Salad with Zinfandel Vinaigrette
  • Grilled Plum and Sweet Onion Salad with Zinfandel Vinaigrette
  • ½ large sweet onion, cut into ½-inch thick rings
  • 2 plums, halved and pitted
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons California Zinfandel
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 8 basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 4 cups baby arugula
Directions for Grilled Plum and Sweet Onion Salad with Zinfandel Vinaigrette

Heat grill to high.

Toss onion rings and plums carefully with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Don’t break up rings.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Grill plums and onions until onions are soft and everything is well marked, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from grill. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then slice each plum thin.

In large bowl, whisk Zinfandel, vinegar and brown sugar. Continue to whisk, and drizzle in remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add basil, then toss in arugula, plums and onions until coated. Serves 4.

Wine Pairing

Holland recommends two California bottlings that balance rich fruit flavors with good grip in the texture.

The Brown Estate Chaos Theory red blend from Napa Valley, she says, “has enough tannin to stand up to the protein in this rack of lamb. This is a juicy yet mellow wine that does not overpower.”

She also suggests a full-bodied, fruit-forward Pinot from the Russian River Valley, the Fog Crest Vineyard Upper Block Estate Pinot Noir.

“It’s made in the Burgundian style, with minimal handling and bottled unfiltered.”

Published on May 28, 2021