lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

the ultimate basic marinade

This is a marinade that has served me well time and time again. It’s great on beef, pork, salmon, tuna, and even lamb chops. It’s a great starter marinade recipe, which you can customize to your tastes or recipe if desired.


  • 1/2 cup oil – I typically use olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Marinating time depends on your cut of protein – salmon and tuna only need an hour at most, whereas lamb, pork and beef can be marinated for just a couple or hours or overnight. The longer the marinade, the stronger the flavor.

The beauty of this marinade is that you can make a ton of customizations to it. Want to go more Asian? Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of minced ginger and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you have sesame seeds, add a teaspoon of those, too. A teaspoon of miso paste works great in this, too (although you’ll want to omit the salt if you add miso)

Don’t have soy sauce? Substitute Worcestershire sauce.

Don’t have balsamic vinegar? Try red wine. rice or white balsamic vinegar, for a lighter flavor.

Want to kick the heat up a bit? Add a bit of sriracha, crushed red pepper flakes or hot chile paste to taste.

Got some fresh limes, lemons or oranges? Add a tablespoon of fresh citrus juice to really brighten this up.

Want fresh herbs? Add parsley, cilantro, rosemary….use your imagination.

I’ve used the basis of this marinade in a lot of recipes. It’s particularly good on flank and skirt steak, salmon, chicken breasts and thighs, and lamb chops. It even works great on veggies, especially on the grill.

If you’re looking for an easy marinade recipe that you can customize and call your own, this is it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Remember what I always say: never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Enjoy.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

lamb burgers with pesto and goat cheese

This is one of my favorite weeknight dinners;  my mini processor makes the pesto quick to put together and the burgers can be done outside on the grill or inside in a pan. If you can find brioche buns, they’re perfect for these. All I could find this time were these big ones but, even though I ended up with more bun than burger, they were still wonderful.


lamb burgers with pesto and goat cheese

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 walnut halves
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • crumbled goat cheese (feta cheese is also delicious!)

Form 3 to 4 burgers with the ground lamb. Salt and pepper both sides, Heat a pan on medium-high heat for a minute or two and then add burgers.  Cook for about 10 minutes, turning burgers once after 5.

While the burgers are cooking, make the pesto. In processor, add basil, garlic, walnuts, parmesan and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process until well blended. Add half of the 2nd tablespoon of olive oil in, until the pesto is moist but not runny – you may not need the entire 2nd tablespoon or you may need all of it and even a little extra.

Assemble burgers: smear the inside of bottom bun with some pesto, top with burger, top with more pesto and some crumbled goat cheese. Add top bun and repeat with remaining burgers.

These ae seriously delicious and oh, so easy. Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

easy lamb recipes

Quite often I am awed and inspired by what my followers deem my most popular recipes because, quite often, they are not the recipes (nor the accompanying photos) that I aspire to be popular. A few people take the time to comment here on my site but many more share my recipes over and over again, particularly on Pinterest. If you’ve ever searched Pinterest for lamb recipes, chances are good you’ve seen one of mine. The fact that people search for how to cook lamb does not surprise me – a lot of people aren’t really comfortable preparing it.

My first attempt at cooking lamb many (many) moons ago went horribly wrong. It was an attempt to cook some sort of thin lamb chops – probably blade or shoulder chops – which seemed simple enough until I cooked them to an angel hair’s breath of dryness and toughness. They were flavorless and disappointing, to say the least. I swore I’d never make lamb again.

Flash forward just a year or two after that to me enjoying an Easter celebration in Connecticut, where I lived at the time. A good friend there, as luck would have it, is Greek. Her mother had a huge lamb roast cooking in the oven that day and the smell was enough to make me drop to my knees and send up a prayer. Rubbed with garlic, oil and spices and slow roasted to medium rare, I realized that I had no idea the real beauty of lamb or its possibilities.

So, how do you cook lamb shoulder or blade chops? These cuts are less expensive than a loin cut, so ideally you should involve a marinade and then a quick cook at a moderate to high temperature. The marinade helps break down the toughness of cut but the final cook should be fast and simple. You can also braise these (brown and then simmer slowly in liquid) but watch them closely so as not to overcook. Larger cuts of lamb shoulder can be braised for longer.

Here’s the photo of my most popular lamb recipe on Pinterest:

lemon oregano lamb shoulder chops recipe lola rugula

Not an incredibly staged photo, is it? But it’s still quite popular and I believe that’s because of its simplicity and, yes, it’s lack of photographic staging. We all like recipes that are somewhat simple and approachable and this easy lamb recipe is both. Lamb shoulder chops also make this recipe affordable, which we can all appreciate. What’s better than lamb with garlic, lemon, and oregano? Not much, I tell you.

Mint is also a traditional herb for lamb and once you’ve tasted the pairing you’ll understand why. My second most popular lamb recipe is lamb loin chops on the grill, made with mint, oregano and lemon:

lola rugula grilled lamb loin chops with garlic, oregano and mint recipeLoin chops are a more pricey cut of lamb but they don’t require marinating and they’re like any good loin chop – lean and tender.

One day I’ll feature my leg of lamb recipe but I can tell you this: it involves lots of herbs, olive oil and garlic, just like that long ago Easter lamb. I have, however, shared what I love to do with my leftover leg of lamb and that’s to make lamb stew.

easy lamb stew recipe

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of this, along with a good book and a glass of red wine. A little crusty bread doesn’t hurt either.

I hope that if you’ve had a failed attempt at cooking lamb like I have, you’ll be willing to try these and give it another go. I promise you that lamb can be easy and flavorful with just a little bit of effort.

Happy spring everyone!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

grilled lamb loin chops with oregano, mint and lemon

Northern Illinois is under an official Heat Advisory due to the 5 day stretch of 90+ degree days we’re in the middle of, all with heat indexes of over 100. I love the summertime. Really, I do. I know. I have serious issues.

Heywood Banks has a great little ditty about summer that you can listen to here, if you’re up for a little bit of humor.

Needless to say, when the thermometer is rising to a triple-digit heat index and then barely dropping to 75 in the coolest hours of the morning, heating up the stove or oven is not on your list of things to do.

lola rugula grilled lamb loin chops with garlic, oregano and mint recipe

Grilled Loin Lamb Chops with Fresh Oregano, Mint, Garlic and Lemon

  • 6 loin lamb chops, 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large lemons, juiced, about 1/4 cup

Place everything but lamb chops and lemon juice into a large bowl & whisk together. Add lamb chops (but not lemon juice), cover, refrigerate and marinate at least 12 hours, turning once in the interim.

One hour before grilling, remove from refrigerator and add lemon juice to chops and marinade, tossing well to coat.

Preheat grill to medium-high, about 400°

Pat lamb chops on paper towels to remove excess marinade (thereby reducing the smoke factor) and grill for 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare.

Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

I made these a few nights ago and served them with steamed sugar snap peas. The fresh herbs and lemon juice mixed with garlic give them a wonderful flavor on the grill!

I love summer.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

easy lamb stew

Winter has definitely arrived here in Northern Illinois. It’s cold and daylight is in short supply so of course I find myself making more soups, stews and braises.

On New Years Day I roasted a semi-boneless leg of lamb with garlic and herbs that we enjoyed immensely. (One year I made a whole leg of lamb for Thanksgiving and, while transferring the garlic and herb-rubbed hunk of meat to our 2nd refrigerator in our garage, the entire thing slid off the pan and almost ended up entirely on the garage floor. Ahh….memories.)

Anyway, of course even the smallest lamb roast is too much for just my husband and I so I always turn the leftovers into a simple, rustic stew.

easy lamb stew recipeEventually you’ll get tired of me saying this but please customize this to suit your tastes: Parsnips, red potatoes and leeks are some easy additions or substitutions that come to mind.

Easy Lamb Stew Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups cubed lamb
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 cups stock (I used 3 cups stock made with the bone & 2 cups vegetable stock)
  • 1 cup good red wine (I used red zin)
  • 1 teaspoon good quality dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pan or stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add cubed lamb and brown for about 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and continue cooking until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes more. Add carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. (This is a great way to layer the flavors and season the lamb and veggies before adding the stock)

Add the stock, red wine, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well.

Bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat immediately and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Very simple, very basic and yet the flavor of this is rich and intense. Don’t forget to serve it with a crusty loaf of bread and either a glass of red or a hearty brew.

And, whatever you do, try and keep from dropping anything on the floor.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

lemon oregano lamb shoulder chops recipe

Okay, sorry, but here’s the only photo I captured from this dinner:

lemon oregano lamb shoulder chops recipe lola rugula

This doesn’t take long – the acidity from the lemons make quick work out of the marinade.

If you don’t have fresh oregano, make sure you use the highest-quality dried oregano that you can…this really makes a big difference.

Lamb Chops with Oregano and Lemon Recipe

  • 2 lamb shoulder chops, about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 1/2 – 1 lemon, juiced – about 1 tablespoon
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon good quality dried oregano, or 2 tablespoons fresh, crushed or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

Place your lamb shoulder chops in a shallow dish or pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and rub both sides of chops well. Let sit at room temperature for about 35-45 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight. Be sure if you refrigerate to bring back to room temperature for 30 minutes or so, before cooking.

Preheat oven to 375

Heat a heavy, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Drain the marinade from your lamb chops into the pan and heat, about 3-4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add the chops. Let sear about 4 minutes, turn and brown lightly on the other side, about 3 minutes.

Place pan with chops in oven and finish off, about 8-10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Don’t over-think this…the lemon, oregano, garlic and oil come together beautifully with the lamb. Even if you overcook the chops a bit, this marinade (due to the acidity of the lemon) is very forgiving.

It’s quick, easy and flavorful and you all know how much I love that. In fact, I love it so much that we were half way through dinner before I realized I forgot to take a photo of the finished chops.