Flame, fat and food.
It is cooking at its most elemental. It's easy, and it's a simple way to get big flavors out of food. And that may explain why, when we grill, we tend to grill foods that are easy and require little preparation.
One of the meats that best takes to grilling is lamb. A couple of years ago I created a dish using primarily Mediterranean flavors that I (not very creatively) called Mediterranean Lamb.
Olive oil, of course, formed the base, and because onions go well with lamb, I sliced an entire onion. Garlic was a given, and I added cumin, which is frequently used along the eastern part of the Mediterranean. And then, for a bit of a bite, I added a bit of unMediterranean ginger.
I marinated the lamb in this mixture overnight, though you could marinate it for as little as two hours, and it would still be great. The spices remain subtle, serving only to highlight the flavor of the grilled lamb.
My favorite way of making steak in the whole world comes from a cookbook put out by the San Francisco restaurant Rose Pistola. It's called Terrorized Steak, and it involves creating a paste of fresh rosemary, fresh marjoram, plenty of garlic, olive oil, salt, two kinds of pepper and cognac. You have to respect any recipe that uses a splash or two of cognac.
This recipe is sublime; you get a powerfully flavorful piece of meat with a superb outer char and a hearty, perfectly cooked interior.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1 (4-pound) boneless leg of lamb
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoons ground ginger
Unroll and pat dry the leg of lamb. Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, cumin and ginger. Roll the lamb in the bowl to coat all sides, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare a hot grill for indirect heat. Cook on the part of the grill away from the heat, covered, for 1 hour or until cooked medium rare or medium (140 to 160 degrees). Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil and allow to rest at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving and serving.
Nutrition per serving (based on 10): 360 calories; 23g fat; 7.5g saturated fat; 120mg cholesterol; 36g protein; 1g carbohydrate; 0.5g sugar; no fiber; 90mg sodium; 20mg calcium.
Yield: 4 servings
Leaves from 6 sprigs marjoram, about 5 inches long
Leaves from 6 sprigs rosemary, about 5 inches long
8 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 strip steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick, about 8 ounces each
In a mortar or mini food processor, pound or process the marjoram, rosemary, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, cognac, olive oil and black pepper into a coarse paste.
Rub paste evenly on both sides of the steaks. Allow the steaks to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hours before grilling.
Grill directly over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until crusty on the outside, about 5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Allow to rest briefly before serving.
Nutrition per serving: 467 calories; 18g fat; 5g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 67g protein; 5g carbohydrate; no sugar; 0.5g fiber; 825mg sodium; 40mg calcium.
GRILLED CHOCOLATE AND MARMALADE SANDWICH
Yield: 1 sandwich
2 slices white bread
1 ounce chocolate
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
Place chocolate on 1 slice of bread, covering as much of the bread as you can. You may have to break or chop the chocolate to do so. Spread the marmalade on the other slice, and put the slices together as a sandwich. Brush melted butter on both sides of the sandwich.
Place on a medium hot grill and cook until both pieces of bread are toasted and have grill marks and the chocolate is melted, turning once. Covering the grill will help it cook faster.
Nutrition per sandwich: 415 calories; 16g fat; 4g saturated fat; 15mg cholesterol; 5g protein; 65g carbohydrate; 40g sugar; 3g fiber; 220mg sodium; 130mg calcium.