Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! (Ed’s Grilled Leg of Lamb)

Ready for a glass
of wine and family
It is warm, sunny and a tad humid today; and the backyard is leafed out and perfect for a late afternoon family get together.  Steve and I just finished preparing the deck and screen porch (i.e. blow off and hose off yet another layer of pollen!) for the sitting and chatting that will take place before and after the dinner of grilled leg of lamb my brother Ed and I are making for Easter Dinner.
The inside table is ready, too.

Ed makes a fantastic leg of lamb – boned and butterflied; then marinated overnight in wine, Worcestershire, garlic and rosemary.  I’ll provide that recipe now.  Later on I’ll share the recipe for the salad that will precede the lamb – featuring grapefruit and avocado salad with a vinaigrette made from blood-orange infused olive oil.

Ed’s Grilled Leg of Lamb
Measurements are proportions, not exact.

You will need: 
  • One leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
  • A big bunch of rosemary
  • Garlic. Lots of garlic.
  • An onion, optional
  • One lemon
  • Worchestershire sauce
  • A quarter to a half a bottle of red wine. Use what you like to drink; cuz that's what you'll do with the rest of the wine while you grill the lamb.
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Bah Bah Marinade
Combine in an extra large plastic bag or 13” x 9” baking dish
  • 2/3 red wine
  • Other 1/3 equal parts (or use your own judgment, I don't measure: olive oil and Worcestershire sauce)
  • About 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • A handful of chopped rosemary (good amount)
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Prep the lamb -- do this the night before if possible
  • To the marinade mixture above, add  1 leg of lamb, boned and butterflied. It may come tied up like a roast.  If so, snip and remove the strings.
  •  Marinade the meat overnight in plastic bag; rotate when you get up in the morning and every now and then throughout the day.
  • About 30 minutes before you plan to grill the meat, pull it from the marinade,  blot it dry and let it loose some of the chill from the fridge.  At this time you can also poke holes in the meat and shove slivers of garlic and/or onion in.  I highly recommend this, but it is not mandatory.
  • It’s also good to run metal skewers through the meat in a criss-cross fashion to hold the meat out flat. Again, not mandatory – don’t let a lack of skewers keep you from doing the dish.

Grill time
  • Heat a gas grill, all burners on high until screaming hot.  Sear the lamb, fat side down; then flip and sear the other side. Then lower the heat to Medium Off Medium.  Top with rosemary sprigs for added flavor and grill indirect method, until the meat is done to medium rare. 
  • I’m hesitant to offer specific times, because each piece of meat is different (depending on how thick, and how many pounds the roast is, etc.).  I’ve seen anywhere from 30 minutes total to 40 minutes or even an hour. Just remember, that the meat will continue to cook on the plate as it rests.  And nothing is worst than overcooked lamb!
  • For my money, I remove from the grill when an instant read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 130°F (for medium rare).  Then tent loosely with foil and let the meat rest at least 10 minutes. 

 Time to serve
Our game plan for tonight is let it rest during the salad course.  Then I’ll steam some asparagus and carrots and finish up the parsley potatoes while Steve carves the lamb. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Weeknight evening with friends (Crostini with Warm Tomato Compote)

There was a time when I never would have had folks over for dinner on a work night. But one gets older, stops striving for perfection and soon finds that there’s no time like the present when good friends are involved.

Hyco Lake, North Carolina
It was in this spirit that we had two of our favorite new friends over for dinner the other night. Rusty and Debi live out at Hyco Lake and we’ve had many fun times at their home.  It was good to be able to return a little hospitality and share some good times on our turf.

I literally threw the meal together while they sat at the counter that separates the family room from the kitchen. We’d all had long days and it was good to chat and sip a glass of wine while I chopped and sautéed to my heart’s content. To get things started I tried out an appetizer I’ve been making lately – and it got rave reviews.  You probably have all the ingredients in the house – I hope you give it a try.

Crostini with Warm Tomato Compote
Serves 4

  • 4-6 slices of crusty bread, cut half or quarters (depending on the size of the slices) and brushed with olive oil – I used a whole wheat sour dough from Box Turtle Breads, one of our local artisanal bakeries
  • 1 Tbs good olive oil – I’m in to Spanish olive oil these days, very mild and tasty
  • 10 cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs, or herbs d’ Province
  • Good Parmesan cheese, shaved off into pieces with a vegetable peeler (or you could use shredded cheese if you don’t have a whole block of the good stuff)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 or so grinds of black pepper

Over a low flame in a small to medium sized sauce pan:
  • Warm the oil and the garlic for about 3 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes, cut side down
  • Sprinkle the salt, pepper and herbs over the mixture
  • Cook for about 10 minutes, squishing down the tomatoes gently as they become soft.  You want them to become almost jam-like, but stay intact.

  • While the tomatoes are cooking, heat a grill pan until it is screaming hot and grill the bread.  Dry side first, oiled side last, until you have nice grill marks. 
  • Remove and pile on a platter. 
  • Next to the bread, pile up the shavings of Parmesan cheese

 Time to assemble
  • When the tomatoes are warm and fragrant, put them in a small bowl and serve with the bread and cheese. 
  • Have your guests put a tomato half or two on the grilled bread and then top with a shard of the cheese. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bring on the Good Weather, Fire up the Grill (Some Like ‘em Hot Fish Tacos – with Salsa Blanca)

Ready to fold and enjoy
One thing that you learn when you live where there are seasons and weather – never take a good grilling day for granted.  We’ve been having a few more of these days lately, as the days grow longer and the winter chill subsides.  And I can think of no better way to celebrate those days than to fire up the grill and make my (award-winning) fish tacos.

Yep, these babies won me a shiny new gas grill in a cooking contest back in the late 80s.  Actually, I took the cash, but it was the first time I actually documented a recipe and had the chutzpa to share it.  And I won!  Woo hoo!
Mahi mahi headed for the grill

I made up a batch a few weeks ago and the fixin’s were so pretty I posted the pre-grillin’ photo on Facebook.  Next thing I knew I had request after request for the recipe.  Sorry for the delay, Friends, but I no longer have the original print-out of the recipe – tonight was truly the first chance I’ve had to jot it down.


Some Like ‘em Hot Fish Tacos – with Salsa Blanca
Serves 4

The fish
1 1/2 pounds of cod, or other fresh firm fleshed fish, like mahi mahi or bass.  I’m not a fan of frozen fish, but it can work in a pinch. But you’re much better off going to the fish market or Whole Foods and selecting some fresh fish, preferably from local waters.

For the Rub
  • 2 small or 1 large clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 ½  tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin, crushed in the palm of your hands
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • Olive oil to coat the fish
  • Zest and juice of a lime (hint, to extract maximum juice, roll the lime and then pop it into the microwave for 15 seconds - believe me, it works!)

  • 1 cup queso fresco  (crumbled) or jack cheese (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion (typically Vidalia onions on the east coast and Maui onion on the west coast; sometimes just called "sweet onions")
  • 2-3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced 
  • Salsa Blanca (recipe follows)
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters and quarters cut in half (see hint about limes above)
  • Corn Tortillas – 2 – 3 per person

Salsa Blanca
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 3/4  cup of salsa (any type will do, we like the dark roasted pepper kind)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime

Mix it all up. Oh yeah.

  • Mix all of the dry ingredients to make a rub and sprinkle it all over the fish.  Pat it in.
  • Squeeze the lime juice over the fish
  • Now drizzle some olive oil on the fish and rub it all in.
  • Let this sit for 15 – 20 minutes
  • Fire up the grill so that it is screaming hot.  Then back it off to medium-off-medium
  • Grill the fish until it is firm to the touch; it should be flakey not dried out. 3 to 4 minutes per side will probably do the trick
  • Take the fish off and let it rest, covered lightly with foil, for 5 – 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, toss the tortillas on the grill to warm them.  Cover them with foil to keep them warm.

Assembling the tacos
  • If you are using mahi mahi and there is a dark portion running thru it, cut that nasty stuff out!
  • Break the fish into bit sized pieces.  You can toss with some of the cilantro and chopped onion
  • Put some of the fish and whatever condiments you like into a warm tortilla.