August, 2011 Newsletter — The Hot Summer Issue
This issue started with an idea for the refreshing and light Blistered Tomato Salad, and things kind of spiraled out of control from there. The soft shell crabs looked so good at the market that they had to make an appearance. The lamb joined in because I have been meaning to share a spit-roasted recipe. And the Mint Cherry Lemonade Fizz makes a refreshing finish to the day.
Blistered Tomato Salad
The simple ingredients for this salad are brought to life over the fire of the grill. The grape tomatoes, while naturally sweet, become even sweeter from the heat. They are complemented beautifully by briny olives, flavorful cheese, fresh thyme and grilled bread.
- 2 pints large grape tomatoes, about 36 tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 bamboo skewers
- 3 slices rustic Italian bread
- Fine sea salt
- About 42 Gaeta olives
- 4 ounces feta
- cheese (I prefer goat’s milk feta), cut into cubes
- Fresh thyme leaves picked from 3 to 4 sprigs
Prepare the grill for direct grilling over high heat (about 600°F).
Toss the grape tomatoes in a medium bowl with enough olive oil to coat. Skewer them.
Generously brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt.
Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until soft, blistered and well-marked, about 6 minutes. Remove from the grill and reserve.
Grill the bread until marked and browned. Remove from the grill and cut into cubes.
Assemble on individual salad plates by combining the blistered tomatoes (discard the skewers), grilled bread, olives and cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil onto each salad, sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve.
Grilled Soft Shell Crabs with Corn and Leek Relish
Soft shell crabs are in season in August, and they are great off the grill. The shells become bright red and crispy over the fire. The relish of grilled corn and leeks, with a hint of champagne vinegar, makes a perfect pairing.
- 1 leek
- 6 soft shell crabs, cleaned
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- 2 ears corn, shucked
- 2 cloves garlic (left in the papery skins)
- 1 serrano chile
- 1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Lemon wedges for garnish
Prepare the grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat (about 450°F). A wood fire is preferred.
Remove the base and the top greens of the leek and discard, reserving the white and light green portion only. Cut in half lengthwise.
Brush the leek and the crabs with olive oil and season with salt.
Place the leek on the grill, cut-side-down, and the garlic alongside it. These go on first because they will take the longest to cook. Turn the garlic occasionally until browned and softened, about 6 minutes. Grill the leek until browned, turning once after about 5 minutes and grilling for 1 to 2 minutes more.
Add the corn and the chile to the grill a couple of minutes after starting the leek and garlic. Turn both occasionally until browned. About 4 minutes.
Remove everything from the grill and devote your full attention to grilling the crabs. Place them directly over the fire and grill, turning once, until the shells are crispy and marked and the tops have turned bright red. About 6 minutes total. Remove from the grill.
To make the relish, cut the corn kernels from the cobs, cut up the leek and chop the Serrano. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skins and into a medium bowl. Add the vinegar and lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Whisk together into an emulsion. Add the corn, leek and Serrano to the bowl and toss to combine.
Serve the crabs, whole or quartered, on top of the corn relish.
Spit-roasted Leg of Lamb over Grits and Tomatoes
I have been meaning to share a rotisserie recipe, and the time has finally come. I cooked this lamb on the spit with an apple wood fire going in the grill down below, but you can certainly use an infrared rotisserie burner for a more conventional approach.
- 2 heads garlic, peeled
- Leaves picked from 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon salt (I used Alder-smoked sea salt)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 red onions
- 2 pints mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- Large cast-iron Dutch oven or roasting pan (large enough to sit below the lamb leg and catch the drippings)
- 1 cup (dry) yellow corn grits
- 2 cups water
- Perforated grilling pan
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
- 1 tablespoon flour (optional)
Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and process to a medium-fine texture.
If the lamb came from the butcher in an elastic net, remove and discard the net and re-tie with butcher’s twine. Skewer the leg onto the rotisserie rod and secure with forks. Brush the lamb with olive oil, and then coat with the seasoning blend, pressing the seasoning into the meat with your hands. Let the lamb rest and rise to room temperature for about 45 minutes.
Prepare the grill for rotisserie cooking with high heat. You can either use an infrared rotisserie burner or a fire down below in the grill. I prefer a wood fire for lamb.
Cut up the onions into “petals.” Place in the cast iron pan along with the tomatoes, red wine and vegetable broth. Toss to coat.
Mount the rotisserie rod into the grill. Place the pan with the tomatoes and onions below the lamb to catch the drippings. Turn on the rotisserie, close the hood, and cook until the lamb is browned on the outside and rare to medium-rare on the inside. Depending on your equipment and setup, this can take 45 to 90 minutes.
Once the lamb has started, get ready to make the grits. Follow the instructions on the packaging for preparing grits from 1 cup of the dry grain. Pre-heat the water now so it can quickly come to a boil when the lamb is done. Wait to cook the grits until the lamb is resting.
I prefer my lamb towards rare, so I remove it from the grill when the internal temperature reads 120ºF. Check the temperature after 45 minutes to avoid over-cooking, and make sure you don’t touch the rotisserie rod with the thermometer, or it may throw off the reading. When done, remove the spit from the grill and let the lamb rest while you finish the rest of the dish. It is best to suspend the lamb rather than letting the weight of the rod push the meat into a cutting board.
If you cooked the lamb using a rotisserie burner, turn off that burner and fire up the grill for direct grilling over high heat. Place a perforated grilling pan over the fire. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes and onions to the grilling pan. Whisk the drippings and liquids left behind in the cast iron pan to start a sauce. If you wish to thicken the sauce, start a quick roux in a separate pan using the optional flour and butter. Once the roux is cooked to light brown, whisk it into the sauce. Keep the sauce warm in a cooler part of the grill while the tomatoes and onions continue over high heat.
Prepare the grits.
Remove the lamb from the spit and slice it. Plate by first laying down a little of the red wine sauce. Top with a mound of grits to one side and the roasted tomatoes and onions to the other side. Add the lamb and enjoy.
Mint Cherry Lemonade Fizz
This drink is amazingly refreshing on a hot summer day. The mint is kept subtle so as not to dominate the cherries.
- 6 cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 1 large mint leaf
- 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar
- 1 ounce freshly-squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 2 ounces Milagro Silver Tequilla (or 2 ounces gin plus a splash of dry vermouth)
- Crushed ice
- Club soda
For each drink, pit the cherries and toss them directly into the glass. Add the mint and sprinkle in the sugar. Add the lemon juice and then thoroughly muddle it all together. Add the tequila (or gin and vermouth if you prefer) and stir together. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add club soda to top up.