Grilled lamb and vegetables for Fourth of July

Declare independence from your hot stove and kitchen and get grillin’ — and not merely because July is National Grilling Month. But it is.

Just sayin’.

These two recipes have come off my grill I can’t tell you how many times; they’re perennial faves for both friends and family.

The grilled vegetables are served as a warm vegetable course, or as the insides of any number of summer sandwiches (with grilled bread, of course), or as stand-alone finger food when served room or ambient temperature on a picnic or for a cocktail party.

The lamb marinade goes back decades; I do not remember from whom I first picked up the recipe. It has never failed to elicit oohs and ahhs. Butterflying a leg is quick work for any butcher, or you may do it yourself if you purchase a boneless leg. The only caution is not to marinate the meat for more than four hours (or, certainly, overnight, something I once did to great regret). The acidity from the cider vinegar makes mush of the meat muscle and that is a big no-no.

The grilled lemons make a nice add-on. Squeezing lemon juice on grilled lamb is quite favored outside this country (especially in Greece), and is a good lesson learned.

Grilled Vegetables 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 large, fairly flat red onion
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers
  • 2 large, firm ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 medium, firm glossy zucchini
  • 1/4 pound broad mushroom caps such as portobello
  • 24 large, fat green beans
  • 4 medium carrots, scrubbed but unpeeled
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Parboil the carrots and beans, separately, for 10 minutes each. Drain and run under cool water, then drain again and set aside. Remove the crackly, outer skin of the onion but cut through neither the root end nor point. Halve horizontally, from pole to pole. Wash the peppers; leave them whole and set aside. Wash the eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch thick “steaks,” salt each side lightly and set in a colander for 15 minutes to let the bitter juices leach out. Cut the washed zucchini 1/2 inch thick lengthwise. Wipe or brush the mushroom caps free of any significant dirt.

Light your fire and when the grill is very hot, begin by first placing the onion on the grill, cut-sides down. Then generously toss or brush the peppers with olive oil and add them to the grill. Turn the peppers every five minutes or so until they are charred black all over. They will look awful when done, but you simply take them off the grill, place them in a paper bag, seal it loosely, and let the charred skin steam off for about 15 minutes. Scrape the peppers of their skin, open them, seed them and cut them into big, flat strips. Toss these with a little more olive oil and cracked pepper and serve with the other vegetables when everything is done.

Keep checking the onion and turn it over to the round side when the cut side is dark brown and brush it with a little olive oil. When done, the onion will yield to slight pressure and its outsides will be deliciously crisp and its meat, sweet. Remove from the grill; set aside.

To a very large bowl, add the remaining raw vegetables and toss with more olive oil to coat only; salt and pepper liberally. Place the vegetables on the grill, working in batches if you need room, making sure you place the beans at cross-angles to the grill work. When all are well charred, remove and set aside. By and large, the tomatoes, mushroom caps and zucchini strips will take less time to cook on both sides than the carrots, eggplant or beans, but that is merely a general rule. The overall idea is to caramelize as much of the native sugars in all the vegetables and only the griller’s eye can determine that.

Grilled Marinated Butterflied Leg of Lamb 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 4-6 pound leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2-3 lemons, halved at their equators

Directions

Mix all the ingredients together except for the lamb and lemon halves. Marinate the lamb for at least two hours, in or out of the refrigerator, turning occasionally. After marinating, if the lamb has been in the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature. Remove lamb from the marinade and grill over the hottest portion of the grill, covered, until well-crusted on both sides. Place on the less-hot portion of the grill and continue cooking for 15-25 minutes more, covered and turning just a couple of times, or until the interior temperature of the lamb reaches 130 for medium-rare (the lamb will continue to cook while resting).

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, loosely tent with foil, and let rest for at least 10 minutes or for up to 1/2 hour. Brush the lemon halves on their flat sides with olive oil and grill them, flat side down, until nicely charred and blackened, about 3-5 minutes. Thickly slice the lamb against the grain and serve with the lemon halves for squeezing.

Reach Bill St John at bsjpost@gmail.com

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