A few years ago, Harford County suffered through another massive blizzard. Schools were closed and some businesses shut down rather than have their employees risk life and limb to get to work. People pitched in to help their neighbors shovel sidewalks and snow-blow driveways. I, on the other hand, had only one concern. Would I be able to clear a path through the snow to obtain access to my grill? I’m sure that my neighbors though I was nuts to fire up my Weber in the middle of a February snowstorm.
Fortunately at this time of year, you don’t have to brave the elements to whip up a burger with all the fixins fresh off the grill. Or a thick, juicy steak. But if you’d like to try something a little different, here are two of my favorite recipes that are easy crowd pleasers. First, “burgers” made with ground lamb rather than beef. If you have never tried lamb, you are surely missing out.
Mix together 2/3 of a cup of freshly chopped mint, 4 teaspoons paprika, 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then combine 3 pounds of ground lamb with this mixture.
Shape into 8 patties and grill over medium heat. In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups of baby spinach, 2.5 cups of crumbled feta cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Place the salad on each bun along with a slice of red onion. You can certainly toast the buns if you wish – ciabatta rolls work well with this recipe.
Another recipe that I simply adore is a grilled eggplant salad. It’s so fresh, healthy and almost effortless to prepare. It pairs well with almost any main dish, including burgers.
GRILLED EGGPLANT & BELL PEPPER SALAD
Cut 3 Japanese eggplants in half lengthwise and brush with olive oil, then season with salt and ground black pepper. Take 2 bell peppers and brush the outsides with olive oil (I typically use 1 orange one and 1 yellow one just to make this salad pretty). Grill the veggies until lightly charred. The eggplant will take approximately 2 – 3 minutes per side. The peppers take a bit longer to cook. Once the peppers are finished cooking, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. This will allow the steam to soften the peppers before they are cut into thin slices. The eggplant should be cut into segments of medium thickness.
Next, chop up ¾ cup of Kalamata olives and add in the grilled vegetables and a small red onion, very thinly sliced. Add the juice of one lemon, a ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh cilantro. Can be served chilled or at room temperature and lasts for several days in your frig.
As you can see, your grill is your best friend in the “kitchen” at any time of year! Don’t think of your grill as a cooking device solely for steaks and burgers – it can be used to cook almost ANY type of dish. Even desserts! If your belly still has room for dessert after eating the main course, try cutting any type of stone fruit in half, remove the pit, brush with a little canola oil and put it on your grill at medium heat.
Stone fruits are peaches, plums, nectarines, etc. Cook these for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden brown. Serve with pound cake, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, chopped nuts, whatever your heart desires. The possibilities are endless so don’t be afraid to experiment.