Throughout much of the Mediterranean, cooks flavor lamb with lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Not long ago, my globe-trotting brother turned me on to a Turkish marinade that’s a little different and every bit as delicious. Its dominant flavors are onion (in the unusual form of juice) and cinnamon. Here I use that marinade for grilled butterflied leg of lamb and round out the menu with grilled, glazed shallots and a lemony, spicy salsa-salad hybrid of high-season tomatoes and cucumbers.
ONION- AND CINNAMON-MARINATED GRILLED LAMB
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
16 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper
4 pounds butterflied boneless leg of lamb
Neutral oil, for the grill
In a blender, puree the onions, garlic, and 1 cup water. Strain (you should have 2 cups juice) and discard solids. Return to blender, add 1/3 cup olive oil, oregano, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper, and blend.
Open butterflied lamb as flat as possible on work surface. Use a very sharp knife to trim fat, gristle, and silver skin from both sides of the meat, then, working on the interior, score a ¼-inch-deep (cutting slightly deeper in thicker parts) crosshatch pattern, pressing meat so it lays flat. Place with the onion marinade in a zipper-lock bag or bowl, lightly massage, seal or cover, and refrigerate for 8 to 36 hours. Remove meat (discard the marinade) and dry well. Rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then rub with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Prepare a two-level fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using a gas grill, leave a burner on high, adjust the others to medium heat; you’ll grill with the lid closed.) Oil the grate and grill the lamb on the hot side of the grill, undisturbed (unless the fire flares up, in which case close grill or move meat to cool side until fire dies down), until well seared and dark brown, about 12 minutes over charcoal or 14 to 16 minutes over gas, turning the lamb halfway through grilling time. Move lamb to the cooler side and continue grilling 5 to 15 minutes longer (cover if using a gas grill), until meat reaches 122 degrees for rare, 125 for medium-rare, or 130 to 135 degrees for medium to medium-well, turning as necessary. Transfer to a carving board, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve.
MARINATED GRILLED SHALLOTS
The idea for this dish comes from a recipe in Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen. I take liberties by switching to shallots and adding honey.
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and pepper
30 medium shallots (about 1¼ pounds), peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using a gas grill, adjust burners to medium-high and grill with the lid closed.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cumin and ¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Thread shallots onto skewers (use 4 or 5 pairs of 2 skewers held about ½ inch apart; this will keep the shallots from rolling). Brush with the oil and sprinkle with the cumin mixture. Grill until tender and grill-marked, about 12 minutes, turning once.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses and honey. Slide the shallots into the sauce, toss, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, toss in the mint, and serve.
SPICY TOMATO AND CUCUMBER SALAD
Makes about 6 cups
Also adapted from Planet Barbecue.
1½ teaspoons finely grated zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 medium serrano chilies, seeded if desired and chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
3 medium-large ripe-but-firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
½ medium sweet onion, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh mint
In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice, garlic, chilies, red pepper, thyme, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Toss with the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, and mint. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.