When we moved into our house a few years ago, there in the backyard was a gas grill. I had never seen one before, much less used one, and I treated it with distant respect.
But as the summer weather grew warmer, the grill seemed to beckon, and I soon found myself using it every hot night, that is to say, from early June to mid-September.
Besides ease, the other great advantage is that the food cooked upon it tastes of itself and the fire - not of the petroleum from which briquettes and starter fluid are derived.
The same caution for any kind of broiling holds: Watch closely. Food left unattended over the fire, no matter how low, will be engulfed by a blaze the moment you turn away.
Although cooking over an outdoor fire is man's most ancient way of cooking, in our modern world it somehow seems more exotic. As I find myself experimenting with things I wouldn't consider inside the kitchen, my repertoire of recipes for the grill is fast expanding. Next winter I may try them in the oven.
Here are a few ideas which you might like to try. All are surprisingly easy and inexpensive. If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water several hours ahead of time to keep them from burning.
Particularly appropriate to the barbecue, the cuts of pork, lamb, and salmon used here have extra fat which melts away in cooking, making the meat moist and flavorful.
The grilled vegetables, because of their high water content, taste juicy and delicious. Children who do not ordinarily like vegetables often find these appealing. Marinated Pork and Pineapple on Skewers 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup peanut oil 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 garlic clove, minced 3 scallions, green tops included, finely chopped 2 pounds pork, not too lean, such as country style ribs, cut in 1-inch cubes 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
Mix together soy sauce, honey, oil, and mustard in shallow baking pan. Add scallions and garlic and combine thoroughly. Put pork in marinade, turning to coat all sides. Marinate it for at least 3 hours or overnight, turning from time to time.
Skewer pork and pineapple alternately. Grill over low flames, turning often and basting with remaining marinade, until pork is cooked through, but still juicy and succulent. Serve with steamed rice. Serves 4. Barbecued Ribs of Lamb 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel 1 garlic clove, minced 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Salt and pepper to taste 4 pounds lamb breast, cut into ribs
Mix together oil, lemon juice, and seasonings in shallow pan. Put lamb ribs in marinade and leave for at least 3 hours, turning occasionally. Grill over medium heat not too close to flame, so that fat will melt away without the meat burning.
Turn ribs with tongs and brush from time to time with marinade. Serve hot with herbed rice. Grilled vegetables go very well with lamb and provide a lively contrast. Serves 4. Herbed Salmon en Brochettes 4 ounces butter 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced 1 shallot, minced 2 tablespoons lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste 2 pounds salmon belly strips
Put butter and seasonings in food processor bowl and, using metal blade, combine all ingredients. Or soften butter in a bowl and whip it with seasonings until well blended.
With a sharp knife, cut off fins from salmon strips and cut strips into approximately 1 1/2-inch pieces. Fold pieces in two and put on skewers securely.
Cook over medium hot fire and dot with bits of herb butter. Turn skewers often and baste fish with more butter. Watch closely so that salmon cooks evenly and does not burn. Serves 4 as main course and 6 as first course. Marinated Grilled Vegetables 3/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup vinegar 6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 2 scallions, green tops included, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced Salt and pepper to taste 1 medium small eggplant 1 medium zucchini 1 medium yellow squash 1 sweet red pepper
Mix together oil, vinegar, and seasonings in bowl or wide shallow pan. Peel eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add eggplant and squash to coat all sides. Halve and seed pepper and cut each half into eighths.
Put vegetables on skewers, arranging colors to contrast. Brush with remaining marinade and grill over medium heat, turning and basting often, until they begin to color on the outside and turn tender and juicy on the inside. Serves 6.