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One last chance for summertime grilling

One last chance for summertime grilling


It can’t be the end of summer. I’m not ready for summer to end.

So I did what any normal American male does when confronted with the sudden realization that his favorite season is about to end: I pouted.

Dan Neman prepares an all-purpose chicken rub.

Video by Colter Peterson,

But only for a short time. Then I bought a bag of charcoal and fired up the grill. There is nothing like grilling a lump of meat or a hearty vegetable to extend the pleasures of the summer and keep at bay the dying chill of autumn.

Grilling is primal, it is elementary. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were grilling fatted calves and roasting whole lambs over a fire. They were not preparing a demiglace with champagne vinegar and shallots to use as a sauce.

So I decided to keep my end-of-summer grilling simple and basic, or at least simple.

Also, a reader asked for easy recipes. I may be distraught that the dog days of August are reaching their tail end, but at least I’m accommodating.

I started with a cheeseburger. Yes, everybody knows how to make a cheeseburger, but I have a trick (because I read it in a book) for making it even better: You grate the cheese directly into the ground beef, along with salt and pepper.

The advantage to this method is in the timing, which is directly related to the temperature.

Ordinarily, in order to get the cheese properly melted on top of the burger, you have to put it on when the meat is still slightly undercooked. That way, the cheese finishes semi-melting just when the meat is perfectly done.

It isn’t easy to get right. But with the cheese already mixed into the burger, it melts into the meat, which you can cook to the exact temperature that you like. When you eat it, you get a delightful pop of cheese flavor in nearly every bite.

I next made one of my favorite ways to make steak. It’s called Mustard Lime Steak because the steak is coated with a crust made from dry mustard, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce — and yes, I know that sounds awful.

But it isn’t. It really isn’t.

The sharpness of the mustard is softened by the umami earthiness of the Worcestershire sauce, with bright notes provided by the lime. It’s actually kind of genius, and is as delicious as it is unexpected. And because you slice the meat thin to serve it, you can use it on almost any kind of steak.

For a vegetable dish, I went with Grilled Asparagus With Olive Oil and Parmesan, an extraordinary dish from the restaurant Chez Panisse. That’s the Berkeley, California, establishment that basically started the food revolution in this country and is still cherished as one of the best in the land.

Many of its recipes are difficult, but this one is simple. Just coat asparagus spears in olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them until they are done, sprinkle with lemon juice and then top them with crispy pancetta and chopped egg.

Leave it to Chez Panisse to come up with a perfect balance of the dissimilar flavors. Thin shavings of salty Parmesan cheese on top thrillingly bring the dish to life.

My last dish took a little work to prepare, but only a little — and it was all done the night before.

Tandoori Chicken is one of the most popular dishes in Indian restaurants in this country. It is difficult to make at home, because doing it right requires a tandoor oven, a clay oven that cooks at about 900 degrees.

You probably don’t have one, though they are available. Nonetheless, you can create your own less-hot version of Tandoori Chicken in your own grill — using indirect heat.

I cobbled together a recipe, using ideas from two different sources and a few of my own. The chicken is marinated for several hours, preferably overnight, in yogurt mixed with a blend of spices. The mix that I used worked particularly well.

It does require eight spices, plus lemon juice, the yogurt and the chicken, and you are likely to have them all only if you cook Indian food fairly often. If you like, you could use garam masala — most stores carry it — to replace any of the ingredients you don’t have. The result will be different, but who knows? Maybe it will be better.

That said, the chicken I made was fairly amazing. Tandoori Chicken should not be a very spicy dish, but I put a little heat in mine for good luck. You can reduce or eliminate the cayenne pepper (or Indian chili powder) if you want it more mild.

It was just a remarkable dish for the end of summer. I’m sure I’ll be making it in the fall, winter and spring, too.

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