Blooming Herbs and Backyard Grilling

5 months ago By Christine Sahadi Whelan
Blooming Herbs and Backyard Grilling

Summer in New York City normally means steamy hot days with sunshine. This summer has started off a bit grey and cooler, so when a recent weekend started shaping up nicely my thoughts turned to BBQ and backyard entertaining. I am one of those people who perks up considerably in the sunshine.

I love the smell of grilled foods mingling with the aromatic scents from my blooming herb garden. This year I have added purple sage, golden oregano and lemongrass to my traditional spicy oregano, mint, English thyme, rosemary, zaatar and cilantro plants. I also bought 5 different kinds of basil because I love the colors and textures.  My husband Pat is a terrific gardener and spends hours making sure it blooms for as long as possible.

Summer for us is outdoor grilling and easy marinades and glazes. We prefer easy dishes packed with flavor, preferably dishes that can be eaten hot or at room temperature since we love a good open house. This weekend I had an urge for a slightly richer meal. We decided to do baby loin lamb chops and center cut salmon filet on the grill. Both are great marinated a day before and grill up quickly. I used two of my go-to spice blends to marinate these proteins.

First, I divided the loin chops and drizzled zaatar and extra virgin olive oil on each lamb chop (1 tablespoon to a ¼ c oil) and let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Then I mixed up a freshly picked mint and yogurt dip with scallions, cucumbers, Aleppo pepper and lemon juice. When the grill was super hot, I brushed the marinated chops with some all natural pomegranate molasses and set them on the grill for a quick sear.  I flipped them, glazed the other side and took off to rest after another 1-2 minutes.  They were beautifully seared and juicy. I served it alongside the dip, vine cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumbers.  So quick and so delicious!

I always also prepare fish when I do red meat because that satisfies most of my immediate family. I supplemented these chops with a beautiful 2 lb center cut filet of salmon. Salmon is a rich fish and can take on stronger flavors than most. I marinated it in Berbere Ethiopian Spices with extra virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon to a ¼ c oil) for a few hours. Then I lined the grill with a piece of foil coated with olive oil and grilled center side up for 5 minutes, brushing once again with the remaining pomegranate molasses. I didn’t even need to flip the salmon. The bottom browned nicely and the top glazed. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro, filet was a great meal. I served it with steamed butternut squash ribbons drizzled with the balance of that pomegranate molasses, just because it looked fun and tasted amazing.

We are looking forward to a wonderful summer with terrific weather so we can try some of the other dishes we have been waiting to grill throughout this long rainy spring. Next up: whole red snapper with fresh herbs and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. Can’t wait for next weekend!