The history of grilling began shortly after the domestication of fire, some 500,000 years ago. The backyard ritual of grilling as we know it, though, is much more recent. Until well into the 1040's, grilling mostly happened at campsites and picnics. After World War II, as the middle class began to move to the suburbs, backyard grilling caught on, becoming all the rage by the 1950's.
The first time I had a barbecued burger was in the 50's when I was visiting my aunt and uncle in New Jersey. Up until that time I had never seen a barbecue grill. I remember thinking that I loved the flavor of the grilled burger.
The barbecue grill didn't become popular in my neighborhood for at least 10 more years. My mother and father never bought a grill, but I know my father would have loved experimenting with different recipes and sauces. And on a hot summer evening barbecuing and eating outside, would have been more preferable than eating in our hot kitchen! My parents didn't realize what they were missing.
I was reading an article today about a chef in Belgium who tosses handfuls of what he calls fire spice - a blend of coriander seed, juniper berries, peppercorns, rosemary and other herbs onto the embers to generate fragrant blasts of spice smoke. He'll throw in olive pits from Portugal (excellent for grilling veal, he says) and chips from barrels of kriek, Belgian cherry beer, well suited to poultry and pork.
"In a sense, grilling is a monolithic cooking method, producing a similar taste in everything you cook over the fire," the chef said. "We look to differentiate each dish by spicing not just the meat, but the fire."
Today for Tasty Tuesday I have a great grilling recipe for you. It's a great recipe that you'll grill again and again.
Grilled Flatiron Steaks with Tomatoes and Tapenade
An assertive wet rub gives these steaks a nice crust on the grill. And the spice from the meat pairs with the pungency of the tapenade to play deliciously against the tomatoes and watercress. (The tapenade is great on fish, chicken, and well, anything savory.)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1/3 cup (or more) olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pitted olives (such as Nicoise or Kalamata), chopped
1 Tbs. minced capers
1 garlic clove, minced
2 pounds flatiron, flank, hanger, or skirt steak
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. smoked paprika
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. crushed red pepper
4 large tomatoes 9 about 3 pounds), sliced 1/4" thick
1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings
1/4 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 Tbs. olive oil plus more for drizzling
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed (about 4 cups)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Stir 1/3 cup olive oil, next 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Add more olive oil for a thinner tapenade, if desired. (For a smoother sauce, puree' tapenade in a food processor or blender.) Set aside.
Place steak in a large baking dish and season generously with salt. Stir orange zest and juice and remaining 6 ingredients in a small bowl to combine. Spread mixture evenly over both sides of steak and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or a gas grill to high. Grill steak, turning once, until nicely charred, about 5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Arrange tomatoes on a serving platter. Scatter shallots and parsley over; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, toss watercress with 1 tablespoon each oil and lemon juice. Season watercress to taste with salt.
Mound watercress on a platter. Slice steak against the grain; transfer to a platter with tomatoes and watercress. Spoon tapenade on steak and serve alongside.
You can serve this steak with a French baguette so you can mop-up all the juices