THE MENU Roasted Red Bell Peppers with Anchovies Grilled or Broiled Butterflied Leg of Lamb Potatoes with Garlic Puree Small White Onions Baked in Foil Broiled Tomatoes Sauteed Broccoli Sliced Peaches with Eau de Vie de Mirabelle orKirsch, with Creme Fraiche
THIS STURDY MEAL, which celebrates the end of the cookout season, should, if possible, be eaten outdoors, ideally on an T evening that is end-of-summer balmy yet crisp with the promise of fall. A supply of sweaters or shawls may be in order for less hardy friends, and should it rain, the party can without too much sacrifice be moved indoors. Even the meat can be as easily cooked under the kitchen broiler.
Garlic in various treatments produces an extraordinary range of tastes in many of the dishes in this meal. For the first course, red bell peppers are roasted to bring out their depth of flavor. These are combined with anchovies and dressed with a lemony vinaigrette whose several herbs are reinforced with crushed raw garlic. The result may not be subtle but it does, somehow, avoid coarseness.
Next is a butterflied leg of lamb whose flat, boneless succulence is made fragrant with a garlicky wine-lemon marinade, enhanced with sprigs of fresh oregano or whatever fresh herbs are growing in profusion. These flavors merge with the lamb as it is grilled over charcoal and, if the grill has a kettle top, smoked as it is cooked to a brown-encrusted pink deliciousness.
Brightening the lamb are four vegetables which make an aromatic bouquet of red, green and white. Small potatoes are boiled and then napped with a most delicate baked garlic pure'e, whose softness in texture is matched by its sweetness of aroma and flavor. Broccoli is saute'ed in olive oil with crushed whole cloves of garlic which add a pronounced but refined flavor. Small white onions, baked with a little butter in an envelope of foil, have a purity and intensity undiluted by water. The onions give off their own liquid which combines with the butter to make a natural sauce. For a little tingle and a lot of color, there are chunks of tomatoes, still so good, broiled until they are delicately charred.
The meal ends with the last, alas, peaches of summer. Here they are peeled, sliced and refreshed with kirsch or eau de vie de mirabelle, a delectable, clear and potent liqueur made either in Alsace or Germany from golden plums the size of fat cherries. A bowl of cre me frai che is passed for those who wish to top the peaches with a little iniquity.
I have indicated three alternative ways to go about the simple business of skinning and roasting red bell peppers. Because these peppers are now so plentiful and reasonably priced (particularly at Magruder's and the Bethesda Avenue Co-op), this is the time to buy lots for the freezer. The peppers should be roasted, skinned, cored and seeded and then laid flat on a jellyroll pan lined with waxed paper. After they are frozen, they can be popped into heavy plastic bags and stored in the freezer for use in winter when they are either not available or hideously expensive. The sauce in this recipe, which uses anchovy oil, borrows from cookbook author Michael Field. In this way you get the benefit of the flavor from the anchovies' oil while the added olive oil, lemon juice and herbs tone down the saltiness.
Any butcher worthy of the name will happily butterfly a leg of lamb for a customer. My local supermarket was even able to bone a leg for me on a Sunday, when help in the back room is usually sparse. A butterflied leg of lamb has a strange lumpiness that should not be a source of worry. When the meat is broiled it looks quite respectable and has the advantage of yielding well-done slices from the thinner parts and pink slices from the thicker parts. I commend the mild smokiness that a kettle grill gives the lamb.
The garlic-butter pure'e for the potatoes can be prepared a day or two in advance, especially if the oven must be on for another purpose. Two heads seem extreme but are not, since the gentle flavor of garlic baked in foil has no relationship whatever to garlic in any other form. A little lemon juice can be added to the garlic-butter-parsley mixture and used to sauce cauliflower, on which it is particularly splendid.
The onions can sit in the oven without any attention during their cooking. It is a good idea to open up the foil package and test them for doneness after 50 minutes since they benefit from a little crunch. The broccoli is saute'ed on the stove and the tomatoes are placed under the broiler while the outdoor cook is busy with the meat. Since the indoor work is accomplished in about 10 minutes, the vegetable cook misses little of what is going on outdoors.
Eau de vie de mirabelle, available in most good liquor stores, ranges in price from around $16 to $35. You usually get what you pay for when buying these liqueurs so I consider each bottle a long-term investment. My liqueurs are used only to enhance the taste of foods and not at all for sipping, so they last. The best cre me frai che is made with the best cream. Lewes Dairy makes an excellent heavy cream which is available, among other places, at Neam's and the Bethesda Avenue Co-op. ROASTED RED PEPPERS WITH ANCHOVIES (8 servings)
6 large red bell peppers 2 2-ounce cans flat fillets of anchovies 4 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 tablespoons minced shallot 3 tablespoons minced parsley 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives 1/2 teaspoon pepper 8 small black nicoise olives
Roast the peppers until their skins are blistered and charred all over by one of the following methods: Spear the peppers, one at a time, with a long-handled fork and hold over an open gas flame, turning until ready. Or place the peppers under a broiler about four inches from the flame and broil, turning with tongs so the flesh isn't pierced. Or place the peppers on a ridged top-of-the-stove steak grill and roast over medium heat, turning the peppers with tongs.
Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag and let them sit in the bag until they are cool enough to handle. Then rub the skins off and remove the stems and the seeds. Cut the peppers into one-inch strips and place in a bowl. Refrigerate until needed. The peppers can be roasted a day in advance.
To make the marinade, place a small sieve over a bowl and empty the anchovies and their oil into the sieve. Allow the anchovies to drain for 5 minutes and remove them to another dish. Beat the remaining ingredients, except the black olives, into the anchovy oil. Set aside.
Two hours before serving, divide the strips of pepper equally among eight salad plates. Criss-cross the anchovy fillets over the strips, dividing them equally. Spoon equal parts of the marinade over the anchovies and peppers and place a black olive on the top of each portion. Cover the plates lightly with plastic wrap and allow to set at room temperature until serving. Serve with thinly sliced french bread. GRILLED OR BROILED BUTTERFLIED LEG OF LAMB (8 servings) 7-pound leg of lamb Juice of 1 lemon 1/3 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup olive oil 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper 1 bay leaf, crumbled 1 teaspoon dried oregano Several sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme, if available
Have the butcher butterfly the leg of lamb and ask him to remove as much fat as possible. Then, with a sharp knife, remove any fat and fell (the thin skin that covers the leg) that remains. Mix the remaining ingredients in a roasting pan large enough to hold the meat and place the lamb in the marinade. Turn the lamb over and rub it all over with the marinade. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, turning the lamb whenever you think of it. Two hours before the lamb is to be cooked, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature. Turn it during this time at least once.
To grill the meat outdoors, let the charcoal burn down until the coals have a light coating of gray ash. This will take about 30 minutes. Without wiping off the marinade, place the fresh herbs, if available, on the grill and the lamb over them. Cook the meat for 15 minutes on the one side and then turn it over and cook for 10 minutes on the second side. At this point test for doneness by making a small cut in the thickest part of the meat. If it is bloody red rather than a nice pink, return it to the grill for another 5 minutes. If yours is a kettle grill, sear the meat in the herbs for 5 minutes on each side, then cover the grill and continue cooking (and smoking) the meat for 15 minutes, or until the thickest part of the lamb tests done.
To broil indoors, preheat the broiler for at least 20 minutes. Without wiping off the marinade, place the fresh herbs, if available, on the broiler and the lamb over them four inches from the heat. Broil for 15 minutes on the first side and 10 minutes on the second side. If at any point the meat looks as though it is charring, turn the heat down. Test for doneness by making a small cut in the thickest part of the meat. If it is bloody red rather than a nice pink, return it to the broiler for another 5 minutes.
Carve the lamb as though it were a flank steak, on the diagonal and against the grain. The thinner parts will be well done and the thicker parts pink. POTATOES WITH GARLIC-BUTTER PUREE (8 servings) 2 large whole, intact heads of garlic 4 tablespoons butter, softened 4 tablespoons minced parsley Salt and pepper to taste 24 small new potatoes (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), or enough large red bliss potatoes which, when peeled and trimmed, can be carved into 24 small potatoes
Place the garlic into a loosely fitting envelope of foil and crimp the edges tightly. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and allow the garlic to cool. Separate the heads into buds and snip off the end of each bud with a pair of scissors. Holding the garlic over a bowl, squeeze each bud, out of which will spurt a soft garlic pure'e. Beat the butter into the pure'e and stir in the parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside for an hour or two. This mixture can be made at least a day in advance and refrigerated. It should be brought to room temperature before it is placed on the potatoes.
Cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until they test done when pierced with a long, thin knife. Drain, place in a bowl, add the pure'e and toss until the potatoes are coated. SMALL WHITE ONIONS BAKED IN FOIL (8 servings) 32 small white onions (about 1 1/4 pounds) 2 tablespoons butter Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the top and root ends of the onions and skin them. If the skins resist, drop the onions into boiling water for one minute, drain them and zip the skins off. Place the onions in a single layer on a large piece of foil, dot them with the butter, season with salt and pepper and make a loose-fitting envelope of the foil, crimping the edges tightly. Place on a jellyroll pan or gratin dish and bake for 50 to 60 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until the onions test done when pierced with a long, thin knife. BROILED TOMATOES (8 servings) 4 large ripe tomatoes 2 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Core the tomatoes and cut each into rough quarters. Place one tablespoon of the oil on the bottom of a gratin dish, add the tomatoes, drizzle the remaining oil on them and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Broil about 4 inches from the heat source for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are cooked and the tops are slightly charred. SAUTEED BROCCOLI (8 servings) 2 1/2 pounds broccoli 4 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the broad edge of a chef's knife 1/2 cup water Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the broccoli, detach the florets and cut them vertically to make smaller florets. Peel the stems of all thick skin and cut them first into 3-inch pieces and then into a 1/2-inch julienne.
Over high heat, heat the oil in a large saute' pan, add the florets and julienned stems and saute', stirring, still over high heat, until the broccoli is well coated with oil. Add the smashed garlic cloves and continue cooking over high heat for a minute or two more. Add the water, and salt and pepper to taste, place a lid on the pan and cook, still over high heat and shaking the pan, for another 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the broccoli tests done when pierced with a long, thin knife. SLICED PEACHES WITH EAU DE VIE DE MIRABELLE OR KIRSCH, WITH CRE ME FRAI CHE (8 servings) 12 medium-to-large ripe peaches 3/4 cup sugar 1 drop imported peach essence, if the peaches are not highly fragrant (optional) 1/4 cup eau de vie de mirabelle or kirsch
Drop peaches one or two at a time into boiling water for 20 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and skin them. Cut into slices and discard the pits. Toss the slices with the sugar and the peach essence, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to four hours. One hour before serving, remove from refrigerator, stir in the eau de vie de mirabelle or the kirsch. Serve at room temperature with cre me frai che. CRE ME FRAI CHE (Makes 2 cups) 2 cups heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized 4 tablespoons sour cream
Place the heavy cream into a bowl and whisk the sour cream into it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about 12 hours, or until the cream has thickened. The creme fraiche can now be refrigerated for up to a week.