Not ready to tackle a side of beef or spit-roasted pig? Start with something a little easier, a salmon steak marinated in saffron-infused vodka and citrus juice, then drizzled with basil olive oil.
Another popular method of grilling seafood is on a cedar plank, which are sold in most kitchen supply shops and many grocers (check the seafood section).
This method infuses the fish with the savory taste of cedar in a way similar to smoking, but without the trouble and time. And because the fish is cooked right on the plank, this technique is particularly good for delicate fish that might fall apart on the grill.
When buying cedar planks, it is important to select untreated planks. The planks should be soaked in water for an hour or so before using.
SAFFRON-CITRUS SALMON STEAKS WITH BASIL OIL
Start to finish: 2 hours (20 minutes active)
For the marinade:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice and finely grated zest of half a lime
Juice and finely grated zest of half an orange
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the salmon:
Four 6-ounce salmon steaks
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Oil, for coating the grill grate
4 lemon wedges
In a glass, combine the saffron and vodka and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Transfer the onions and saffron-vodka mix to a gallon-size zip-close bag. Add the lemon, lime and orange juices and zests, the basil and salt, then close the bag and shake.
Add the salmon steaks to the bag, press out the air, then seal the bag and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Remove the salmon steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Rub the salmon with 2 tablespoons of the oil, then season with salt and pepper. Let the fish rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling.
Heat the grill to high, between 400 F and 450 F.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor puree the basil and remaining olive oil. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, then pass through a mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl or jar. Let cool and discard solids.
Coat the grill grate with oil. Place the salmon steaks on the grill, cover and cook until the fish is just a bit filmy and moist in the center, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
To serve, drizzle with basil oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
(Recipe from Andrew Schloss and David Joachim's "Mastering the Grill," Chronicle Books, 2007, $24.95)