When I worked at the Detroit News, my Greek-American friend Toula taught how to make a lamb marinade. Over the years, it's evolved into something that is no longer hers, and is certainly not authentically Greek. But it's very good, nonetheless, and I wouldn't dream of grilling lamb without it. It's nice to make a few small dishes of cumin-salt mixture — half ground cumin, half salt — and set them here and there on the table so people can sprinkle their meat with the mixture.
1 1/2 cups olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup dry red wine (cheap is OK for this, but it must be dry)
1 large onion, quartered
6 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coarse salt, such as kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
One 7-pound or two 3- to 4-pound boneless legs of lamb
1. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, wine, onion, garlic, mustard, oregano, basil, rosemary, cumin, salt and pepper in a blender (preferably) or food processor. Blend until it's well combined and smooth — it will be thick and look almost like mayonnaise.
2. Untie the lamb, if the butcher tied it, and throw away the string. Place the lamb on a rimmed baking sheet and unroll it. Pour about half of the marinade on the cut side of the lamb and massage it it well into the meat with your hands. Make sure you get marinade into every nook and cranny. Turn the lamb over and rub some marinade into the fatty side, too. Then fold the lamb in thirds, put it in a zip-top bag or a shallow pan, and pour the remaining marinade over it.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours, no longer — the acidity in the marinade will make the meat tough if you marinate it longer. (The 24-hour marinating time is just for your convenience; after a point, the marinade no longer penetrates the meat.) If it's in a zip-top bag, turn the bag every 8 hours or so; if it's in a pan, turn the lamb, re-cover the pan and refrigerate again.
4. When it's time to grill, make a hot fire. Unfold the lamp and pat away the excess marinade from the fatty side with paper towels. Brush some of the marinade on the cut side. Discard the remaining marinade.
5. Put the lamb on the grill cut side up, cover the grill and cook for 9 minutes. Turn the lamb over and cook, covered, for 9 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. You will have some well-done, some medium-rare, and some very, very rare meat, the way I like it.
Photo by Fotolia/Greg: A grilled leg of lamb is an excellent choice for spring and summer entertaining.