Burning wood, hot stones, glowing charcoal, the cool blue flame of gas: No matter the source of heat, humans love cooking outside, a process that assuages atavistic yearnings deep within each of us. Even if we don't cook, most of us find a fire, especially an outdoor fire, mesmerizing.
When it comes to outdoor cooking, I don't do as much as I'd like to, as I don't have a wood-burning oven, which is what I'd prefer. But now and then, I get out my little grill, start a mesquite fire and sometimes add soaked wood chips.
I love grilled pizza, sausage, zucchini, peppers, onions, scallions, corn and cabbage and rarely pass up an opportunity to grill fruit, especially thickly-sliced pineapple and nectarines, peaches and apricots, cut in half. A grilled leg of lamb offers a pleasure all its own and both grilled meats and vegetables add yummy layers of flavor to pastas and risottos.
Today's recipes focus not on the process of grilling itself, but on pastes, mops, marinades and glazes that can enhance the foods you grill. These days, dry rubs and commercial barbecue sauces seem to be the most popular choices for outdoor cooks but I have a different take on things. I generally prefer lighter sauces that allow natural flavors to assume center stage — why bury, say, a delicious wild Pacific king salmon in a gloppy sauce or mask its flavor with aggressive spices? — and I find that is exactly what each of these do.
For more of my favorite grilling recipes, along with suggestions on grilling without recipes, detailed instructions on starting a charcoal fire and summer grilling menus, visit "Eat This Now" at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
This paste is particularly good right now, while there is a new crop of fresh garlic. Use it on butterflied leg of lamb, pork shoulder or chicken and, for the best results, rub it into the meat and then refrigerate overnight before cooking. Results are best when cooked with indirect heat, either in a wood-burning oven or on a grill with the coals piled on one side and the meat on the other.
Makes about ? cup