Tired of plain old hamburgers? Try a Moroccan Lamb Burger with Grilled Baba Ghanoush (left). In the mood for kebabs? Try a spicy Argentinean Beef Skewer (right).
Fast forwarding to the last 6 years, I got my latest gas grill and tried to learn how to use it to it’s fullest. I wanted to go beyond burgers, dogs, and steaks and do other food types. Steven Raichlen’s HOW TO GRILL got me started. At first these were typically regional US favorites. I would find something I liked in HOW TO GRILL and learn how to make it and then turn to Raichlen’s BBQ USA to try the same dish as served in various regions around the country. I also had bought BBQ Bible which was US regional and worldwide recipes. At first BBQ Bible and international recipes in my other cookbooks were things I’d avoid. They were a little too different for my comfort level. They used techniques or combinations of spices that were outside my comfort zone at the time. But several years ago when I started trying regional US recipes, many used items I thought I wouldn’t like. I was surprised to find I did enjoy them. So I made an agreement with myself: There were many foods I’d decided a long time ago I didn’t like, but I was going to wipe the slate clean. I was going to try anything and everything at least once, including things I didn’t like in the past.
Some new things to do with steak: Asian influenced Ginger Soy Flank Steak (left) or Stuffed Flank Steak (right) form Italy.
Since I have been trying anything and everything, and in the process I have created a bit of a monster. I have found many things I just “knew I didn’t like” actually we re pretty damn good. What this did was cause me to seek out more and more new foods to try. Rather than making the same type recipes over and over again, for the last several years I have been in a mode where I try to make a new recipe every week. Sure I still have some favorites I might trot out for a holiday, but in general I have been making new and different recipes. This inevitably led to me starting to try international recipes. I mean if you are going to do lamb, what better place to turn for a recipe than the Middle East. I have also found I love Asian recipes with their subtle blends of hot and sweet. At first the international recipes scared me off because they used new and different combinations of spices. But I’ve also found if you have the right recipes, they will hold your hand through the process and you will have a good chance of success.
Looking for new ways to make chicken: Tunisian Chicken (left) or Checken Involtini (right).
In the past I’d be looking at recipes and I’d see that a recipe that originated outside the US and it would scare me off. Lately I have found I am seeking them out first for the wonderful new tastes they bring to the table. Weber has a series of cookbooks all written in whole or in part by Jamie Purviance. It seems he has been on a similar journey. The first few Weber cookbooks were mostly classic American dishes, done somewhat simply but elegantly. The last few books he has gotten into more and more international cuisine. His latest book WEBER’S WAY TO GRILL is a great way to get into International dishes if you are just starting out. It is illustrated with over 1,000 how to pictures which is great if a technique is new to you. His 4th book, Weber’s Real Grilling which I just picked up this pst week, has many international dishes as well but is lighter on the How To’s. Steven Raichlen’s BBQ Bible has recipes from around the world as well. BBQ Bible is a great book, but it is more of a traditional cookbook in that it assumes a certain level of knowledge. It also doesn’t have the wealth of pictures that HOW TO GRILL does. So if you are just starting out get HOW TO GRILL or WEBER’S WAY TO GRILL first. Learn your basics in these two books where they both are very well illustrated and have great recipes. Try some of the international recipes there and once you are comfortable move on the books such as BBQ Bible.
Lamb is a traditional meat for Easter, but you can change things around by making Moroccan Leg of Lamb.
What I have discovered is: Sure there are some new techniques to learn and some new spices to use, but it isn’t that difficult to pick up with the right help. You will be using new combinations of spices too. It is so interesting putting some of these dishes on the grill and experiencing totally different smells as the food cooks. Lately I have really beginning to get into these new flavors. I’ve noticed that using last few cookbooks I’ve bought, I’ve sought out the international recipes first. I mentioned earlier I still may do old favorites for the holidays, but even this is changing. This Easter I did make lamb, but it was a direct/indirect grilled butterflied leg of lamb. The recipe from WEBER’S WAY TO GRILL was called Moroccan Leg of Lamb and was wonderful. This recipe used a different combination of spices than I had used before and the smell of the meat cooking was totally new. My father, who does not like lamb, started filling his plate with it when we sat down to eat. I asked him if he knew it was lamb and he told me it looked and smelled so good he knew he’d like it. I think the best part about my moving into more international grilling, is there is a whole lifetime worth of new and exciting tastes to try.
Like steak salad? Try a Mediterranean style grilled Steak & Pepper Salad.
So if you are getting tired of the same old, same old, try out some international versions of your favorite dishes. Do you like lamb? Try out some Middle Eastern recipes for it. Do you like steak? Try out some of the Argentinean steak recipes with their wonderful chimichurri sauces or some Asian recipes with sweet and hot sauces. Instead of hamburgers try some Middle Eastern lamb burgers in pita pockets with some grilled baba ghanoush as a side dish. Do you like steak salad? Try a Mediterranean influenced one over grilled peppers. The variety this has been adding to my meals is amazing and there hasn’t been anything I wouldn’t try again. I’ve also discovered several dishes which are items I’d probably never have run across otherwise and they are now new favorites. If you like new things you owe it to yourself to try grilled and smoked dishes from around the world. You will discover new and wonderful tastes you never would have imagined.
Tired of pizza? Grill some quesadillas with some salsa (preferably home made) on the side..