Maria took care of my daughter when she was a baby, and she taught me a few things about Greek olive oil and lamb. She comes from Kalamata and still has family back in Greece who tend and harvest the family olive trees. When she visits she ships back large tins of this amazing olive oil, and I've been the lucky recipient of a few of them over the years. Before Maria came into our lives I thought the Italians produced the world's best oil, but after tasting her family stash I handed the crown over to the Greeks. She explained that a lot of olive oil has a slightly harsh aftertaste which leaves a bit of a burn in your throat after you swallow it. Not hers, it was like pure velvet going down and not a trace of bitterness. Definitely the most delicious that I've ever tasted. When Easter came along she showed me how she cut and marinated a leg of lamb in the Greek tradition, and the olive oil was a key ingredient.
Maria's Grilled Easter Lamb
One Leg of Lamb
2 Stalks Fresh Rosemary
6-8 Cloves of Garlic (sliced)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Cut the meat off the bone by slicing into the bone, then carefully cutting if off in big pieces. Trim away any large pieces of fat, but not all of it as it adds flavor.
Then cut each half into smaller pieces by following the natural separation in the meat. Now take those pieces and cut into strips that are about 4-5 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide.
Place the lamb in a large pan to marinate. Coat with extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek. I use Ariston which I purchase locally at Pain D'Avignon Bakery in Hyannis. Add the sliced garlic, rosemary (which has been stripped off the stalk), juice from the lemons and salt and pepper. Mix well. Leave it to sit on the counter (the lemon acts as a preservative, so no need to worry about spoilage) and turn occasionally. Let it marinate for at least 4 hours. Grill over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes for medium rare, or a bit longer if you prefer.
Allow the cooked lamb to rest for a few minutes before serving. Accompanied with roasted vegetables and a nice green salad, it's a perfect springtime meal. Enjoy!