A homemade, all-purpose marinade is an inexpensive way to add flavor to poultry, meat, fish and vegetables.
Olive oil and lemon juice-based versions are an excellent choice. Both ingredients are affordable and pair well with a variety of herbs, as well as with aromatics such as onion, garlic and shallot.
In most marinades, there's no need to use your best (and pricier) olive oil. Too many other flavors will compete with it in a marinade, so it's a waste to use anything but the cheaper stuff.
You also can also take advantage of convenient squeeze bottles of lemon juice found in the freezer case. It's from concentrate but is almost as good as fresh. They cost about $2 but have about as much juice as seven large lemons.
A small amount of Dijon mustard whisked into the mixture adds another layer of flavor and also helps emulsify the marinade so it won't separate right away.
This recipe for Grilled Lemon and Sage Chicken calls for fresh sage and minced garlic, but almost any herb will do. Thyme, rosemary and parsley are particularly good with lemon.
Buying fresh herbs at the market can be expensive. Keeping some pots of your favorite herbs growing in your kitchen window or in an outdoor garden is a convenient way to have an abundant supply at a lower cost.
And don't let leftover herbs wilt in the refrigerator. Wrapped tightly in plastic, they can be frozen for several months.
This recipe uses cut-up assorted chicken parts with the bone in. It is one of the most economical ways to buy chicken, usually costing about $1.50 per pound.
Removing the skin from the chicken before marinating greatly enhances the amount of flavor that gets absorbed and will make the dish quite a bit healthier.
Since the chicken can marinate for up to 10 hours, this recipe is easily prepared well in advance.The dish can serve a family of four with enough for leftovers at a cost of just over $1.50 per serving. Fresh corn on the cob and a tomato salad would make delicious, seasonal accompaniments.
GRILLED LEMON AND SAGE CHICKEN
Start to finish: 45 minutes (plus 1 to 10 hours marinating)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sage or other fresh herb
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds cut up chicken parts, bone-in, skin removed
In a medium bowl, whisk together sage, lemon juice, oil, mustard, garlic and pepper.
Pour the marinade into a sealable plastic bag or a dish large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Add the chicken, turning to coat with marinade. If using a dish, cover it. Refrigerate for 2 to 10 hours.
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal fire. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Season both sides with salt. Grill the chicken until well browned and no longer pink in the center, 10 to 15 minutes per side.