What's your plan for a hot summer meal? A sizzling steak on the grill? Now we're talking.

My advice is to marinate a nice, juicy steak. A marinade will add flavor and will help tenderize the meat.

Marinades usually are made up of an acidic ingredient (wine, vinegar and citrus juice), an oil (just about any kind will do; you don't need a pricey olive oil) and any kind of seasoning. You also can use liquids such as beer and soy sauce. Try not to use too much oil because it will cause flare-ups.

You can marinate steaks for one hour and up to 12 hours depending on the size and cut. Marinades do not penetrate all the way through the steak, mainly the surface. You can place steaks in a marinade and freeze them, too.

I prefer to marinate steaks in a plastic sealable bag because the entire steaks will be covered. The bag also takes up less room in the refrigerator.

Try not to marinate steaks too long because the acidic ingredient can start to break down fibers, and the meat will become mushy.

Larger and less-tender cuts of meat, such as briskets, roasts and skirt steak need longer marinating time so they become tender.

When you're ready to grill, remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Never reuse marinade used on raw meat unless you boil it for at least 3 to 5 minutes.

Let the excess marinade drip off and grill the steak as desired. It's best to start the steak off on medium-high heat to achieve that nice, crusty sear. Once seared, move it to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

Today's recipe gets a burst of flavor from the balsamic vinegar in the marinade. The steaks are served with an olive sauce and topped with optional feta cheese.

Grilled Strip Steak With Olives and Feta

Serves: 4 (4 strip steaks, about 6 ounces each)

Ingredients

For marinade:

1/2 cup canola or olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1/2 cup sliced mixed green and kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Directions

Cut several slits on the fat side of the strip steaks so they don't curl when grilling. Place the steaks in a plastic bag. In a small bowl whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Pour half of the marinade over the steaks in the bag. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the other half of the marinade.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Let steaks sit at room temperature while you make the topping.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the onions and saute until soft. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, olives and feta and saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Oil the grill grate. Place the steaks on the grill and grill 5 minutes or until you get good grill marks. If desired, turn on an angle and cook 1-2 minutes to get nice cross-hatch marks. Turn and continue grilling until the steak is cooked to the desired degree of doneness. It's best to have an instant-read thermometer. For medium-rare, the internal temperature should range from 125 to 130 degrees. Cover with the topping and drizzle with remaining marinade, if desired.

Leftovers

Steak salad: Serve thinly sliced steak on a bed of crisp greens and shaved fennel. Top with an herb-based vinaigrette.

— Adapted from "Grilling Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Delicious Recipes" by Linda Johnson Larsen (Larsen, $19.95).