Sun’s out. Weather’s warm. Father’s Day is just around the corner.
Grilling season is here.
It’s time to get the barbecue going and enjoy outdoor cooking and dining.
A few new cookbooks discuss the finer points of what started as a primitive practice – cooking meat over an open fire – and has evolved from burgers and salmon to smoky, flame-kissed fruits, vegetables, even pizzas.
Here’s a quick look at a few new guides to grilling.
“Cooking with Fire” by Paula Marcoux (Storey Publishing, $19.95) – The five chapters in this book – with titles like “A Fire and a Stick” and “Retained Heat” – cover everything from getting started to going gourmet on the grill, even building your own backyard oven. The first few pages provide photo-illustrated instructions on starting a fire as well as tips for storing firewood and peeling and sharpening a greenwood stick for toasting marshmallows and cheese. From there, the author – a food historian, writer and editor who once worked as a professional bread-oven builder and archeologist – offers more than 100 recipes for dishes such as ash-roasted vegetables, planked fish and flat griddle breads. She pairs the ancient practice of cooking with fire with (mostly) modern tastes. But this is no burger book. There are recipes for skewers, pita bread, corn and flour tortillas, naan, spareribs, Cajun shrimp, pizza, pebble-seared parsley sauce, buttered gooseberries and burnt cream. Marcoux makes methods – deep-frying, salt-roasting, smoking, cooking with clay pots – seem approachable, often adding a hint of humor along with her serious instructions: “Always be wary when heating stones; eye protection is not a bad idea.” Instructions include how to build a fire pit and spit, roast a leg of lamb by dangling it with twine over an open flame, and cook lobsters in the sand, starting six hours before dinner time.
“Smoke & Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (The Harvard Common Press, $24.95) – “Real barbecue is bragging food,” the authors write in this James Beard Award-winning book, long considered the bible on smoking. Twenty years after the original 1994 edition, “Smoke & Spice” still aims to help move home cooks “beyond searing and sizzling into really smoking” – but it’s better equipped to do so. The revised, full-color edition features updated design, information and advice, plus 50 new recipes – for a total of 450. Divided into three parts, the book covers everything from cooking times and temperatures, to tools and fuel types, dry and wet rubs, drinks and desserts, and martini leg of lamb and curried goat. There’s also pork (West Coast baby backs, maple-bourbon ham, creole crown roast), beef (espresso-rubbed beef medallions, drunk and dirty tenderloin, Korean kalbi short ribs), foul (tea-smoked duck, mushroom-stuffed quail, chicken on a throne (read: beer can), fish (sugar-and-spice brined salmon, mint trout, peppered catfish), veggies (smoked onion rings, barbecued cabbage head, bronzed artichokes) and pizza, lasagna, appetizers, sauces, slaws, salads, hushpuppies, poppers, biscuits, buns and so much more.
“Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook” by Tom Adams, Simon Anderson, Jamie Berger and Richard H. Turner (Mitchell Beazley, $34.99) – Pitt Cue Co. started in 2011 as a food truck, offering specialties inspired by the American South to London foodies. Now a hip, award-wining Soho restaurant, it’s published its first cookbook featuring some 120 smoky, slow-cooked recipes and a bit of an edgy vibe. (The back cover features an email from a happy customer with no fewer than 11 words bleeped out, and one of the first photos shows beer taps made from old knives with the blades still on them.) It’s gorgeously photographed – and not for the faint of heart. A brief history of bourbon opens the first chapter, an ode to drinks fashioned from that particular type of whiskey. The snacks section features recipes like fennel-cured scratchings (read: pork skin), habanero pigs’ ears, Buffalo pigs’ tails and crumbed hog jowls. Charts show where pork, beef and lamb cuts come from. Recipes include pulled pork shoulder and deviled pigs’ feet, a selection of slaws, and sweet stuff such as smoked peaches, prune and whiskey ice cream and sticky bourbon and cola pudding.
“Better Homes and Gardens Fresh Grilling” by the Editors at Better Homes and Garden (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99) – A handy, quick-hitting guide to grilled fruits and vegetables offers useful info – prep tips, cooking time – as well as photos of the finished products: fennel, romaine, mangoes, strawberries. Charts explain best practices for selecting and storing fruits and vegetables. A produce guide uses photos to demonstrate peeling, cutting and chopping techniques. Plus, there are more than 200 seasonal recipes accompanied by 100 vivid color photos. A short chapter discusses marinades and rubs, salsas and sauces. The Quick Smoke section presents 30-minute recipes featuring wood chips or grilling planks. Appetizers include grilled stuffed green chilies and baba ghanoush. Mains include grilled peach and pistachio stuffed lamb chops, grilled jerk pineapple pork tenderloin and salsa with plantain chips and catfish bahn mi with grilled radish pickle. There’s also an array of steaks and summertime sips like ginger-peach margaritas and watermelon-basil lemonade.
“Pizza on the Grill” by Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer (The Taunton Press, $17.95) – These patio pizzas are “defined by their crispy, slightly smoky crust,” the authors write in the expanded edition of this specialty cookbook, originally published in 2008. The new version offers 10 new pizza recipes, plus one for gluten-free dough. Some embrace classics, like the Margherita. But most of this book’s 100-plus recipes offer creative and interesting combinations, like Maine event lobster and corn, country ham and fig, artichoke benedict and Lucy in the sky with pizza, featuring aspargus, brie, sun-dried tomato pesto, black olives and yellow cherry tomatoes. Each includes beverage pairing suggestions as well as “adventure club” tips for taking the recipe up a notch. There are several sauce and dough variations, a few sweet offerings – like cinn-o-bun pizza – and appetizers that pair well with pizza, home-flavored olives, dips and salads. Icons explain whether a recipe is a bit messy and best eaten with a knife and fork, particularly kid-friendly or the authors’ top picks.
“The Texas Food Bible” by Dean Fearing (Grand Central Publishing, $30) – Celebrate foods from the American Southwest with this warm, colorful and inviting guide, which covers classics as well as modern takes on traditional Texas dishes. While this isn’t solely a book on grilling, many of the recipes in this volume are for barbecue – Texas barbecue sirloin steak and eggs with jalapeño grits, barbecue shrimp tacos, barbecued bacon-wrapped quail with jalapeno ranch dressing – so it’s included in this round-up. Staples – beans, stocks, chiles, cornmeal, masa – are explained in “Fearing’s Texas Pantry,” along with gravies, sauces, salsas and dressings like Texas-style barbecue sauce, apricot barbecue sauce and smoky bacon barbecue sauce. The introduction includes recipes for spice mixes and garnishes, like Fearing’s Barbecue Spice Blend and Barbecue Spiced Pepitas. The nine chapters cover breakfast and brunch, starters and soups, salads, mains, chiles and stews, sides, breads and desserts. There’s also an entire chapter devoted to “Working the Smoker and the Grill.” Recipes include crispy barbecued gulf oysters “rockefearing,” wood-grilled pork chops with “D1” sauce on poblano-pepita pesto and heirloom tomatoes with crispy sweet onion rings, barbecued venison fajitas and grilled barbecue chicken breasts with watermelon pico de gallo. Non-barbecue recipes include tortilla soup, hush puppies, gazpacho, slaws, fried chicken, stuffing and, of course, cornbread.
“Weber’s Big Book of Burgers: The Ultimate Guide to Grilling Backyard Classics” by Jamie Purviance (Oxmoor House, $21.95) – The 160 recipes in this book don’t stop at cheeseburgers. There’s other backyard fare, too, like hot dogs, sausages, sides, toppings and beverages. The first chapter covers barbecue basics, offering photo-illustrated, step-by-step instructions – “lift the grill lid and light the grill” – as well as 10 tips for “grilling greatness.” (Step one is preheating.) The burger chapter has more tips – “five steps to burger brilliance” – as well as more than 30 burgers, including fontina-stuffed burgers with prosciutto, bacon portabello cheeseburgers, and bourbon burgers with carmelized onions and horseradish dijon. There are pork, poultry, seafood, veggie, lamb and even a couple of bison burger recipes, too. They all sound gourmet, creative or ethnically inspired: Indian lamb burgers, Thai pork burgers, Greek turkey burgers and, for those of us here in the Pacific Northwest, no fewer than five burgers featuring one of our favorite staples: salmon. The California hot dogs include avocado, arugula and basil crema. The maple and hard cider-braised brats have bacon and fried sauerkraut. Sides include southern fried pickles, potato salads and slaws.
“Homegrown Pork” by Sue Weaver (Storey Publishing, $18.95) – This 10-chapter instructional guide doesn’t tell you how to grill pork. It explains how to raise a pig for food – “from feeder pig to bacon in five months.” But the book goes back even further than that. It gives a brief history of pig-raising, plus a timeline. It also defines terms, explores the animals’ physiology and behavior – did you know pigs can learn to use mirrors? – and discusses breeds, buying, sheltering, feeding and otherwise caring for Wilbur. There are a few recipes – sausage, pot pie, sweet and salty Asian jerky, pork rinds, pig ears, curing salts – and many tips for pig-raising, including home processing, curing and canning.