What do you cook when a culinary giant comes to visit?
Mark Bittman is the author of wonderful cookbooks including How to Cook Everything, How to Bake Everything, and The Best Recipes in the World. When Mark visited our Chicago shop last week, we built a menu around his newest title, How to Grill Everything.
This cookbook is sizzling with variety. Grilled meat gets ample attention, but so do vegetables, appetizers, and desserts. It reads like a choose-your-own adventure book, offering several several variations for each recipe. We tried a little bit of everything to feed Mark and a hundred other flavor advocates.
We started with Smoky Guacamole (page 26). An old favorite acquires new personality with seared avocados and mild chili pepper. Smoked paprika amplifies the charred flavor of the avocados.
We are suckers for anything pickled, so we had to try Quick-Pickled Charred Vegetables (page 32). Fresh summer vegetables are grilled before cooling in a sweet spiced brine. Fennel, cauliflower, and green beans are transformed by fire and a swift soak in cider vinegar with mustard seed, coriander seed, bay leaves, and whole peppercorn. Our highest quality Tellicherry peppercorn makes all the difference in this medley.
Full dinner for a standing room crowd is tough, but we made a credible effort. Cajun-Style Grilled Shrimp (page 63) is grilled with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, dried oregano, and black pepper. We made it easier on ourselves by using our own Cajun seasoning. The sweetness of the shrimp goes perfectly with spicy Cajun flavors.
The smell of roasting chicken on the grill put the neighborhood on notice. Jerk Chicken (page 183) is seasoned with habanero chiles, garlic, shallot, ginger, thyme, allspice, and nutmeg. We used our own Jerk seasoning. Fresh lime juice wakes up all those flavors before they get tickled by the occasional burst of flame.
The greatest among equals was perhaps Steak with Red Chimichurri (page 229). In The Minimalist tradition, Mark has us season skirt steak with salt and pepper. The crowd pleasing flavor of grilled steak is amplified with a modest dollop of red chimichurri. Click here for the recipe.
How to Grill Everything pays due respect to dessert. We started with Grilled Watermelon (page 544). Thick red watermelon meat is salted, drizzled with honey, and grilled for longer than you might think. Variations include cantaloupe with chile and lime, and sweet sour cream with blueberries.
Chocolate Bread Pudding (page 525) is still melting in the collective memory of our tastebuds. Vanilla is a key flavor element. We used our best double strength Madagascar vanilla and added some of our Old Town spiced sugar for a cardamom kick. We love the gooey goodness.
Get the Book and the Spices
How to Grill Everything is on sale now in our shops and online. It is a must-have text for the flavor conscious griller. We give it our most enthusiastic recommendation.
To honor Mark — and to stock your spice rack — we gathered up four of the most essential seasonings used in How to Grill Everything. Those spices are Chinese five spice, Hungarian sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin. Buy Mark Bittman’s Grilling Companion™ and grill like Bittman.
Buy the book and the box together and get free shipping.
Thanks to Mark for visiting. And thanks to our store managers, Chasity and Lonnie, for showing us How to Grill Everything.