The Grilling Issue: This season's hottest reads
There's fun with fire, and always something to learn in a cookbook about grilling and barbecue. Here are some new ones with distinct points of view, plenty of personality and mouthwatering recipes (listed in alphabetical order):
"BBQ 25: The World's Most Flavorful Food Made Foolproof," by Adam Perry Lang (HarperStudio, 2010; $19.99)
The compact board book works hard to achieve its hip, stripped-down narrative. It is geared more toward beginners and comes across as macho, with more bulleted items than yadda-yadda. The recipes are basic (the ones "we cook 95 percent of the time"), and "telestrated" with arrows from directions to pertinent photography. Only one vegetable dish.
"Latin Grill," by Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano (Chronicle, 2010; $19.95)
This slim volume covers ceviches and sangrias, with lots of citrus, cilantro and grill marks in between. The selection is tidy enough to cook your way through in a single summer. Several recipes call for grilling chunks of avocado on kebabs or for salads; seems like a novel idea.
"Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook: 25th Anniversary Edition," by Ardie A. Davis, Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells (Andrews McMeel, 2010; $24.99)
There is lots of personality in this collection of recipes from the "cookers" association, born in 1986. The book covers much more than the chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket competition categories, and not everything gets exposed to smoke or fire. Side dishes, desserts and assorted dishes filed in the Boneyard chapter read like crowd-pleasers and family favorites.
"Planet Barbecue: An Electrifying Journey Around the World's Barbecue Trail," by Steve Raichlen (Workman, 2010; $22.95)
"Electrifying," maybe; exhaustive, definitely. It looks like the hardest-working grill master with signature tongs didn't miss a trick. Profiles of significant chefs and home cooks who grill are woven among recipes, tips and sidebars on must-try restaurants. The goat dishes look especially intriguing. Raichlen's book tour is scheduled to deposit him in Washington on May 20; he shared his Cambodian Grilled Corn recipe from this book with Food section readers in June 2008.
"The Art of Wood Fired Cooking," by Andrea Mugnaini (Gibbs Smith, 2010; $19.99)
The author has spent two decades teaching people how to manage the intense heat and variable temperature zones of this medium. The recipes are mostly Italian and boldly flavored. Thank goodness the Limoncello Bread Pudding With Fresh Blackberries was written for a regular oven.
"Veggie Burgers Every Which Way," by Lukas Volger (The Experiment, July 2010; $16.95)
This is a small volume with a big mission: to up the flavor profile of this particular vegetarian genre. The reach goes beyond beans, including spinach-chickpea burgers, curried eggplant and tomato burgers, corn bread buns and rutabaga fries. The longtime vegetarian author and Brooklyn native is not a chef, but he has worked in restaurant kitchens for many years.