“Grilling Vegan Style,” by John Schlimm (Da Capo, 2012, $20). Start with the obvious: Vegan grilling is an oxymoron. Grilling is burgers and brats. It’s hot dogs, and I don’t mean tofu dogs. But the book’s good-natured approach (a marinade: Brown Sugar & Bourbon, Baby!) is so winning that you forget about the cant. Who wouldn’t want to make grilled corn with chili powder and slathered with a cayenne-pepper-and-lime mayonnaise? Or “Romaine Holiday” (get it?), grilled romaine with pine nuts in a light evoo-and-balsamic-vinegar dressing? Schlimm has written a common-sense and fun book about grilling that even carnivores can enjoy.
“The Gardener & The Grill: The Bounty of the Garden Meets the Sizzle of the Grill,” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig (Running Press, 2012, $20). Hailing from barbecue mecca, Kansas City, the authors pick up on the healthy-grilling theme with ideas so clever and obvious they make you think, “Do'h! Why didn’t I think of that?” Examples: smoked tomato bisque and grilled gazpacho. While big on produce, the book includes meat dishes as well, though typically with a side of veggies: Kansas City Strip Steaks with Parmesan Grill Vegetables or Brats with Grilled Kale and Horseradish butter. Here, the garden meets the pasture to delightful results.
“Grillin’ Wild with Rick Browne,” by Rick Browne (Lyons Press, 2012, $21.95). This isn’t one of those books that encourages the back-to-survivalist life you will never lead. It just provides recipes for the other end of the vegan spectrum. Not sure where you would find the moose for the Presque Isle Moose Pot Roast, but you can get the birds for the Quail Pie and the Baked Pheasant with Oyster Dressing as well as the deer meat for Betty’s Venison Enchiladas. The author, host of “Grillin’ Wild” on the Sportsman Channel, ranges into the waters for marlin and sablefish and into the woods for raccoon and rabbit. But there’s also more accessible foods, such as trout, catfish, duck and goose. The result is uneven, but the book gives the backyarder bored with his pork shoulders and ribs a jolt of creativity.
“Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill,” by Jamie Purviance, (Oxmoor House, 2012, $21.95). Another summer, another Weber cookbook. The leader in all things grilling changes things up this year with a well-timed book on smoking. The photos are not up to the usual Weber cookbook standards — the ribs on page 85 look skimpy and dry, the turkey breast on 135 a pale wrinkly-skinned thing. But the well-informed book, while obviously intended to sell grills, helps backyarders learn to smoke on their kettles, saving them from buying some pricey rig.
As always with Weber books, the recipes are clear, concise and smart: Pecan-Smoked Lamb Shoulder with Vegetable Couscous, anyone? The “any grill” part of the title is a little misleading. A note on the Slow-Smoked Mesquite Brisket not only says that the cook will need “a big smoker” (not a kettle then?) but also states that a “22 1/2 –inch-diameter Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker works very well for this, but the 18-inch version is too small.” Most recipes, though, even for such big-meat items as the Apple-Smoked Turkey, utilize the kettle that a lot of folks already own.
“America’s Best Ribs: Tips and Recipes for Easy, Lip-Smacking, Pull-Off-the Bone, Pass-the-Sauce, Championship-Quality BBQ Ribs at Home,” by Ardie A. Davis and Paul Kirk (Andrews McMeel, 2012, $19.99). You gotta love a book that portrays a rusted chimney starter smoking away in a less-than-pristine kettle grill. It looks like my backyard — and probably yours. Davis and Kirk, from Kansas City, helped create the modern barbecue world, the former as creator of the American Royal sauce contest and the latter as one of the competition circuit’s top performers. Together and individually, they have authored several barbecue books. Their writing is straightforward, anecdotal and funny (“What’s a Rib Sandwich, and How Do You Eat It?”).
This book, which offers the authors’ own recipes and those from other pitmasters, isn’t just about the standard pork and beef ribs, though there are plenty of those. It also has recipes for bison ribs, buffalo ribs and lamb, not to mention for sauces and sides. There is a sense of deja vu about the book, given the authors’ long collaboration. But they’re like old friends who make you happy with their warm familiarity.