Saturday, April 23, 2016

Around the Fire

Title:  Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant
Author:  Greg Denton, Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, and Stacy Adimando
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2016. 272 pages.
ISBN:  1607747529 / 978-1607747529

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "A great grilled meal stays with you, as does the experience of cooking one around a fire."

Favorite Quote:  "Our vision is that these recipes will help promote more than just cooking seriously good food but also the joy of sharing it ... As the world gets closer and smaller - communication and travel are easier, and people are taking trips near and far to expand their food experiences - everybody seems to be on a quest to find and re-create that same feeling these far-flung places foster. Here's the secret we want to share:  It's right in your back yard."

The title Around the Fire comes with the subtitle "Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant." That sets up a lot of expectations. Ox Restaurant in Portland, Oregon has its tag line, "Argentine inspired Portland food." That tagline is of course the basis of this book as well. From Argentina comes the open fire and the family style meals. From Portland comes the focus on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

The center of this book around grilling is clear from the cover and title. The introduction provides a summary of grilling tools and techniques. The grilling recipes cover meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Then, the book goes well beyond just grilling. The phrase "around the fire" conjures up images of warmth and of family and friends gathered at the hearth. This is where the "feasting" from the title comes in. The book includes provides recipes to assemble an entire meal to be savored and shared. It includes accompaniments to the grilled stars of the meal. Sections on Beginnings, Salads, Warm Vegetables, Desserts, and Cocktails. The desserts in particularly look incredibly decadent (warm hazelnut brown butter torte, vanilla bean tres leches cake, or warm parmesan pound cake anyone?).

Visually, this book is beautiful and easy to use. Full color photographs present appetizing, restaurant quality dishes. A brief section titled How to Use this Book does just what it promises; it sets out the authors' vision for the book. A detailed table of contents provides the list of recipes at an easy glance. An index adds the ability to search by ingredient. Each recipe has a clear ingredient list and directions. Use of formatting techniques like fonts, columns, and lots of white space make for a clear presentation and allow the color photographs to really shine.

The content of this book indicates that it is definitely a restauranteur's cookbook. The plating of the food in the photographs, the titles of the recipes, and the ingredients themselves lend themselves to a setting of food connoisseurs rather than a weeknight family dinner.

The recipes I find myself looking to again and again directly from the book are the sections on vegetables, both on and off the grill. I see familiar vegetables served in combination I have not considered before - grilled butternut squash with za'atar, blistered snap peas with "everything" bagel seasoning, and roasted cauliflower with a spicy raisin vinaigrette, to name a few.

However, many ingredients in the meats and seafood sections of the book - oysters, Dungeness crab, foie gras, beef tongue, beef tripe, squid, and spot prawns -  are not ones I would use, at least not in everyday cooking. The exact recipes in these sections remain for either a special occasion or an experiment, but the techniques, sauces, marinades, and sides can be applied to other everyday ingredients.

Therein lie the tools that a home cook can apply to his or her own cooking. As the book suggests, "Consider this book a choose-your-own-adventure concept ... we want you to be involved the moment you flip to page one, and to create and master your own dining destiny."

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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