Cookbook Review: The Gardener and The Grill
Who else wants to learn how to grill more? Today I have another book review, The Gardener and the Grill by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig. This book caught my eye because grilling is unknown territory for me. Sure, I can set up my little propane grill and burn some hot dogs, but I don’t know how to do much else. When I saw this book combined both grilling and vegetables, I knew I had to review it. I absolutely love visiting farmer’s markets, buying all sorts of fresh produce and not knowing what to do with them. Understand that just because this book focuses on the garden doesn’t mean this book is vegetarian. There are still a good bit of meat recipes.
The Gardner and the Grill is 224 pages full of grilling knowledge and recipes. Adler and Fertig chose the theme from garden to grill to table because “grilling makes food taste fuller, richer, and meatier – even without any meat” (p. 6) They say that “when you want fresh and healthy foods with more depth in flavor, grilling from the garden makes perfect sense” (p. 6). The book is broken into chapters: Pantry (recipes for basics such as spice rubs and vinaigrettes); Appetizers; Sandwiches, Flatbreads, and Pizzas; Soup and Salad; Meat, Poultry, and Fish; Vegetable Sides; and Fruits and Desserts.
The first thing I noticed after receiving this book is the lack of food pictures. I’m guessing about half of the recipes don’t have photographs. And for those that do? Right now, I’m looking at a recipe for Red-Curry Coconut Soup with Grilled Vegetables and Shrimp. Sounds delicious, right? However, the photograph accompanying it on the opposite page is a picture of three lawn chairs. Uh, yum? Seriously, I want a picture of what I’m going to eat, not where I’m going to sit. Now there are some accompanying photographs, such as Grilled Pita Bread with Grilled Baba Ganoush (side note – shouldn’t the title list baba ganoush first?) and Blackened Beef with Thai Chile Noodles and Baby Bok Choy. The Grilled Gazpacho keeps catching my eye too. See? This is why cookbooks need photographs for EVERY recipe listed.
The first recipe I tried was the Grilled Grapefruit with Brown Sugar Rum Butter. Let’s just say grilled grapefruit is an acquired taste, one that I don’t have. I tried it both with and without the rum sauce, and I just didn’t care for the taste. Yes, I do like raw, cold grapefruit, so I know it wasn’t simply me hating grapefruit. If you know you like warm grapefruit, the recipe itself is easy to make. You make a quick rum sauce on the stove then you grill two grapefruit halves cut-side down for a few minutes. Once grilled, you serve it with warm rum sauce. In theory it sounded good, but it wasn’t the dessert for me.
Not wanting to give up on the book completely, I tried another recipe, this time something savory. Grilled Pepper Boat “Sandwiches”, which are bell pepper boats stuffed with herb cream cheese, seemed simple enough for a grilling newbie. You cut bell peppers into quarters and put a spoonful or two of herb cream cheese on top then grill about 5 minutes. They were delicious! They were only supposed to be an appetizer, but I ate all eight as a meal. I tried to follow the recipe exactly since I’m doing a review, but I did change up the herbs to what I had in the house. The only problem I had was the cream cheese kept slipping out when I removed the peppers from the grill (I blame this on my grill-grabbing skills), Next time I won’t stuff them as much.
What I love about this book is the variety of recipes. Who knew you could do a lot with grilling vegetables! For future grilling, I have bookmarked Grilled Gazpacho, Grilled Pita Bread with Grilled Baba Ganoush, and Blackened Fish Po’Boy with Grilled Green Onion Mayonnaise. Of course there are other recipes I want to try, but those are probably my next three.
Besides the photographs, I don’t like having to flip to this page for one part of the ingredient list then that page for another part of the ingredient list then back to the original recipe to finish the ingredient list. I understand they did it to save room, but it’s so hard to understand what you need with just one glance. I think with the Bell Pepper Boats, they could’ve just listed the herbed cream cheese list and direction in the recipe rather than making me go to another page. There are only four ingredients and one simple direction. If a recipe takes up an entire page to explain it, then ok perhaps the best answer is to refer to that page, but it is still annoying.
Overall, I give The Gardener and The Grill a 4 out of 5. If you are a vegetable lover who either loves to grill or wants to expand your knowledge, this book is worth checking out. You do have to use your imagination a bit to make up for the lack of photographs, but the recipes do catch your eye (and stomach). This cookbook is not for those who hate vegetables, don’t enjoy grilling, or absolutely need a photograph for every recipe.