Thursday, March 5, 2015

Culinary Adventures With Cookbooks: “Grill It”


A couple of weeks ago I checked out a couple of cookbooks, Bobby Flay’s “Grill It” and Mario Batali’s “Italian Grill”. We still haven’t set up WiFi at our place yet so I don’t get as much use out of my Kindle Fire HDX as I would like. Though it gets used plenty enough. However, as much as I love my Kindle I still love actual books too. Julie is reading now, above grade level and with her current pace she becomes more fluid by the day. She reads daily (thanks to the daily “Books in a Bag” program her Kindergarten has) and likes to pick up books that aren’t “easy peasy” as she refers to them; so she’s looking for a challenge. Jerry dabbles a little with sight reading now. They love the children’s room with all of the toys, playing with other children, reading books, and picking out a few to take home. While they are occupied it gives me time to browse more freely.

Anyways, it’s coming up on the middle end of winter but you can pretty much grill year round in Florida. We had a cold spell but our temperatures have been on a major upswing lately with plenty of sunshine. It has been perfect grilling weather but the daylight got ahead of us, after a second trip to the grocery for seasonings and condiments. We had already purchased all of our produce the week before from Shannon’s. We’re now regulars at her market and she knows us now lol because during the last trip she asked Papa Smurf “Where’s the wife?” while I waited with Jerry in the car (so that he could check out since Jerry was having a meltdown).

We tried 3 recipes from the book, including Chipotle Honey Glazed Wings with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Green Onion” (“Grill It” B. Flay pg. 79). I opted out of using the ancho chili powder. Okay, I just flat out forgot to write it down on my loose leaf list, add in the kids in rare form and receiving phone call as we went aisle to aisle…I was totally distracted and walked right past it. However, I am glad I left it out. I should have known with Chef Bobby Flay though, that the recipe would be spicy he is known for his heavy spice. With the small canned chipotle chilies in adobo alone there was more than enough spice/ heat! The glaze was very thick and not much of a glaze, even with the honey. However, I think it may have been a technical error on my part. I felt like it needed some citrus like maybe a bit of lemon or lime juice to loosen the paste up more and balance the heat. Overall, the wings were very good and had great flavor. The spice rub was perfect! Once combined you can smell the flavors coming together nicely before they even hit the oven or grill! Another word of caution, the wings are very spicy! I can’t even imagine with the ancho chili powder. But we love spice.
Now on to the “Grilled Eggplant with Manchego Cheese Salad With Balsamic Black pepper Glaze”. We opted out of the glaze. The eggplant and cheese seemed as though it would be great as a standalone. For the manchego cheese, you will have to look in the deli section of your grocery store as opposed to the refrigerated dairy section. I had never heard of manchego cheese before and looked it up prior to heading out to the grocery. It’s an imported, dry aged Spanish cheese. In appearance, it’s packaged as a thick sliced wedge and reminded me of a hybrid of parmesan an muenster cheese. It won’t knock you over but it does have a bit of an odor. I noticed that the cheese is prone to crumbling when its cold so I set it out at room temperature before having papa Smurf slice it. It was a very unique combination of flavors. I would’ve liked a lighter wet cheese like mozzarella or ricotta with the eggplant. I made another culinary discovery while making this dish. I used extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper to bake and broil the eggplant. A few of the more thinly sliced discs of eggplant had gotten quite crispy and were quite tasty without the cheese! Once melted, the manchego cheese reminded me of fontina cheese (a cheese we were first introduced to back when Papa Smurf was working for Panera back home in Maryland).

For anyone looking to stay on track with their NYE diet and healthier eating Flay cites that the Honey Chipotle Wings” are a healthier alternative to traditional deep fried buffalo wings. To my knowledge grilling is a healthier option since it burns off the fat. The grilled eggplant is also a healthy option which could definitely stand alone as an entree as opposed to a side it was quite filling.

The last recipe/ dish pictured was the “Green Onion Slaw” which was also a winner! My first tweak to this was to add a little sugar. I like my slaw a little sweet. I would only use half of the red onion. The whole onion was a bit much and gave the salad too much bite. Be sure to chop the onions finely to cut down the pungent/strong taste as with the scallions already present the onions can really overpower the slaw. I guess it is a matter of preference, taste, and what the chef was trying to create as far as bite, sweetness or without sweetness.

We looked forward to trying many more recipes from both Flay’s and Batali’s books before returning them to the library. However, we only managed to squeeze in grilled porterhouse steaks and grilled corn as Italians would eat it. I will say a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper makes a steak very good! I wish I had taken pictures! I plan on possibly purchasing both books in the near future. I am looking to build my cookbook library.


  1. The wings look (and sound) pretty good! It sounds like you guys are really making a home for yourselves out in Florida. - Tiffani


    1. Thanks Tiff! Yes, we are definitely trying to make it home and feeling a little more at home as time goes on and esp as we find our "go-to" places.