The Austin Chronicle

Read to Eat

Start the summer with great food stories and recipes worth a little perspiration

By Mick Vann, May 30, 2008, Food

Italian Grill

by Mario Batali, with Judith Sutton
Ecco Press, 256 pp., $29.95

Summer has arrived with its typical vengeance, and it's time to fire up the grill and move the cooking heat from kitchen to patio. Mario Batali's new Italian Grill is the perfect accompaniment to that endeavor. Batali has packed this new title with 80 Italian recipes that cover all of the culinary bases, producing huge flavor while showing the utmost respect to the ingredients. He's a master of the concept of building complex and complementary flavors while keeping the marinades light and the procedure simple. Loaded with basic grilling information for the neophytes, Italian Grill goes on to give the reader juicy details through the copious use of sidebars. Recipes are easily followed and logical, while each dish is reverently illustrated. This is the kind of cookbook that you scan through and find recipe after recipe that you have to try. For example, you glance at the recipe for split heads of radicchio wrapped in pancetta, quickly grilled, and topped with pear slices and a drizzle of good balsamic, and you can't help but salivate.

Batali works his way through the menu, from antipasti and pizza/flat breads, fish and shellfish to poultry, meat, and vegetables, and they all sound tempting. Grilled flat bread with grapes and fennel seeds; lightly charred scallops tossed with tomatoes, red onion, and basil; olive-and-herb-stuffed whole fish with green sauce; brined pork chops with peppers and capers: All taste even better than expected. The beef pinwheels stuffed with salami, fontina-Parmesan cheeses, and scallions are orgasmic.

This is simple food that preps quickly, grills in a flash, and heartily satisfies. All of the dishes are rock-solid and have enough variety that you could almost cook only from this book all summer long and anticipate every meal.

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