There’s no denying the thrill of cooking outdoors and the sense of community it brings when people gather around a fire, and in this book, author Linda Ly will teach you how to master the flames. For the adventurous, start by building a home fire pit. It’s easier than it sounds and requires a minimal investment of time and space. If you’d rather not, that’s okay!
There are plenty of other options, from vessel fire pits to tabletop grills. Even a charcoal kettle grill will give you more flavour than cooking with gas. Ly also covers everything you need to know about fuel sources (hardwood, hardwood lump charcoal, and smoking wood), her go-to grilling tools and accessories, secrets for stocking an indoor and outdoor pantry, fire making, fire safety, and tips and tricks for grilling more efficiently.
You can choose your own adventure with over 70 recipes for ember roasting, wood-fired cooking, charcoal grilling, and foil pack meals. Next-level techniques like dutch oven cooking, grilling a la plancha, and plank grilling are all part of the fun, too.
With modern twists on classics and globally-inspired meals like Smoky Ember-Roasted Eggplant Dip, Italian Burgers with Basil Mustard and Giardiniera, Thai Chicken Pizza with Sweet Chili Sauce, Grilled Oysters with Kimchi Butter, Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf on a Plank, and Artichoke, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Feta Stuffed Flank Steak, you’ll find a recipe for almost every occasion.
This is not a book about low-and-slow barbecue, and you won’t find overnight marinades or complicated recipes, either. Ly aims to encourage easy, accessible grilling that you look forward to doing on a weeknight because, quite simply, food just tastes better outside.
Italian Burgers with Basil Mustard and Giardiniera
(The Backyard Fire Cookbook, p. 68)
A medley of Italian ingredients makes this a standout burger for your next backyard gathering. Just as with the Beef and Chorizo Bunless Burger Stacks (page 65), this recipe incorporates the cheese into the meat—this time by pressing it between two thin patties, which keeps the whole thing creamy and moist. Though the meat is usually the star of any burger, the topping is what makes this one truly special.
1½ cups (336 g) Homemade Giardiniera (recipe follows), plus more for serving
3 tablespoons (45 g) Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoons (21 g) mayonnaise
3 tablespoons (7.5 g) thinly sliced fresh basil
1 pound (454 g) ground chuck
12 ounces (340 g) bulk hot Italian sausage
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices provolone cheese
4 ciabatta rolls, split
At least 3 days before you plan to serve the burgers, make the giardiniera (page 70).
Prepare a medium-hot two-zone fire in a fire pit (see page 26) with a grill grate over the coals.
Finely chop the giardiniera. Set aside until needed.
In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, mayonnaise, and basil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, Italian sausage, salt, and pepper. With clean hands, lightly mix the ingredients until just combined. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and gently pat each ball into a patty about ½ inch (1 cm) thick. Sandwich 1 slice of provolone between 2 patties. Crimp the edges with your fingers to encase the cheese. Press your thumb into the center of each patty to make a large dimple.
Arrange the patties on the grate over direct heat. Grill, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Flip the patties and grill for 3 to 4 minutes more until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat reaches 160°F (71°C).
Arrange the ciabatta, cut-side down, on the grate over direct heat. Grill until lightly browned and crisp, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the bottom buns to a sheet pan. Turn the top buns over and grill for 30 seconds to 1 minute until toasted.
To assemble the burgers, slather a layer of basil mustard on the bottom half of each ciabatta bun. Add a patty, a few spoonfuls of giardiniera, and place the other half of the bun on top. Serve with more giardiniera on the side.
(The Backyard Fire Cookbook, p. 70)
YIELD: MAKES 1 QUART (ABOUT 900 G)
Giardiniera is the Italian word for “from the garden” and the beauty of this pickled condiment is you can make it with whatever fresh vegetables (from your garden or otherwise) are at their peak. For my giardiniera, I like to use a rainbow of spring and summer vegetables such as baby squash, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, and cherry bomb peppers (which are mild like jalapeños). You can’t really go wrong here, though you should try to avoid vegetables that can discolour the pickles (like red beets).
I like to use organic canola oil because it’s flavourless and doesn’t detract from the crisp tanginess of the pickles. It also won’t solidify in the fridge, but you can use any neutral or mild-flavoured oil in its place, such as sunflower or avocado oil, and let the giardiniera come to room temperature before serving.
3 cups (weight varies)
chopped or sliced mixed vegetables
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
¼ cup (75 g) kosher salt
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
½ teaspoon peppercorns, cracked
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
¾ cup (180 ml) canola oil
¾ cup (180 ml) distilled white vinegar
In a large bowl, combine the mixed vegetables and serrano. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables, toss to combine, and cover with water by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Let the vegetables sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly to remove excess salt.
In a quart-size (960 ml) jar with a lid, combine the oregano, cracked peppercorns, and garlic. Add the canola oil and vinegar. Seal the jar and shake well until blended.
Pack the vegetables into the jar. With the back of a spoon, tamp down to submerge them in the brine. Re-cover the jar and refrigerate the giardiniera for 2 to 3 days before serving. (It only gets better as it ages!) Giardiniera will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.
Recipe excerpted from The Backyard Fire Cookbook by Linda Ly; Quarto Group, 2019.