‘Green Fire’: Vegetarian Recipes for the Barbecue From Celeb Chef Francis Mallmann
Vegetarian dishes take the spotlight in Francis Mallmann’s new book 'Green Fire: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables'. Photo: William Herefold
Barbecue goes beyond beef in Francis Mallmann’s book Green Fire: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables.
The world-renowned Argentine chef and TV personality (Chef’s Table) says the book was inspired by fans on social media who asked for more vegetarian and vegan recipes. “So four years ago, I decided to do this book where fruits and vegetables and grains are the highlights of it,” he told Zoomer via email.
Dubbed the master of live-fire cooking — as well as the most interesting chef in the world by Esquire — Mallmann’s primal approach to cooking is influenced by his upbringing in the great outdoors of Patagonia. His recipes focus on the bold flavours and simple pleasures derived from this oldest of cooking methods.
Even so, busy urban dwellers can easily prepare the dishes on a charcoal barbecue, or even on the stove. “All the fire recipes can be adapted to an oven, a cast iron grill or pan, or even a Weber,” Mallman says. “We worked hard on that. So you don’t have to build a big fire outside in order to cook.”
Green Fire is a beautifully photographed book that features more than 80 Argentine-influenced vegetarian dishes, including such palate pleasers as Crispy Potato Strips and Parsley Salad with Garlic Cream, Tomato Confit with Pepato Cheese Filling and Braised Beet and Plum Salad. Dessert can be as simple as throwing some fresh fruit on the grill, such as a whole-roasted pineapple or strawberries served with ricotta and mint. A selection of recipes are below, along with some culinary notes from Mallmann.
What are your favourite foods?
I have a very special love and respect for potatoes because I think that they’re so, so elegant the way they cook. They react to our desires of crust or mash, or whatever we would like to do with them, always with very, very good results.
Besides that, all my basic recipes are based on vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, fennel, onions, eggplant and, of course, tomatoes. The idea is that you can cook delicious things with very simple ingredients, adding flavour with sauces made with olive oil and fresh herbs.
What items/ingredients do you keep stocked in your pantry/fridge?
In my pantry, I like to have the best olive oils, the best vinegar and very good chili flakes as well as salt and pepper for flavour. Rice is also very important in my cooking and in my personal life. I like to eat rice very often. Oh, and good cheeses — parmesan, cheddar and some soft cheeses.
Crispy Potato Strips and Parsley Salad With Garlic Cream
This idea was born one afternoon when I found myself wandering around Greenwich Village in Manhattan—a charming neighboUrhood of low-rise buildings that, in spite of its becoming a mecca for the fashionable set, retains much of the flavor of the Italian immigrants who settled there more than a century ago. Simple storefront restaurants are still the rule here. One of my favorites is Mary’s Fish Camp. I adore their french fries, lightly dressed with vinegar. I had those piquant potatoes in mind when I dreamed up this salad. In contrast to the many versions of potato salad that you can make well in advance, this salad wants to be eaten right away, while the herbs are fresh and the potatoes are crunchy and cradled in garlicky cream.
½ cup (118 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
Olive oil, for deep-frying
2 cups (60 g) fresh parsley leaves
Red wine vinegar
Fleur de sel
1. Prepare a fire for medium heat and set a grate over it. Pull out a large deep cast-iron pot, such as a caldero or Dutch oven.
2. Combine the cream with the garlic in a very small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool.
3. Trim the potatoes into bricks (see page 42), cut them crosswise in half, then slice them lengthwise into very thin strips. They should be about 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick, ¾ inch (2 cm) wide, and 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) long. Reserve them in a bowl of cold water if you are slicing them ahead of time, but drain them and thoroughly blot them dry on a dish towel before they go into the hot oil.
4. Pour oil into the caldero or deep cast iron pot to fill it no more than halfway up the sides and attach a frying thermometer to the side. Set the caldero or pot on the grate (or if cooking indoors, set it on the stovetop over medium heat). Line a sheet pan with paper towels and set it nearby to drain the cooked potatoes. When the oil is hot enough to hiss and bubble around a strip of potato (about 350 F/180 C), carefully add a large handful of the potatoes and fry until they are golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the oil get too hot, or they will burn very quickly. If they clump together, move them apart with a long-handled spider or skimmer. As the potatoes are done, use the spider to transfer them to the paper towels to drain.
5. Meanwhile, add the parsley to the garlic cream and toss to coat.
6. When the potatoes are done, sprinkle them with vinegar to taste, then gently layer them on a platter or individual plates with the dressed parsley. Gently toss the layers together with your hands to lightly dress the potatoes without breaking them. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.
Tomato Confit With Pepato Cheese Filling
Highly contrasting tastes and textures often play harmoniously together. Here the tomatoes are soft, quite sweet, and pleasantly acidic. Pepato is a semi-hard sheep’s-milk pecorino, studded with whole black peppercorns. It is salty, with a peppery kick and a hint of caramel sweetness that wake up your palate.
4 Tomatoes Confit (page 65)
8 ounces (227 g) pecorino pepato cheese, shaved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. Prepare a fire for medium heat and warm the plancha. If cooking indoors, heat a large cast-iron griddle over medium heat.
2. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan and stuff a generous amount of cheese into the center of each. Drizzle the cheese with a little olive oil.
3. Brush the hot plancha or griddle generously with olive oil. Working with one tomato at a time and using a wide sharp-edged spatula, in one quick motion invert each tomato, cheese side down, onto the hot surface. Leave them there for several minutes, until the cheese has melted and each tomato is nicely browned. Lift the tomatoes off the plancha or griddle and flip them, cheese side up, onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.
Braised Beet and Plum Salad
The combination of the warm crisped beets, raw sliced plums, and the unexpected punch of the chiles is what makes this salad so memorable. I see the plums as angels and the beets as little devils; prayers on the one hand, lust on the other. The gentle creaminess of the ricotta keeps this contrast under control.
About 4 cups (1 l) vegetable broth, water, or
2 garlic cloves, peeled
6 dill sprigs
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ripe red plums
1 cup (227 g) fresh ricotta cheese
1 or 2 small hot chiles, halved, ribs and seeds removed, and thinly sliced
Crunchy Breadcrumbs (page 297)
1. Heat the horno, or a home oven, to 375 F (190 C).
2. Place the beets in a small lidded pot or a baking dish deeper than the height of the beets. Pour in the broth to come about two-thirds up the sides of the beets. Add the garlic, half the dill, the vinegar, and olive oil and salt to taste. Put the lid on the pot or cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for about 1 hour, depending on the size of the beets, until they are tender all the way through when pierced with a skewer.
3. When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and brush generously with olive oil. Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, slice the plums as thinly as you can, cutting around the pit. Tear the remaining dill into pieces, discarding any tough stems, and set aside.
4. Prepare a fire for high heat and warm the plancha. If cooking indoors, heat a large cast-iron griddle over high heat.
5. Brush the hot plancha or griddle with olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the beets cut side down. Cook until crisped on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wide platter.
6. Arrange the plums around the beets on the platter. Add dollops of ricotta, the sliced chiles, the breadcrumbs, and the remaining dill.
Roasted Strawberries With Ricotta and Mint
Strawberries have a strong affinity for dairy. The English adore their strawberries and cream while watching tennis players compete at Wimbledon. Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream is an American dessert classic. Eastern Europeans prepare blintzes with strawberries and farmer cheese. In this sumptuous dessert, I caramelize sugar, butter, and strawberries and spoon the molten stew over a dollop of ricotta topped with fresh mint.
2 pints (450 g) ripe strawberries
½ cup (113 g) sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1½ cups (300 g) chilled ricotta cheese
A handful of fresh mint leaves
Prepare a fire for medium-low heat and set a grate over it.
1. Hull the berries and place in a bowl. If they are large, cut them in half lengthwise. Add the sugar and gently toss the berries to thoroughly coat.
2. Pour the berries into a 9- or 10-inch (23 or 25 cm) cast-iron skillet and dot with the butter. Set the pan on the grate (or on the stovetop over medium heat) and cook until the sugar melts and the berries begin to caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as the butter melts into the caramelized sugar and berries and forms a sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the sauce into a bowl, leaving the berries in the warm skillet. Return the pan to the heat to brown the berries for a minute or so.
3. Spoon the ricotta onto a serving dish and top with the roasted berries. Shower with the mint and serve the warm sauce on the side.
Whole Roasted Pineapple With Blueberries
Fruits are so delicate and evanescent that they rarely benefit from long cooking. But pineapples—just like a rib roast—can cook for a long time. When I cook them on a dome, I hang them for hours, but you can also cook them, as I do here, on the grill and obtain lovely results in less time. Think a young wine versus aged Burgundy: they both have their virtues, but with a different investment of time.
2 cups (475 ml) water
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 ripe pineapple
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more if needed
3 cups (435 g) blueberries
3 cups (710 ml) vanilla ice cream
1. Prepare a fire for medium heat and set a grate over it. If cooking indoors, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. Meanwhile, make a syrup. Pour the water into a saucepan and add the sugar. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a deep roasting pan just large enough to hold the pineapple.
3. Slice off the bottom and the sides of pineapple and trim out the eyes. Lay the pineapple down in the hot syrup and turn to soak all sides.
4. If cooking outdoors, brush the grate with oil. Lay the pineapple down on one side and grill until nicely caramelized, about 15 minutes. Pick it up with a set of tongs, dunk it in the syrup to thoroughly drench it, and return it to the grill to brown on the second side. Grill for at least an hour, dunking it in the syrup every 15 minutes and returning it to the grill until all sides are browned and the pineapple is tender. You should be able to poke a bamboo skewer all the way through when it’s done (it will put up slight resistance at the core).
5. If cooking indoors, lay the pineapple on its side in a second roasting pan and put it in the oven. Every 15 minutes, take it out and roll it in the syrup to baste. When it is tender all the way through and very juicy but still holding its shape, transfer it to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
6. To serve, divide the blueberries among six serving plates. Crush half of them with the back of a fork, leaving the rest whole, and top each portion with a scoop of ice cream. With a long serrated knife, carve the pineapple into thick rounds and stand one slice upright on its side in each serving of ice cream.
Excerpted from Green Fire by Francis Mallmann. Copyright © 2022 Francis Mallmann. Photography © 2022 William Herefold. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.