by Bridget O’Donnell

Over the last few years I’ve established a food-related M.O. of baking in the oven on the hottest day of the summer. Although it’s become a tradition, recipes and dishes are chosen using a seasonal but somewhat unpredictable menu. In the past, yields from calendar days marked by unprecedented heat have ranged from a few desserts and/or breads (and by “few” I mean 2-3), to a sheet pan or two of roasted root vegetables. The minimum bake time, however, is almost always an hour so to say it can get warm would be an understatement. If you were in Dutchess County the second week of August [12, 2021] you might remember the heat wave that made me consider rewriting this particular M.O. I’ll quickly recap my day. Earlier that morning I went for a walk before starting work at 9am; I think the temperature rose about 15 degrees in less than ten minutes. By 9:28am we received an email from the library director confirming a heat advisory was in effect; PPLD libraries would be designated cooling centers until the weather broke. (Weather sources anticipated temperatures in the upper 90s with what felt like 99% humidity for most of the week.) A half hour later one person joined me for the library’s walking club on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail; let’s just say I was happy to have had the foresight to bring a complete change of clothes. …When it was time for dinner I put a few leftovers on plates to acknowledge the heat advisory. Then, instead of quitting while I was ahead, I sautéed asparagus, garlic and sun gold cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil on the stovetop. The combination was fantastic so I suppose it was worth the [superfluous] heat that I’d created – cancelling most, if not all of the A.C. coming from the other room. …And, since that night I’ve decided to redefine my M.O. and grill on the hottest day[s] of the summer.

After consulting the MHLS’s collection I checked out more cookbooks than I could carry in a single trip. I gleaned recipes that looked manageable for my first solo flight on our grill and picked up a few additional items to complement my weekly CSA vegetable share and the leftovers in the refrigerator. Overall, I think it went really well. Take a look at my review (below).

Title of Cookbook:
Master of the Grill: Foolproof Recipes, Top-Rated Gadgets, Gear, and Ingredients plus Clever Test Kitchen Tips and Fascinating Food Science.

Author of Cookbook:
The editors at America’s Test Kitchen

What prompted you to check out this cookbook?
The heat advisory was the primary catalyst, imminently motivating me to learn how to use our grill as an alternative cooking method. Vegetables from my CSA Share are also especially plentiful in July and August. They taste amazing grilled and seem[ed] to be an easy (and safe) way to introduce myself to [solo] outdoor cooking. When in doubt: reboot, I mean – season with olive oil, salt and pepper; grill or char until vegetables look done. Voila.

What did you like about this cookbook?
This cookbook is an invaluable compendium for the grill. It’s full of tips for cooking with different types of grills, equipment and accessories. There are prep/seasoning/cook charts (i.e. grilled fruit on p. 123) and a number of alternative sauces/marinades/rubs listed with most recipes to accommodate a variety of palates.

What didn’t you like about this cookbook?
Although it may not be considered as artistic or aesthetic as some of the new cookbooks, there are so many recipes it’s difficult to decide what to make next (if that’s something not to like).

Favorite recipe (that you tried from the cookbook):
Ratatouille with an American Accent (p. 120)

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they?
I combined the Ratatouille recipes from America’s Test Kitchen Master of the Grill (p. 120) and Food52 Any Night Grilling (p. 96). From Serial Griller I gleaned additional ingredients and alternative grilling methods. For example, cremini mushrooms can be grilled on a skewer – if you can get them on in one piece (p. 118) and, carefully sliced heirloom tomatoes can be grilled directly on the grill (p. 175) – I’ll let you experiment with that one.

Have a photo of your completed dish, your creation mid-recipe, or happy eaters you’d like to share?

Would you recommend this cookbook? Yes


Master of the grill: foolproof recipes, top-rated gadgets, gear, and ingredients plus clever test kitchen tips and fascinating food science / by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen.
Ratatouille with an American Accent (p. 120)
Easy grilled potato pack (p. 116)
Grilled fruit (p. 123)
Ultimate [Portobello] mushroom burger (p. 150, a concept that was originally introduced to me at a BBQ my brother organized. He also manned the smoker and prepared the burgers.)

Food52 any night grilling: 60 ways to fire up dinner (and more) / Paula Disbrowe ; photography by James Ransom.
Smoky Ratatouille (p. 96)

Serial griller: grillmaster secrets for flame-cooked perfection / Matt Moore.
Cremini mushrooms [on a skewer] (p. 118)
Grilled heirloom caprese salad (p. 175)

Rodney Scott’s world of BBQ: every day is a good day / Rodney Scott & Lolis Eric Elie; Jerelle Guy, photographer.
Grilled vegetable salad (p. 151 – I haven’t tried this but it caught my attention while I was looking for a grilled ratatouille recipe.)

Quick Subject links to the Library catalog:
Outdoor cooking.
Cooking (Smoked foods).
Cooking (Vegetables).
Cooking (Vegetables), grill*
Vegetarian cooking. Barbecuing.