Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jun 15, 2009 at 5:40pm

I’m really enjoying the concepts and recipes in my new cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallman. In particular, I’m a bit obsessed with cooking vegetables on a chapa – (from the book) a flat piece of cast iron or a cast-iron skillet set over a fire. I’m using my big Le Creuset cast-iron skillet, set on my Weber gas grill.  I preheat the grill until it’s very hot (600+ degrees F), then lay the pan on the grate and preheat it until it’s hot too. Most of the recipes in Seven Fires are cooked on a chapa, which quickly sears and caramelizes food – perfect for vegetables. I mean prrrrrfect. I’ve created two insanely simple and delicious dishes so far – one Friday night for my friend Michelle (alongside salmon), the other tonight for just John and me. Tomorrow? Yep, but more on that in a second.

Let me back up a bit and explain the two dishes I’ve already made. The first was Burnt Fennel and Zucchini with Parmesan, Lemon, and Basil. The technique is to thinly slice the vegetables, separately toss them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then cook them separately (fennel first, pictured above, then the zucchini) on the hot (unoiled) chapa until tender and blackened in spots. The warm vegetables are tossed together and finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs, and crumble of Parmesan cheese. I plated the vegetables over a slice of grilled whole-grain bread, and served alongside salmon fillets that I also cooked on the chapa (Arthur, if you’re still looking for a way to achieve crisp salmon skin, this may be the answer, since the pan is so much hotter than you can achieve indoors).

Tonight, armed with my new technique/experience, I rustled around in the cooler and unearthed wild mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, English peas, and spinach. I grilled each vegetable one at a time, scraping into a serving bowl as I went along, finishing with a handful of quickly-toasted nuts, minced fresh herbs from my pots on the deck (basil, mint, oregano), a crumble of Parm, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Frankly, that was dinner – whole-meal-worthy and truly yummy.

I was needing a just-vegetables dinner after Saturday’s not-moderate feast, uff. Stacey, Debbie and Stu The Wine Genius Williams, and Michelle (here for the weekend) joined us for a pool-n-grill Saturday, sunny and hot and perfect for a barbecue. I slow-braised two spice-rubbed pork shoulders pretty much all afternoon in the oven, then finished them on the grill, crisping up the exterior and slathering them in barbecue sauce. We ate the pork pulled apart on rolls, with a side of blue-cheese coleslaw, fresh farmer’s market snap peas, and apple pie a la mode for dessert. The wine – thanks to Stu, so delicious. Blast!

So tomorrow, more chapa vegetables, this time to toss with pasta. I’m thinking more swiss chard, garlic, and sweet onion, as well as the one little slice of pancetta I have left from last week’s Springtime Fava Bean Salad with Poached Egg (like I said, I’m seriously digging this book). Stay tuned…

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Older Comments

  1. By FreshTartSteph on November 27, 2010 at 9:59AM

    Mike, sounds incredible. Amazing to me that it's not a more widely known/used cooking style since it coaxes so much flavor from food, particularly vegetables. Your pasta dish sounds delicious, yum.

  2. By Mike Fahay on November 22, 2010 at 10:26AM

    I am also a devotee of the "Seven Fires" book. I've read every word cover to cover. It is truly inspiring. Our electric stove has a skillet option that gets hot enough to cook everything Argentine-style. My wife and I tried your grilled veggie recipe with a few modifications. We added a chopped Leek to the Fennel for the first round, then added a cupful of Orechiette to the finale. We are also messing around with herbs other than Basil (Thyme, Tarragon, Oregano). This is a keeper. One of the best vegetable dishes we've ever made. Really good with split, broiled chicken.

  3. By SML on July 21, 2009 at 4:27PM

    I turned the vegetables over - ended up being a sort of dry saute technique, if you can picture that. (Sorry for my late response, just saw this comment.) Good luck!

  4. By Barrys on July 1, 2009 at 11:36AM

    I just got the Seven Fires cookbook and I am anxious to try the techniques. Did you turn over the vegetables or just char one side?

  5. By SML on June 16, 2009 at 8:07PM

    MO sounds great - both new and old. I keep forgetting the sesame seeds, must do that. Re: wine, will post, thanks! Stu, nope, not a blogger, which is too bad, he would be an unbelievable contributor.

  6. By Arthur on June 15, 2009 at 6:27PM

    but i'd be afraid with the salmon that the outside would be too done before the inside got done enough. My mo with salmon is to quickly brown it on the stove top, and then finish it in the oven at 400.

    I did change my mo a little for the first time on friday night. I used my le-creuset cast iron grill pan and just lightly oiled it, gave it a few min on the skin side til it started to crisp, turned and gave the non skin side (covered with seasame seeds) a few min to get grill marks and brown and finished in the oven. Much less oil than my previous method and crispy skin. I think it is a winner.

  7. By Arthur on June 15, 2009 at 6:25PM

    the salmon looks great and i love the concept. unfortunately, I have only a piddly gas grill that will in no way put out the heat for that....will fix that as soon as we move (we've been in our apartment for six years, so don't hold breath).

    I've just added you as a writer to Please post pictures of the wine bottles. no commentary necessary. (I'll add Stu the Wine Genius if he has an account).