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July 2011 Cookbooks of the Month: MOLTO GUSTO and ITALIAN GRILL

The votes are in, and the majority has spoken for Mario Batali and his books MOLTO GUSTO and ITALIAN GRILL.

Please use this thread for general discussion of the books and their recipes, and feel free to share any relevant links you've discovered. I'll be posting specific threads for the books come July 1.

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  1. I've ordered a copy of MOLTO GUSTO from the library. I don't grill, so that'll be it for me, Mario-wise.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      Thanks Caitlin. FYI, you wrote July 2010 in your caption, not 2011. Don't know if it is too late for you to change the heading.

      I bought ITALIAN GRILL and I am getting a copy of MOLTO GUSTO from the library. Can't wait!

      1. re: dkennedy

        D'oh! Thank you for pointing that out so promptly, dkennedy; edit window still open, I have corrected it. You say we're halfway through the year? I appear to be in denial.

    2. Very happy about this result. Me and my new Big Green Egg will be firing it up on the grilling book. The Molto Gusto book is a good complement to it. Very vegetable oriented, and a lot of pretty easy, weeknight stuff.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MelMM

        We just got a new Lynx BBQ as well. Looking forward to attempting to use it on a daily basis over the next month (except during our holiday in snowy Mammoth). I can't wait to get my hands on the books!

        1. re: dkennedy

          We have a Lynx and it's very good. Of course, we also have a BBQ pit and a charcoal grill (our yard looks like a showroom), but the Lynx gets the most use.

          1. re: roxlet

            Boy Roxlet, I want to be invited over to your house for a BBQ! Our backyard is so tiny we barely have room for the Lynx, two adirondack chairs and a few plants. But I'm not complaining, the Lynx has really exceeded our expectations so far.

          1. Minuteman system has plenty of copies of both books, and they have been ordered. I have never seen either book and am strangely optimistic. I have always enjoyed Batali's approach to food. Why should these books be different?

              1. Another pair of books I'd be delighted to cook from. Off to my library I go. I wonder if I and my good intentions will get any cooking done next month? I haven't even given up on June yet. I wish you all wouldn't be picking such great books while I've been so distracted these past several months...


                1. Caitlin, thanks so much for leading us through this nail biter!!

                  I'm really excited about July's COTM. There are so many appealing dishes in both these books the challenge will be what "not" to make!!

                  MOLTO GUSTO has all of Mario Batali's appeal and, the added benefit of a focus on "easy" quick meals. As I mentioned in the nomination thread, I was pleasantly surprised to find that vegetables figure prominently in this book, further adding to its appeal during growing season. Oh, and that Pizza section!!! My mouth waters just thinking about it!! I picked this book up last year and immediately started cooking from it. All dishes we've tried so far have been a success. There are a lot of antipasti and bruschetta dishes and I recall a particular weekend early last fall where we dined exclusively on "small plates", many of which came from this book. (Fresh Favas w Ricotta Salata and Lemon Vinaigrette, Chickpeas w Leeks, Cherry Tomatoes w Creme Fraiche & Chives, Cauliflower w Olives (awesome!!), White Beans . . . ) you get the idea!

                  ITALIAN GRILL fast became my favourite grilling book in our collection. I can always count on it for interesting, tasty dishes that work. There's a recipe for Spicy Black Pepper (chicken) Drumsticks that is so absurdly good that the first time we had it we went right back out the next day to get more drumsticks so I could make it again! (and I hate repeating dishes!) Great picnic food!! If you're a wine lover, don't miss David Lynch's 2-pager at the front end of the book as he talks about Italian wines that are great for grilling. I learned quite a bit and, the matches we tried were fabulous.

                  Another reason I'm excited about this COTM is that mr bc is the designated griller in our home so this month will be the first where he "directly" participates in the COTM vs his past rolls as chief taste-tester and part-time photographer!!

                  So looking forward to cooking w all of you in July!!

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Ha! "That pizza section." Got my copy of the book from the library and was flipping through. Saw all the pizza recipes and my mouth was watering. Looked for where he had info on making the dough. Couldn't find it. Finally realized someone had razored out all the pages with the making, shaping, and pre-cooking of the dough rounds.

                    I exchanged the mutilated copy for a complete one, and now that I see what he's doing, I'm not so sure. I don't have a griddle. I have a pizza stone that lives on the floor of my oven. Never tried making a pizza under the broiler. He says you can also use an enameled cast-iron frying pan. Why enameled? Why not just cast iron? Maybe I'll give it a try with an upside-down cast iron skillet and see what happens.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      We've never tried making pizza that way either Joan but just seeing those photos made me want to try!! I read through that section and it seems to me he's stressing "enamelled" because it would have a "smooth" surface. I think you could easily re-create that by putting a piece of foil over the cast iron pan. We'll be doing the same thing since I don't have an enamelled one either. Also, MB has his own product line so if his pans are enamelled he's probably just taking an opportunity to pitch his products. I think the regular stuff will be just fine! We're planning on making pizza this long weekend but mr bc is keen to try it on the grill. He didn't have much luck on the grill the last time so we'll see how it goest this time around!! I'll be looking out to see if you get to these pizza recipes before I do.

                      ...can't believe someone would remove the pgs from the library book btw, how horrible!

                      1. re: JoanN

                        I was thinking of this http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/i...

                        -- I wonder if this would be OK. I trust King Arthur Flour when it says the pan is thick enough, etc., for the job. I usually just have pizza rectangulari on a cookie sheet, made with 1/2 recipe of no-knead bread dough.

                        I also found "00 flour" at the King Arthur site -- they call it "Italian style flour".

                        Had to laugh -- when he (jokingly) mentioned French fries as a topping it sounded so good.

                        I know I'd tire of the plan in a week, but right now it sounds like a good idea to live on pizza and gelato all of July.

                        1. re: blue room

                          Mmmmmm pizza & gelato July . . .. LOVE that idea br!!!! ; - )

                          1. re: blue room

                            I trust King Arthur as well, but those pizza pans are meant for a 450 degree oven. Batali says the surface of the griddle should be about 375, but still. That a tough thing to control without the infrared thermometer he uses. And how would you preheat it? On the stovetop? And then how would you get it into the oven? The Batali pan has handles.

                            You might want to take a look at this thread from a few years back: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379783 If I were going to buy something, it would probably be the Lodge pizza pan for very little more than the King Arthur one. http://www.google.com/products/catalo...

                            1. re: JoanN

                              I have had CusionAir pizza pan for years - http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12... - only use it for baking frozen pizzas. Maybe I'll get brave in July and try to make one from scratch:)

                              1. re: herby

                                I've never used a pizza pan. If you do try it, I'll be eager to hear how it works for you.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  I like it a lot, Joan. Pizza gets nice and crusty on the bottom because of the wholes but does not burn and I cook it at a high - 450F - temperature. Also good for reheating - no soggy crust ever.

                                  1. re: herby

                                    Do I assume correctly that you use the pan on an oven shelf?

                                    I guess because I have a stone permanently installed on my oven floor that I never felt a need for one. I also cook at a high temp; my oven tells me 550F but I've never actually confirmed that, so soggy crusts were never an issue for me either.

                                    Making a pizza under the broiler, however, is a whole new ball of wax for me. I'll give it a try. Probably. But with some skepticism.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      Yes, I put the pizza pan on an oven shelf. Very sceptical about cooking under the broiler not sure will give it a try. Is pizza in the grill book? I do not have BBQ and thought that I would just cook from Molto Gusto. I prefer cooking from just one book during the COTM anyway.

                                      1. re: herby

                                        The pizza recipes are in Molto Gusto and he calls for preheating the griddle pan (whatever pan one might be using) on the top of the stove and precooking the dough on the top of the stove. The pizza doesn't go under the broiler until you've added the fillings to the already precooked crust.

                                        Very unlike any pizza I've ever made. I, too, am skeptical. Will probably give it a try at some point the interest of science and, more importantly, COTM.

                              2. re: JoanN

                                Oops, I don't have stolen pages as an excuse -- I just hadn't read those instructions! And I'm afraid I've already ordered the loot. I think the pan is good *up to* 450º, so 375 would be fine. I planned to preheat and cook it in the oven-- and just use a hot pad to move the pan in and out, as I would any hot pot.

                                I know people* can be particular about the crust, I confess the topping is way more important to me. I do have a Scanpan skillet (oven safe to 500º) I suppose I could use.

                                *people like Mario Batali!

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  I have a very old wood oven pizza pan that my uncle used in his restaurant in the '40s-'50s. It's about 16" wide, made of aluminum and that's what I indend to use for Mario's pizzas. I suspect that we'll assemble the pizza in it's entirety and put in the oven at a high temp rather than use my insanely finicky broiler. G might want to try grilling it on the Weber for the fun of it, though.

                                  The other thing I was thinking of is a paella pan. It has handles and can work both on the stove top and in the oven...

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Oh! I have a wonderful copper core All Clad that is somewhat paella shaped. Found it on a discount table for, you will be jealous, $80! That would work. Maybe then Mr. smtucker would let me grill pizza.

                                    1. re: smtucker

                                      Oh My...! What a great find. To tell the truth, though, a grilled pizza has 2 separate grillings. First the rolled dough is placed on the grill directly over hot coals and grilled for about 2 minutes. Second, with tongs the dough is flipped over and placed on the cool side to cook for a few seconds. It is then removed to a baking sheet and the toppings laid on and returned to the grill...

                                      Here's what it looks like:


                                    2. re: Gio

                                      Paella pan! Brilliant! I wonder if mine will fit under my broiler? Going to go check right now.

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        My broiler doesn't work, but I do have a nice grill. And I've been wanting a paella pan. Kismet.

                                      2. re: Gio

                                        There is a pizza chapter in Italian Grill, so I assume he has some grilled pizza recipes?

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          I don't have the books and just assumed that was part of the deal ... oops.

                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                            Caitlin there are several grilled pizza recipes:

                                            Here's a link for the salami & pecorino...


                                            Schiacciata with Concord Grapes and Fennel Seeds

                                            Focaccina with Roasted Garlic, Scallions and Provolone

                                2. It's probably heresy to say this, but almost any grilled dish could be made using a different heat source, yes?

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    It's not exactly heresy, but the results will not be the same. That is, the nice smoky flavor that comes from grilling outside...plus those char marks. However, indoors a cast iron skillet, an indoor grill pan with ridges, or a griddle could probably be substituted for most of the recipes.

                                    Here we're really primitive with our big green Weber and wood chips; We like the flavor of the chips as opposed to charcoal. And, no lighter fluid either, just one of those chimney starters.

                                    ETA: I assume you're asking about charcoal or gas out of doors...

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Unless we're super pressed for time, mr bc barely uses our gas bbq now. Like you, we too like the Weber/woodchips combo and, agree, the chimney starter is a must...I even made a makeshift one out of an commercial size tomato can when we were on vacation and the home we rented didn't have a chimney starter!!

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Yes, I meant outdoors, and yes I know (aaaagh!) the results/flavor/stripes will not be right! But some of the dishes could be interesting anyway. Big Sal kindly posted links to a few, I noticed "mortadella and robiola packets" right away. That sort of sounds good straight out of the refrigerator...

                                        1. re: blue room

                                          I'm sure you could do some of them indoors br. FYI, I noticed that EYB has added links to online versions for the Italian Grill book so if you see something you like posted on the thread, you could check EYB to see if there's an online source for the recipe. The nice thing there is you can look up by recipe name. I'm sure they'll be adding them for Molto Gusto too.

                                      2. re: blue room

                                        From the first paragraph on page 6 of Italian Grill: "The uniquely satisfying seasoning and delicious flavor that the smoldering fire and its smoke create is quite simply unattainable with any other method of heat transfer."

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Sad sentence! I will repeat it to Mr. blue room.

                                          1. re: blue room

                                            For me as well. May have to get myself invited to the country some time during July.

                                          2. re: JoanN

                                            At my parents house we had an indoor wood grill in the room we called "the porch." A totally enclosed room that ran the width of the house with large windows, a tiled floor and cedar paneled walls. It was really a 3 season great room. One wall had a large floor to ceiling niche into which was fitted The Grill.

                                            On the grill at waist high was a metal shelf and behind that was a sliding lava tile unit which could slide in and out where the wood for the fire was laid. An adjustable grate was above that. There was a warming oven on top of that and a storage shelf at the bottom. Beneath the metal shelf were wheels which could be rotated to raise or lower the fire shelf or the grate where the food cooked. An exhaust hood was at the top up to the ceiling.

                                            What a magical machine that was. It was even fitted with a gas line in case you ran out of wood.

                                            My best memory is of crostini with butter drenched chunks of fillet mignon seasoned with a little salt and pepper, grilled rare, on buttered slices of freshly baked baguette toasts.

                                            When we sold the house The Grill went with it. How I wish I could have that piece of magic now...

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              That does indeed sound magical. Never heard of anything like it. Did your parents have it custom built to their specifications?

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I'm not quite sure. I remember the installation and it seems to me that I remember thinking it looked "used." It may have come from a tavern or restaurant that was being remodled. It was steel, with black and red painted trim (enameled?) My father was a great one for bringing home unusual and/or antique furnishings. I've never seen anything like it since. I may have a photo in the archives...

                                              2. re: Gio

                                                My parent's first house was not in great shape when they bought it. My father's best friend was extremely wealthy, and gave them a housewarming gift. He paid for a new kitchen to be installed. [Yea, how great is that?]

                                                So they built a pretty typical 1960's kitchen, pulling out the pantry, adding a half bath.... but then they went somewhere totally different. Inside the old coal stove chimney, they installed a real grill! Trust me, we were the only people in this suburban town cooking on a grill, indoors. And yes, when we sold that house, we sold the grill.

                                                The kitchen has since been redone at least twice, but the grill remains. No one has ever considered pulling it out.

                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                  Oh, don't you you were able to grill on it now? I wasn't allowed to go near ours. Too young, I guess. It would be perfect for all the grilling we do now, though.

                                              3. re: JoanN

                                                But, on page 11, under the heading Grilling Year-Round:

                                                "For those who live in cooler climates (and city dwellers who are unable to grill when they're not on vacation), note that most of the recipes in this book can be cooked under the broiler or on a ridged grill pan on the stovetop. Timing may vary slightly - just follow the visual clues for doneness in the recipe, and adjust the cooking time as necessary."

                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                  Shhhh! I'm trying to use that other sentence to wheedle invitations to the country.

                                            2. Just checking in (from Istanbul, no less) to say that have ordered Molto Gusto and am looking forward to COTM after a month off. It will be nice to have something that isn't Turkish as well, although we've had some fabulous food over the past three weeks. I've missed you all!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                gg, great to hear from you and I hope you're having a fabulous trip!! Looking forward to cooking w you in July. Safe travels!!!

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  Even the best kinds of foods get old after a long enough time, don't they? I hope you're having a wonderful time, and we look forward to hearing from you when you get back.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    True, but I'm missing my Turkish breakfasts already (got home yesterday). The perfectly ripe tomatoes are to die for, as is the rest of the fresh produce.

                                                2. Molto Gusto has arrived - lots of great-sounding vegetable dishes.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: greedygirl


                                                    I have been reading the comments you posted on EYB and they are most helpful. You have inspired me and I am going to start posting my own comments as soon as my copy of Italian Grill arrives.

                                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                                      Thanks so much dk. I've been trying to add notes to EYB for all the recipes I use from my books now, its so nice to hear you found them helpful.

                                                  2. Went by the library today and picked up both books. One hour later, I have finished reading through Molto Gusto. Okay folks... if you are a new cook, or an unsure cook, this is the month to jump into COTM!

                                                    These recipes are beautifully simple with lovely combinations of flavors that can be transferred to no-recipe cooking for years to come. Next up, Italian Grill.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                      Isn't it a great book smtucker? I'm so smitten w both of them. The food is so terrific and versatile and as I said up thread, it was great to see the emphasis on quick "easy" meals. You'll love IG too I'll bet!! : )

                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                        Feeling greedy toward whoever has it from my library. Due back something like July 7th. Can I wait that long with reports like this???

                                                      2. Look for the threads midday Eastern/mid-morning Pacific time Friday.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                          Looking forward to it! We're hosting a Canada Day BBQ tomorrow. I'm prepping the olio piccante for the Chicken Thighs w Snap Peas and Agliata from Italian Grill (p141) tonight. :)

                                                          1. re: maplesugar

                                                            I can't believe July is already here! I am still waiting for my copy of Italian Grill to come in the mail. I hope it arrives before I leave on vacation. I went to the library yesterday and picked up my copy of Molto Gusto, it looks sooooo good. I think I will have to buy this book as well.

                                                            From my initial perusal of Molto Gusto, I think I will be concentrating on the Vegetable Antipasti and the Isalata sections. Every single recipe in these sections made my mouth salivate. The other recipe I must try will be Spaghetti all'Amatriciana. I make a pretty solid Amatriciana on my own, but the version at Mozza is a notch above mine. I am hoping this is the recipe they use there.

                                                            1. re: dkennedy

                                                              I am going to the library tomorrow to pick up Molto Gusto and hope it is still on the shelf - didn't have time to stop by during the week and it is closed today because of Canada Day celebrations. The Royal couple is here - hard to get around with constant street closures.

                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                I took Lulu to the library today and was happily surprised to find my copy (Molto Gusto) waiting for me. Just got back, but look forward to some time to look at it.