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Jul 31, 2012 11:58 PM

August 2012 Cookbooks of the Month: Planet Barbecue and Raising the Salad Bar

Welcome to the August 2012 Cookbook of the Month!

This month we will be cooking from Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen, with the companion book, Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.

This is the last of my six months as COTM coordinator. It has been great fun, and I thank you all for all your kind words and your support. Best of luck and cheers to our next coordinator, Blue Room!

If you have never participated in the Cookbook of the Month discussion, we hope you'll give us a try in August. We have a lot of fun, and we learn from each other's experiences. The basics of COTM, and the archive of past books, can be found here:

If you are curious about the selection process, and the accompanying discussion, the nominating thread is here:
The voting thread is here:
Also, there is often interesting discussion, to be found in the announcement thread here:

Below are the reporting threads for both books. I've tried to keep the number of threads somewhat low, so more of us will be reporting together. There are three threads for Planet Barbecue, and two for Raising the Salad Bar.


Thread number one:
Staters, pages 1 - 58
Salads, pages 59 - 80
Grilled Breads, pages 81 - 114
Desserts, pages 567 - 596

Thread number two:
Beef, Veal, and Game, pages 115 - 190
Pork, pages 191 - 264
Lamb and Goat, pages 265 - 304
Ground Meat, pages 305 - 350

Thread number three:
Poultry, pages 351 - 418
Fish, pages 419 - 480
Shellfish, pages 481 - 526
Vegetables and Vegetarian Dishes, pages 527 - 566


Thread number one:
Salad Basics, pages 16 -25 (few recipes here, but some tips, so I though I'd include it
)Light Leafy Greens, pages 26 - 67
Chicken Salad Every Way, pages 68 - 93
Main Course Meat Salads, pages 94- 105
Seafood Salads, pages 106 - 129

Thread number two
Not Your Mother's Potato Salads, pages 130 - 143
Perfect Pasta Salads, pages 144 - 165
Big Beautiful Bean Salads, pages 166 - 181
Good-for-you Grains, pages 182 - 203
Cool Slaws, pages 204 - 217
Garden Veggie Salads, pages 218 - 231
Dressing Up, pages 232 - 261

Happy grilling and salad-making everyone!

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  1. Many thanks, LN. I did jump the gun during the last few days of July and made a couple of salads and dressings which I'll be reporting on soonest. We've been having some peculiar up here in my little corner of the planet and I foresee grilling will be at a minimum unless the rain clears at dinnertime. Otherwise it's back to indoor grill pan and trusty broiler, but salads are perfect for the diēs caniculārēs...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Same down here! Beautiful but very hot days, and then every night at around dinner time the skies open and we get a thunderstorm. Not ideal for grilled dinners.

      1. re: LulusMom

        I just reread my post and yes indeed we Do have some peculiar up here... in fact we have A Lot of peculiar. But, in this instance, I was referring to the weather...

        (someday I'll post a reply and leave all my typos in... you'd think I've invented a new language)

        1. re: Gio

          The weather must be having the same effect on me, because I knew just what you meant.

          That said, husband came home tonight with some gorgeous tuna steaks that he's putting on the grill soon. And the skies seem clear. Yippee!

    2. For you SF Bay Area folks, it appears Mr. Raichlin is speaking at CA Academy of Sciences tonight, Thurs Aug 2. Here's a link to his website which has some "techniques" and recipes posted:

      Thank you L.Nightshade for six very organized months! And looking forward to the reign of Blue Room.


      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        L.Nightshade sure made it look easy, didn't she? All the ducks in a row, and *smooth*!

      2. Did anyone notice the note about steaks on page 141 of Planet Barbecue? He says to never let steaks come to room temp before cooking; they should go onto the grill ice-cold. I've always been told the opposite, to bring meat out 30 minutes beforehand and let it come to room temp. I'd be interested to hear what you all think, and what you do in your homes.

        9 Replies
        1. re: L.Nightshade

          LN, I just read the page on keeping steak cold before you cook -- and I see around the 'net other opinions on this. I figure if it's summer (when people usually grill) it could be an ill-considered and fly-specked sultry 45 minutes before someone decides the steak is at room temp. It only takes seconds to heat up an ice-cold steak on a grill, as the author says? Sounds right to me, I'd take it out of the fridge and slap it directly on the grill.
          (Of course the steak must be thawed!)
          I *think* maybe some people like their steak SO rare that a very chilled steak would not be warm in the middle when the surface is "done". That might make some people bring it to room temp first.

          1. re: blue room

            We've been discussing this here at home since I posed the question, and I don't think I'll be able to convince Mr. NS to try a cold piece of meat on the grill! Every book we have, and most everything we find on the internet (except entries by Mr. Raichlen), insists on bringing meat to room temperatur for 20 - 30 minutes. The common rationale is as follows: "If you stick a cold dense piece of meat in a hot pan or oven, you risk drying out the exterior of the meat before you've given the inside a chance to cook through." Most entries think it's crucial to start at room temp, and it seems Mr. NS will remain committed to that method. As he is the one manning the grill, it looks like we won't be cooking with cold meat!

            1. re: L.Nightshade

              Only one way to solve this -- cut a steak in half and try both methods. Sacrifice supper for science.
              I just a watched an Alton Brown video which started a steak in oven low heat and finished high heat under broiler. He explained this raises the temp of the center without doing much damage to the outside. So, he would also seem to disagree with Raichlen. It was convincing to me that Raichlen states all good and great steakhouses cook cold meat -- but maybe they are doing so for safety, not flavor. Their steaks are so good to begin with -- their fires bigger and hotter than home --
              hmm I suppose the real answer is "it all depends".

              1. re: blue room

                The articles I ran across about chefs and steakhouses suggest that they do it that way because of food laws, not because it's the preferred method. But I did read somewhere that Harold McGee also says to start with cold meat. If that is true, I'd give his opinion a lot of weight.

                I'm now curious about this enough that I may try your suggestions of cutting one steak in half and trying it both ways!

                1. re: L.Nightshade

                  This is H. McGee in the New York Times, 2008:
                  "The trickiest foods to heat just right are meats and fish."
                  (from blue room -- I guess he's never baked fussy cookies!)
                  "The problem is that we want to heat the center of the piece to 130 or 140 degrees, but we often want a browned, tasty crust on the surface, and that requires 400 degrees.

                  "It takes time for heat to move inward from the surface to the center, so the default method is to fry or grill or broil and hope that the browning time equals the heat-through time. Even if that math works out, the area between the center and surface will then range in temperature between 130 and 400 degrees. The meat will be overcooked everywhere but right at the center.

                  The solution is to cook with more than one level of heat. Start with very cold meat and very high heat to get the surface browned as quickly as possible with minimal cooking inside; then switch to very low heat to cook the interior gently and evenly, leaving it moist and tender.

                  On the grill, this means having high- and low-heat zones and moving the food from one to the other. On the stove top or in the oven, start at 450 or 500 degrees, and then turn the heat down to around 250, ideally taking the food out until the pan or oven temperature has fallen significantly.

                  Another solution is to cook the food perfectly with low heat, let it cool some, and then flavor its surface with a brief blast of intense heat from a hot pan or even a gas torch. More and more restaurants are adopting this method, especially those that practice sous-vide cooking, in which food is sealed in a plastic bag, placed in a precisely controlled water bath and heated through at exactly the temperature that gives the desired doneness."
                  So, either/or... whatever we do is correct!
                  Also, a good point to note is that bringing to room temperature is not the same as letting a plate of food straight from the fridge sit on the counter for 20 - 30 minutes.

                  1. re: blue room

                    "bringing to room temperature is not the same as letting a plate of food straight from the fridge sit on the counter for 20 - 30 minutes"

                    Color me confused, but how can you bring something that's been in the fridge to room temperature without leaving it on the counter for 20-30 minutes?

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Sorry, JoanN, I just saw your question.
                      I meant that a very cold ( but not frozen) piece of meat could sit on the counter for 20 minutes and still be cool in the middle. To bring it to actual room temperature might take twice as long -- and the longer left on the counter, the less safe.
                      However, there are SO many variables in this situation -- room temp, meat temp, meat thickness, # of germs on counter :), that my statement is pretty meaningless!
                      I was just trying to make a distinction between taking the chill off a steak, and letting it get to 75F.

                2. re: blue room

                  I did this test as blue room suggested, I posted this elsewhere, but thought I'd come back here and just copy and paste my report. This was not a scientific test!
                  The refrigerated piece took longer to cook by a couple minutes, going by the finger pressure test and the outside appearance. Even so, when they both seemed equally cooked by those measures, the innermost part of the refrigerated steak was still blue/raw, whereas the room temp steak was perfectly rare. We think we preferred the taste/texture of the room temp steak, but that is a tough call. It's subjective, and the cold steak was certainly underdone.
                  The big argument seems to be about the bacteria that might congregate in that 30 minutes it takes to come close to room temp. I thought that if I couldn't tell the difference, or if the cold one was better, why take any chances. But since I preferred the even cooking, and quite possibly the taste, of the room temp steak, we'll continue to take the (probably minuscule) chance of a few extra microorganisms.

                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                    Thank you, L.Nightshade -- I've seen your replies and agree. (Bringing food to room temperature is probably one of the safer things a person can try, these days.)
                    I like the threads that compare -- there's a hash brown thread out there trying different methods. Of course it's usually *not* convenient to conduct food experiments with this week's grocery money / family dinner!
                    I do have a little test involving sourdough starter in mind -- for another day.

          2. Finally, my books have arrived this morning-
            looking them over this afternoon

            4 Replies
            1. re: jpr54_1

              I'm very impressed with Planet Barbecue!, and now that I see the posts about the salad book I'll probably decide to get it, it looks better than I thought.

              1. re: blue room

                I have been very happy with Planet Barbecue. Having lots of fun with the book. I find that the structure of these recipes really works for me (i.e. prep ahead of time and then fast cooking at the last minute).

                Raising the Salad Bar is not quite as inspiring to me. But my one effort so far was very good and eating more salads and whole grains is a goal for my family anyway.

                1. re: greeneggsnham

                  Much agree with BR & GGH, we are really enjoying Planet BBQ. I'm usually skeptical of these around-the-world books, but this one is making me re-evaluate that position.

                  1. re: qianning

                    I have enjoyed browsing PB as an anthology (it goes back to the library today). Maybei it's me, or summer, or the weird weather, but most of the recipes appear to require more ambition than I am able to muster. I mostly think of barbecue when I don't want too much fuss. For things with immediate appeal, i am having better luck with RSB,

            2. Are these recipes on line anywhere?

              2 Replies
              1. re: roxlet

                roxlet, are you looking for specific dishes that you see mentioned here?

                1. re: roxlet

                  Found the following by just Googling for a few seconds...

                  Wheat Berry Salad with Almonds and Spinach in a Citrus Dressing

                  Jan's Barley-Corn Salad

                  Chicken Tortilla Salad w/ Cilantro-Lime Dressing

                  Cilantro-Lime Dressing

                  Curried Chicken Salad (making this one tonight)

                  Curry-Mango Chutney Dressing (w this dressing