BOSTON — Once you learn how to grill, it's really easy to chill," says Bobby Flay. He should know. As star of the Food Network's "Hot Off the Grill" and "Grillin' and Chillin'," he has had plenty of experience with both pursuits. And now that the lazy days of summer have arrived, he's nudging his fans to do a little more grillin' and chillin' of their own.
Thanks to his latest cookbook "Boy Meets Grill" (Hyperion, $29.95), they don't need to be nudged too hard. After a lively introduction in which he recounts his own love affair with grilling and a section loaded with tips, Mr. Flay rolls out 125 tantalizing recipes from Shrimp Skewered on Rosemary Branches to Loin of Lamb Rubbed with Garlic and Cumin with Grilled Lemons, Yogurt Sauce, and Grilled Pita that could send even the most reticent cook running for the tongs and spatula.
He's clearly passionate about this style of cooking. But the real thrill of the grill, says Flay, is the casual, festive attitude it inspires.
"I don't know of any other style of cooking that so easily lends itself to relaxed good times," he says. "A meal that's prepared outdoors allows everyone else to loosen up and enjoy the party."
Relaxation is exactly what Flay has in mind when he leaves the intensity of his life as a restaurant owner (BOLO and Mesa Grill) in New York to spend summers on Long Island. His recipe for ensuring this includes three essential ingredients: the beach, golf, and grilling.
Flay plans to fire up his grill almost every night this season. As long as he can remember, grilled suppers have been as much a part of summer as sand and sun. "Grilling has always appealed to the 'boy' in me," he says.
His parents often grilled lobster, corn, and burgers at their summer place on the New Jersey shore. He still loves a good burger. Especially one that's gussied up with layers of cheese, Vidalia onions, and a mix of horseradish and Dijon mustard. But he also likes to "slip into the unexpected" with dishes such as clams or mussels steamed in a kettle set on the rack, an entire paella made on the grill, or mountains of seared, golden vegetables. "I still love to grill simple food, but I add a jolt of bold flavors with seasonings, marinades, and sauces," he says.
To his readers who also want to graduate beyond burgers, he starts by demystifying the technique. "Don't be intimidated by the grill! It is a source of heat, just like a stove, and it's very user- friendly," he says, adding:
"Grilling simply means cooking food quickly over a very hot fire."
Such confidence hasn't always come easily to Flay. Even this griller-extraordinaire has experienced a fiasco or two. Such as when he had 250 people to feed in a restaurant, and he forgot to light the mesquite grill. That's what convinced him a gas grill was better than any other. "Press a few buttons, turn a few knobs, and you have a hot, even grill, ready to go," he says.
As for grilling's most debated question - should the lid be opened or closed, Flay falls into the latter camp. "My general rule," he says, "is to cook with the grill closed for anything that takes more than four minutes. I close the lid even for most of the quicker things."
But the host needn't worry too much about rules, he says. "Even if you love to grill as much as I do, don't get carried away... Make sure you have a nice array of things to put out, but don't turn the cooking into a burden."
Which is just another way to express the Flay motto to Keep It Simple. That way, even the one doing the grillin' can also do some chillin'.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society