Comments: A sense of place, innovative technique, and flavorful ingredients can make a wonderful cookbook. They can also make a cookbook that seems out of reach for everyday cooks. Seven Fires might seem like such a book.
It is all about the breadth and depth of Argentina. It is written by a celebrity chef. It is written by a native Spanish speaker. It's about seven different methods for cooking with open flame (on a grill, on flat cast iron, with a fire above and a fire down below, in an outdoor oven, cooking directly in coals and ashes, next to a fire on an iron cross, and in a cast-iron cauldron). It specifies a few hard-to-find ingredients.
Any one of those could make for a difficult cookbook; all together you'd expect them to doom it. And yet this is a wonderful cookbook. It is clear that a huge amount of work went in to making it accessible to North American cooks. The text is crystal clear. Even though it's all about cooking with fire, there are instructions for cooking on the stovetop, in the oven, and over a regular grill. Almost all the ingredients can be sourced in this country. And there are wonderful photographs that inspire and instruct.
The chapters cover the seven methods of roasting; appetizers; beef; lamb, pork, and chicken; fish and shellfish; vegetables; light meals and salads; desserts; breads; and such accompaniments as sauces, tapenades, salsas, vinaigrettes, confits, crumbs and chips, and dried and roasted vegetables.
It's not perfect. There's a statement in one recipe that "corn-fed beef lacks the necessary texture for this dish; grass-fed beef is the only way to go." Most of us do not have easy (or any) access to grass-fed beef.
But we want to make many of these dishes – even if we have to compromise here and there. The other thing we want to do after reading this book is schedule a trip to Argentina. Soon.