Outdoor Cooking from Tide's Table

by Ross & Willa Mavis

Published by Gooselane Editions

256 pages, 2000

Buy it online


You and Your Best Grill

Reviewed by Monica Stark


At certain times of the year many of us feel compelled to move at least a portion of our cooking outside. It's not even always about the temperature -- although that can certainly play a part. But I've cheerfully barbecued in the rain and other types of inclement weather. There's just a sort of primal satisfaction in rendering edible meals under an open sky. Even if that open sky is attached to your house.

While barbecue books are plentiful, few do much beyond offering up the same basics in various incarnations. For instance, there are lots of different ways to do a steak but -- between you and me -- the very best way to do a steak is very classic and very simple: no book required. Then there's variations of skewered vegetables, skewered prawns and maybe even skewered chicken for good measure. Add in some grilled vegetables and you've about covered it.

While Outdoor Cooking from Tide's Table by Ross and Willa Mavis covers all of these barbecue basics, the dynamic Maritime duo take it several steps beyond, as well. There are cookbooks you buy simply for the gorgeous photos. Others you get because of the complicated recipes that look wonderful but that you never really get around to trying. And then there are those that you instantly know will be the kind of book that will see some action around the kitchen -- or in this case, around the grill -- because the recipes even look easy-to-follow, a lot of them are made with simple ingredients and a few of them even make you slap the palm of your hand to your forehead and say, "Ack! That's so easy. Why didn't I think of it myself?"

One of the headslappers in Tide's Table is for Spicy Grilled Camembert. Literally, spice the cheese as directed, pop it on the grill and in under 10 minutes, you can be serving it up for guests with toast wedges or crackers.

Why didn't I think of that myself?

Another one: Cheesy Grilled Polenta. I love polenta and make it frequently. But barbecued polenta? I'd actually never thought of it (maybe you have) and it seemed like such a logical way to finishing this wonderful staple, that -- again -- I was amazed I'd never thought of it before.

The not-so-obvious recipes are original and inviting as well. Peaches Stuffed with Stilton seems the very definition of the perfect dessert: dead elegant and simple to prepare and to cook. Pear Stuffed Chicken Breasts; Chicken Paprikash; Stuffed Lamb Roast; Pot Roast; Filet Mignon Stroganoff; Zucchini Roast; Eggplant Stuffed Sweet Peppers: I could go on. So many of the 180 recipes in the book are for things you wouldn't normally think of doing on the barbecue at all but that, with the Mavis' adaptations, translate very well to the concept of cooking under an open sky.

Absolute neophytes will appreciate the opening chapter of "Barbecue Basics." How to choose your dream grill, as well as basic grilling techniques (i.e. foil, rotisserie, smoker and so on) and finally a well planned cooking chart that offers cooking times with relation to size and type of meat, relative temperature (medium, hot and so on) and whether or not the barbecue is open or closed.

Ross and Willa Mavis are the hosts of the television cooking show Tide's Table and their Inn on the Cove, a bed and breakfast ten minutes from downtown Saint John, New Brunswick. | July 2000

Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.