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Our cookbook of the week is Green Fire by Argentine chef Francis Mallmann. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Chauchas (summer beans) a la plancha with cucumber vinaigrette.
As with Francis Mallmann’s seared summer beans with cucumber vinaigrette, clashing ingredients set this salad apart. The acidity of the raw red plums collides with the sweetness of warm, braised-then-crisped beets, the heat of sliced chilies and the cool creaminess of fresh ricotta.
“I love that sort of very big contrast,” says Mallmann. “You need contrasts when you eat.”
Before Mallmann started cooking with fire, he didn’t have much of an appreciation for beets. Whether boiled and then smashed or braised and crisped up on a plancha (griddle) as they are here, flames bring out their best.
Cook this: Chauchas – summer beans – a la plancha from Green Fire
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Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich on the beauty of cooking over fire
“They pick up burnt very nicely. They have a lot of sugar, so that caramelizes and that’s delicious, ”says Mallmann.
“And you can reach this tenderness, but there’s always a hold in your mouth – something to bite. It’s not like a purée. Even if you cook them all the way, there’s always something. There’s a consistency that I like about them. ”
BRAISED BEET AND PLUM SALAD
About 4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth, water or a combination
2 garlic cloves, peeled
6 dill sprigs
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ripe red plums
1 cup (227 g) fresh ricotta cheese
1 or 2 small hot chilies, halved, ribs and seeds removed, and thinly sliced
Heat the horno, or a home oven, to 375 ° F (190 ° C).
Place the beets in a small lidded pot or a baking dish deeper than the height of the beets. Pour in the broth to come about two-thirds up the sides of the beets. Add the garlic, half the dill, the vinegar, and olive oil and salt to taste. Put the lid on the pot or cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for about 1 hour, depending on the size of the beets, until they are tender all the way through when pierced with a skewer.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and brush generously with olive oil. Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, slice the plums as thinly as you can, cutting around the pit. Tear the remaining dill into pieces, discarding any tough stems, and set aside.
Prepare a fire for high heat and warm the plancha. If cooking indoors, heat a large cast-iron griddle over high heat.
Brush the hot plancha or griddle with olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the beets cut side down. Cook until crisped on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wide platter.
Arrange the plums around the beets on the platter. Add dollops of ricotta, the sliced chilies, the breadcrumbs and the remaining dill.
Recipe and image excerpted from Green Fire by Francis Mallmann. Copyright © 2022 Francis Mallmann. Photography © 2022 William Herefold. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.