`Grilling for Life' is the second Bobby Flay book I have reviewed and it is very similar to his last book. Like `Boy Gets Grill', it is relatively short at only 75 recipes to the earlier book's 125. It is correspondingly less expensive than similar celebrity cookbooks. At a list price of $22, it is worth about 120 recipes if it were priced at the celeb cookbook median of $35. The theme of the book is highlighted by a nutritional analysis of all the recipes plus a selection of recipes that naturally avoid empty calories, saturated fat, and excess sodium.
In addition to the low recipe count, you also get the budget treatment from the photography, which is almost entirely in black and white and almost entirely of small amateur looking snapshots of Bobby at the grill. The book has none of the insider culinary wisdom I have seen in my last two reviewed books written by chefs (Gordon Ramsay and Michael Schlow). On the other side of the coin, Bobby does give us some very nice, no nonsense introductory chapters on basic grilling equipment; cooking to safe meat temperatures; herbs, spices, and chiles; flavorings; and basic grilling how-tos. All of these sections are done in the confident style of someone who knows what he is talking about and without a trace of doubt. This is in spite of at least one egregious error that probably has Alton Brown cringing in his `Iron Chef America' anchor chair at his colleague's scientific gaff. The error was in Bobby's correctly rejecting an artificial sweetener for the very wrong reason that it contained chlorine. Just two pages later, Bobby sings to the importance and varieties of table salt, which is half chlorine and half sodium, an explosive metal!
Flay repeats one really great feature from his earlier book when he gives the titles of each and every recipe in his table of contents. He also repeats his appendix of Internet sources.
The overriding raison d'être of this book is to give us nutritionally sensible recipes, ideally to replace all the high saturated fat, high sugar recipes in all the world's previous grilling recipes. And, the nutritional analysis is done by a professional dietitian, Joy Bauer, who oddly, is not given author's crediting, only the honor of writing the foreword.
One very good thing about the book's nutritional strategy is that it does not follow any one-diet plan. Rather, it gives you all the facts you need to have about the amount of total fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, sugar, protein, sodium, fiber, and total calories. Thus, you pick your regimen and look for the recipes that fit that regimen, be it low carb, low fat, high fiber, or low calorie. The problem is that in order to find the recipes that best fit your lifestyle, you have to be pretty sophisticated about nutrition. For example, is 410 milligrams of sodium a lot or a little? It seems like a big number, yet a milligram is a very, very small amount. The same recipe shows 30 grams of fat, which seems like a small number, except that a gram is 1000 times larger than a milligram. The blocks of nutritional analyses would have been just a little more useful if they would have included the minimum daily requirements for a middle aged person of slightly higher than normal weight. A similar service would have been to give a nutritional summary for the party menus at the end of the book, summing up all the statistics for the various dishes in the menus. A third nutritional service the book overlooks is to provide a good moderate calorie / low carb barbecue sauce. In the index, there is no reference to any recipe for barbecue sauce at all. A fourth idea would have been to give a cross reference of recipes by type of diet, whether low fat, low calorie, low carb, or vegetarian.
Bobby's general outlook on healthy eating is the same as mine and the same as Rachael Ray's point of view in her latest book, '30 Minute Get Real Meals'. That is, avoid empty calories and eat reasonably sized portions. Bobby (and Rachael) both avoid extreme products such as 0 fat imitation cheeses and other dairy products. This is important not only because non-fat dairy (and many dairy imitation products such as margarine) simply do not behave the same as the real thing when baked or sautéed. Like Bobby, I also like to avoid the synthetic weight loss foods as you can never tell what some of the many chemicals put into the mix will do to you over time. We learned our lesson on margarine and transfats. I'll stick to moderate amounts of real butter and vegetable oils and go easy on other animal fats.
So why provide all the statistics when the objective would have been served by portion sizing, replacing white bread with lettuce wraps and whole grain flatbreads, and avoiding transfat sources. As I said above, these numbers are still useful if either carbohydrate or protein or fat content is important to your regimen.
As far as the recipes go, they are all classic Flay, with lots of strong flavors from chiles, cilantro, garlic and onions, vinegars, ginger, fresh herbs, and strongly flavored cheeses. There are a few grill friendly recipes such as cole slaw that are not actually grilled, but the large majority of the recipes have one or more grilled ingredients. Flay keeps the recipe selection on the healthy side by using lots of vegetable recipes (15), seafood recipes (26), and poultry recipes (11). That's over 2/3 of the recipes right there. There are only 16 four hoofed meat recipes and 8 drink and dessert recipes to round out the count. In addition to the selection, I really like the very simple organization into basic ingredients. All this really fits Bobby's `no nonsense American boy made good in the kitchen' persona.
Recommended to health conscience grilling enthusiasts.