The latest cookbook by Paula Disbrowe will have you falling in love with the grill you forgot you had in your backyard, just in time to step up your game before Memorial Day weekend. From green chile burgers and cauliflower steaks to grilled party wings and homemade grilled pizza, Disbrowe hopes to remind us all that grilling can happen any night of the week.

Disbrowe, a Midwest native, moved to the Texas Hill Country from New York in 2002 with her husband, David Norman, to take on the role of the Cowgirl Chef  at the Hart & Hind Fitness Ranch. Her first cookbook, Cowgirl Cuisine, tells of her city-to-country-girl transformation. The couple later moved to Austin, where they live with their two children; Norman is a partner at Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden.

When Food52 reached out to Disbrowe to write a grilling book, Disbrowe took it as an opportunity to not only improve as a griller but also enjoy the evenings outdoors with her family five nights a week. The recipes in Any Night Grilling reflects her four years cooking on the ranch, her time in France and Italy cooking Mediterranean food, and newer influences of a variety of cultures, from southeast Asian food to Korean barbecue.

We talked to Disbrowe about the story behind her newest cookbook and asked her for tips on hosting the perfect summer barbecue party for Memorial day.

Texas Monthly: What’s the story behind Any Night Grilling?

Paula Disbrowe: A friend of mine, Amanda Hesser, is one of the founders of Food52, and they wanted to do a grilling book. Amanda had actually visited us when we were cooking on the ranch and has followed my cooking in Texas, and she just thought I would be a fit for what they wanted to do. The goal was to create a different kind of grilling book, not sort of the typical chest-beating cookbook but with recipes that were easy enough to do any night of the week. The idea is don’t save your grill for the weekends or for that Saturday ribeye. It’s also about a broader spectrum of ingredients, thinking outside the box of all the other things you can cook on a grill. There’s a whole chapter on grilled cheeses—not the sandwich but actually cheese on the grill—and dough, and a lot more plant-based vegetable dishes than you’ll see in traditional grilling books.

TM: Amanda mentioned in the foreword that you’re the Susan B. Anthony of the grill – why are you the right person to write this cookbook?

PD: I think one of the reasons I was a good person to write it is with my experience as a food writer and a cookbook author. I’m not a chef; I’m often a problem solver. My job is to understand what people want to eat and how they want to eat. Also, I have been cooking for years. I have a good understanding of not just food trends, but what it takes for something to come together quickly. I was able to troubleshoot, and the questions that arose for me are the same that would come up for anybody who is wanting to embrace grilling and get in there. And also maybe what Amanda was alluding to is I think I’m an adventuresome cook. I’m the opposite of fussy or refined. I’m more rustic and casual. I think she was counting on me to bring some fun to the book, and hope I did that with recipes like grilled corn nachos and hot dog night and things like that, because grilling is such a joyful cooking method.

TM: What role did your family play during the one-year period of grilling every night?

PD: It started out as a bit of a scramble in the early stages. But the biggest thing was instead of being at the stove and the sink, Mom was in the backyard lighting fires again. But eventually as I got my process down and I was out there cooking every night, I found that it shifted the nature of our family dinners because it pulled the kids outside more. It was awesome of them to be with me. Sometimes they would practice their instruments outside. I taught my eight-year-old son how to clean and build a fire in the chimney, so he could be on fire-lighting duty. We ate a lot more meals on the back porch. I would say it connected all of us more, with being outside in the evening in the particular season. I think people are drawn to the fire in general; the sounds and the smell of it, and it’s a beautiful thing. So in that way, it’s like everyone was maybe a little bit more invested in the meal.

TM: What are your family’s favorite recipes?

PD: My son Wyatt loves the lamb burgers. They both love the pizzas; they both love steak. S’more nights—they’re crazy about them. The sweet and smoky drumsticks are really great for kids. It’s one of the only recipes in the book that requires an overnight marinade. But as I said, I never thought of that as a pain because actually it felt like an awesome jumpstart on dinner. You just get them in there, and when you get home from work the next day, they’re deeply flavored and tender and ready to go on the grill.

TM: What would you say to convince people that grilling can happen any night?

PD: Like many things in life, it’s just a matter of plunging in to take the fear factor out of it and understanding how easy it really is. I truly got in the habit of walking through the back gate with the kids after school and lighting the charcoal chimney. You just develop a system that works for you, but with a little thought and a little planning, you can have something ready to go on the grill, which doesn’t take any more time than turning on the oven, or shaking skillets. The book was developed for both gas and charcoal grills—of course gas is the game changer. With a gas grill, y you’re ready to go in like five or ten minutes.

TM: What’s your preference in the type of grill and fuel?

PD: I’m so in love with charcoal grilling because it’s more intuitive; it’s a live fire. You have to be more engaged and understand what’s happening with the heat, watching the whole process. You’re seeing and listening to how something’s cooking. I use lump charcoal, it’s the most natural product and burns clean and hot and creates these wonderful complex charcoal flavors that really can’t be duplicated any other way.

TM: How’s the difficulty level for the recipes in Any Night Grilling?

PD: I wrote the book for average home cooks. So it’s the opposite of a chef-y book. But I would say it runs the gamut from extremely easy like putting a burger or a hotdog or a steak on the grill to things that are a little bit more challenging, like making pizza dough.

TM: How did your friend Aaron Franklin help you in the process of this cookbook?

PD: He has been an amazing and patient mentor. I met Aaron and Stacy back in the early days when they were still at the trailer. They’re easy people to love and we became friends. I reach out to him on a regular basis with questions, and he is one of the busiest guys I know, but he’s so generous with his expertise. I’m very lucky to have him on speed dial.

TM: Memorial Day is coming up. What would you say is the perfect combination of recipes for a summer barbecue party with family and friends?

PD: The grilled Satsuma margarita is a great way to kick off a party. I mean if we’re talking Texas, everyone loves them. And it’s got a little kiss of heat that just chars the fruit lightly and gives your drink a lightly smoky flavor. The creamy kale toasts are great, because you can make the kale spread  in advance and you’ve got this delicious rich spread to slather on grilled bread when your guests arrive. You can fire off the bread while they’re there. I feel like the all-American thing would be the ribs or the drumsticks. Of course there are the party wings with Cholula butter. Depending on how long your party is, that could be a great option. The porchetta-style pork kebabs, they’re beautiful. They’re great served with white beans. You could also have other people help round out the menu. I don’t think everything should be grilled. You want to balance those flavors. So you can choose a drink and an appetizer, fire up the lamb burgers or the green chile cheese burgers, but then you would want a fresh fruit salad or have someone bring a watermelon, or a fresh green salad, or some other vegetable salad.

Cauliflower Steaks with Green Harissa.

Cauliflower Steaks with Green Harissa.

James Ransom

Cauliflower Steaks with Green Harissa

You can serve these “steaks” in any number of ways—topped with grilled bread crumbs with anchovies or over creamy feta or yogurt sauce, for instance–but I love how they play off spicy green harissa made with blistered tomatillos, serranos, and loads of aromatic herbs. This one’s a grilled riff on the one served at Gjusta in Los Angeles and bound to be your new favorite condiment: Leftovers are delicious on sandwiches, with soft-cooked or crispy eggs, and as a marinade for chicken or shrimp.

Serves 4

1 large head cauliflower
1/2 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 onion, halved through the root
1 or 2 serrano chiles, as desired for heat
4 cloves garlic unpeeled
2 cups (40g) fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
2 cups (40g) fresh parsley (leaves and tender stems)
Large handful each of arugula and spinach
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup (120ml) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flaky salt

Remove the leaves and trim the stem of the cauliflower, leaving the core intact. Place the cauliflower core-side down on a work surface. Starting in the center of the head, slice from top to bottom into four 1-inch (2.5cm) steaks. Place steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and any florets that break loose in a bowl. Drizzle the oil over the steaks and florets and generously season with kosher salt and pepper.

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. Carefully wipe the preheated grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again. Allow a small cast-iron skillet or grill basket to heat for 5 minutes before cooking.

To make the harissa, blister the tomatillos, onion, chiles, and garlic in the preheated small cast-iron skillet or grill basket over direct heat, until charred and softened on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes for the tomatillos and chiles, a bit longer for the onion and garlic. Set aside to cool.

Stem and seed the chiles, peel the garlic, and place them both in a food processor. Add the tomatillos, cilantro, parsley, arugula and spinach, vinegar lemon zest, and olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill the cauliflower steaks (in a grill basket, if desired) over direct heat, rotating them around the fire as needed to prevent them from blackening before they’re cooked, until deeply charred on the exterior and just tender at the core, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Grill any loose florets in a grill basket, tossing often, until browned and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve the warm steaks on a pool of harissa and garnish with the crispy bits of florets and a sprinkle of flaky salt.

Porchetta-Style Pork Kebabs with White Beans

Traditional Italian porchetta–pork flavored with garlic and herbs–is a showstopper, a massive rolled roast that’s a long-cooked affair. It’s not gonna happen on a weeknight. But these pretty kebabs made with pork tenderloin and rosemary branches create similar flavors in a fraction of the time. After the meat is charred over high heat, it finishes cooking over white beans that capture the delicious drippings.

Serves 4

8 sturdy rosemary sprigs, ideally about 8 inches (20cm) long
1 pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Two 15-ounce (425g) cans cannellini beans, drained
3 or 4 fresh bay leaves, torn
Olive oil, for drizzling and brushing
2 large lemons

Remove all the rosemary leaves from the branches except 2 inches (5cm) at the top of each. With a sharp knife, cut the leafless end of each branch at an angle to make a point, which will make it easier to skewer the pork. Coarsely chop the rosemary leaves you removed from the branches.

Cut the pork into 1 ½- to 2-inch (4 to 5cm) pieces and place in a bowl. Season with 2 tablespoons of the chopped rosemary, the thyme, garlic, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the grill.

In an aluminum drip pan, combine the beans, bay leaves, and a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. Carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

Skewer the pieces of pork with the rosemary sprigs. Avoid packing them too tightly or they won’t cook evenly. When you’re ready to grill, remove the cooking grate, place the pan of beans alongside the coals, and return the cooking grate. (For a gas grill, turn off 1 burner for indirect cooking and place the filled drip pan over the unlit burner). Brush the pork skewers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the pork kebabs over direct heat until nicely browned on each side, 12 to 14 minutes total.

Move the kebabs over the drip pan, brush with olive oil again, close the grill and cook until the pork is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet to rest. Remove the beans from the heat, add the zest from 1 lemon, and toss to combine. Halve the lemons crosswise and grill until nicely charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Place beans on serving platter, top with pork skewers and charred lemon halves, and serve.

Party Wings with Cholula Butter.

Party Wings with Cholula Butter.

James Ransom

Party Wings with Cholula Butter

I wasn’t a wing enthusiast until I cooked them on the grill–then I was hooked. The high heat renders the fat, crisping the skin and making them taste both rich and improbably light (unlike the gut-bomb sports bar variety). Of course, wings are the quintessential party snack, something spicy and messy to entertain you while you’re sipping cocktails and swapping one-liners. They can also be the attraction, join other small plates, or provide a hearty snack for friends waiting on something with a longer cooking time, like a smoked whole turkey or brisket. A two-zone fire is essential here because it provides nice heat for an initial char, as well as a moderate zone to cook the meat through without scorching the skin. I use drumettes because they’re meaty and easier to eat, and cholula for the hot sauce. It’s a smoky Mexican hot sauce that’s delicious on eggs, tacos, and just about everything. For more sauce ideas, though, flip the page.

Serves 4

3 pounds (1.4kg) chicken wing drumettes
Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60ml) Cholula hot sauce
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place the drumettes in a large bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, generously season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. Carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

While the grill heats, in a separate bowl, stir together the Cholula, parsley, butter, lemon juice, and garlic.

Grill the drumettes over direct heat, flipping and rotating as needed for even cooking, until nicely charred on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Move the drumettes to indirect heat, close the grill, and continue to cook, turning the drumettes often (and closing the grill lid in between), until cooked through and the juices run clear (if you’re uncertain, cut into one to check), 20 to 25 minutes.

Place the hot drumettes in the bowl with the Cholula butter, toss vigorously until well coated, and serve immediately.