My favorite cookbook of 2009? That's easy; it's Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way (Artisan, 2009) by the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann and the food writer Peter Kaminsky. Here it is March, there's snow on the ground in New York City, and I'm warming my bones by thumbing through this love letter to fire. The book lays out seven different grilling techniques—from the parilla, or what we know as the grill, to the asador, an iron cross used to slow-roast whole animals over coals—with recipes to accompany each technique, including those for juicy steaks, butterflied chicken, and salt-crusted striped bass. Lately, though, I've become engrossed by the arresting textures of Mallmann's vegetables: burnt tomatoes, crunchy, shingled potatoes, caramelized endives, griddled red onions, and burnt carrots that have sped past the stop sign for golden brown and slammed on their brakes just before reaching black. Simply put, Mallmann celebrates the flavor of burnt. "I adore dissonance in food—two tastes fighting each other," he writes. "It wakes up your palate and surprises you.… The right amount of burning or charring can be delicious and seductive."