Even novice cooks know one cardinal rule of the kitchen: Don’t burn your food. But chefs around the world are singeing and scalding everything from steak to scallions in the name of earthy, smoky flavor. Some achieve this with high heat and a hard sear; others eschew the grill grate and cook directly on coals. Chef René Redzepi of the acclaimed restaurant Noma in Copenhagen burns vegetables to a cinder and literally serves the ash as a garnish. Onion dust may not fly in your kitchen, but ebony-dappled vegetables should. The intense caramelization is not only beautiful, it’s delicious. And that’s really the only rule that should concern you.
Halve some lemons, place them cut-side down in a pan and cook over high heat until caramelized, about four minutes. Squeeze juice onto fish or vegetables for a smoky citrus flavor.
Halve or quarter romaine hearts or heads of radicchio. Rub with olive oil and grill or sear on high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve alongside steak or fish, or with additional vegetables as a main-course salad.
Trim beans and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a large pan on high heat until blistered, about 10 minutes.
You’ve likely already encountered smoky sweet red bell peppers blackened on a stove top. Try the comparatively novel trick of pan-blistering Japanese shishito peppers: Heat a cast-iron skillet to smoking hot, then add a dozen or so shishitos. Cook until black on all sides and serve with kosher salt.