Smokey, Sweet, Tangy, Sticky: Ribs for a Summer Night

August 13, 2010

Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs are my favorite recipe from Gourmet’s last July issue. Smokey, sweet, tangy and sticky, they’re wonderful party food on a star-filled night when you can eat outdoors. The meat falls off the bones into your mouth in a very appealing way. Serve them with tiny new potatoes roasted with onions and whole cloves of garlic, sliced tomatoes, corn and a big salad and you’ve got a pretty perfect dinner. After making them again and again, I’ve made a few changes to the recipe that we published.

The important thing to remember is that they need a full day to marinate, so you have to think ahead.

Mash 12 large cloves of garlic with a teaspoon and a half of salt until it’s a wonderful mush of a paste. Stir in 3 tablespoons of chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons of cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Rub it all over 4 racks of baby back ribs (8 pounds). Pack the meat into a large plastic bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for a day or so.

Put the ribs in 2 pans (they should be in a single layer), add a half cup of water to each pan, cover tightly with foil and roast at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender, adding more water to the pan as needed.

Add a cup of hot water to each roasting pan and stir around, scraping up the good brown bits. Pour into a large measuring cup and allow the fat to rise to the top. Skim it off, put the remaining liquid in a skillet, add a cup of balsamic vinegar (this is the time to use the industrial kind) and a half cup of brown sugar, stir, bring to a boil and reduce it to a cup or so of glaze. This will take 15 or 20 minutes.

You can do all this ahead of time, which is very convenient if you’re having a party. Just before serving, brush the glaze all over the ribs and grill over low heat for about 5 minutes, just to give it a taste of smoke. Brush with more glaze and dig in. This will make a gloriously grubby meal for about 8 people.

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Tomato Pie

August 12, 2010

People have been bringing me tomatoes – fat, gorgeous red orbs, like Christmas ornaments – and this morning when I went into the kitchen the aroma just reached up and hugged me. I suddenly had this sharp taste memory of James Beard’s Tomato Pie – a dish I used to make all the time when I was in my twenties. I haven’t had it in years, but I had this urgent need to taste it, right now.

James Beard’s Tomato Pie

Begin by making biscuit dough. (I like buttermilk biscuits for this recipe, although any biscuit will do – even the ones that are in the freezer case of your supermarket.)

Buttermilk Parsley Biscuits
Combine 2 cups of flour with 2 and a half teaspoons of baking powder and a half teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. Cut in 1/3 cup of butter until it’s the size of peas, and add a little flurry of chopped parsley (mostly it looks pretty). Stir in ¾ cups of buttermilk until the dough holds together, turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes. Pat it into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Cover the biscuits with 4 to 6 ripe tomatoes, sliced into nice fat rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Shower a couple of tablespoons of shredded basil on top.

Mix a cup or so of grated Cheddar cheese with a cup and a half of mayonnaise and spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes.

Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown.

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Sharp, Sweet, Spicy Noodles

August 11, 2010

On a hot summer morning (today), this is the kind of breakfast that promises a wonderful day ahead. With a slice of icy melon, and a few birds singing just outside, it makes me very happy to be alive.

Thai Noodles

Soak 6 to 8 ounces of the thinnest rice noodles (sometimes called rice sticks or rice vermicelli) in hot water for about ten minutes, or until they go limp. Drain and set aside.

Peel a half pound of shrimp and dry them well. If they’re big, cut them in half.

Dice the whites of 4 scallions, and slice the green parts into confetti. Smash 2 or 3 cloves of garlic.

Mix a quarter cup of sugar with a quarter cup of Asian fish sauce and a quarter cup of white vinegar. Squeeze in the juice of one lime.

Put a half cup of peanuts into a plastic bag and hit it with something heavy – a rolling pin works well – until the peanuts are crushed.

Assemble all of this next to the stove, along with a half pound of ground pork, a couple of eggs and some crushed red chile flakes.

Working quickly, heat a large wok and film it with peanut oil until it shimmers. Add the shrimp, toss them just until they’re no longer transparent, and turn them onto a platter. Add a bit more oil to the wok, toss in the garlic, stir, add the scallions and then the pork, stirring until it’s no longer red. Throw in the drained noodles, give it a couple of stirs, and pour in the fish sauce mixture. Cook, at high heat, about 7 minutes, until the noodles have absorbed all the liquid. Push them aside, crack one egg into the bottom of the wok ,tilting so that it forms a sheet. When it has set, mix it into the noodles, then repeat with the other egg. Toss it all about, add the shrimp and the scallion greens and chiles, and toss once again. Turn out onto a platter and top with crushed peanuts.

Serve with lime wedges and Sriracha sauce.

This will feed 4 people at breakfast (or 3 at dinner, with a little leftover for the first one up in the morning).

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Blueberry Muffins

August 8, 2010

I found the most beautiful blueberries at the farm stand today, and they just called out to me. I had one of those instant visions – blueberry muffins! They’re so easy, and so satisfying. I’m sorry to say that they were so delicious that we ate them all up, warm from the oven, before I remembered to take a picture. So instead of a photo, I’ll offer you the recipe:

Blueberry muffins

Melt 6 tablespoons of sweet butter. While it’s melting throw a cup and a half of flour into a bowl with ¾ cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a teaspoon of salt. Stir it about a bit, then add the melted butter, a third of a cup of milk and a couple of eggs. Add 2 cups of blueberries (you can use less, but this recipe works particularly well when it is very fruit-filled.) Spoon into 10 or 12 well buttered muffin tins; I particularly like the silicon muffin tins, because they’re so colorful that they look like frilly little jackets when you serve them

Melt 3 more tablespoons of butter and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar and a half cup of flour to make a streusel top. Scatter it across the tops of the muffins and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden.

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