Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oven spare ribs

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked pork spare ribs
  • crusty French bread
  • carrot & beet salad
I know! Again with the not posting! I'm so sorry. Our dinners have been REALLY boring lately. Think lots of pasta and hamburgers and stuff like that. Ugh.

Today the weather was really windy and weird -- not at all conducive to grilling. So, I made spare ribs in the oven. Did you know that pork spare ribs are relatively cheap? I didn't, until I went shopping for meat the other day and noticed that holy crap, meat has gotten really expensive!

I get a lot of comments about the amount of meat we eat here in the Badger household, and it's true that we eat a lot of it, but we have our reasons, yo. For one, I've been told by doctors (after a lifetime of anemia) that my body is unable to process/utilize non-heme iron. I can ONLY use heme iron, and that ONLY comes from animal flesh -- you won't find it in eggs, dairy, beans, greens or grains. In addition, both DH and my daughter are allergic to soy, legumes and tree nuts. I do try to load up our family diet with high-protein grains (like quinoa) and other foods as much as I can, but the easiest way for all of us to get iron AND protein is through meat and fish.

So. Anyway. On to the recipes!

I bought pork spare ribs with the chine bone removed. That isn't 100% necessary, but it does make it easier to carve them once they're cooked. I made a dry rub of brown sugar, powdered ginger, ancho chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper and rubbed it over both sides of the ribs. Then I placed them on a rack in a roasting pan, poured about a half inch of water in the bottom of the pan, covered it VERY tightly with heavy-duty foil, and put it in the oven at 200 degrees F for about five hours. Then I removed the foil, boosted the heat up to 400 degrees F, and cooked the ribs for another 20 minutes or so, basting with bottled barbecue sauce during the last 10 minutes. After letting them rest for about five minutes I carved them into individual riblets. They were SO deliciously tender and flavorful, y'all.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it REALLY isn't hard to do at all. Most of the "work" time is spent in the oven with no interference from the cook. You can mix up the spice rub the night before, come home for lunch to rub the ribs and stick them in the oven, then boost up the heat and baste them with sauce when you get home from work in the evening. If you're going to be away from them for longer than about six hours, just cook them on a lower heat. As long as you add water to the pan and cover them tightly, they aren't going to burn.

The French bread was bought already made and just warmed through in the oven while the meat rested. Again, you can do this in minutes after work.

The beet & carrot salad can easily be made the day before. In fact, it might be better to do it that way so the flavors can meld for a bit. I made this salad in an effort to use up some of our most recent CSA share -- fresh beets, lovely fresh carrots, and green garlic.

All I did was wash and peel the carrots and beets and then shred them in my food processor. I would guess that the amount I had yielded about two cups of shredded veggies altogether. In a non-reactive bowl, whisk the juice of one lemon (or you could use lime juice, or vinegar) with an equal amount of oil -- I used some pistachio oil that's been lurking in my fridge since DH brought it back from a business trip to the south of France, waiting for the perfect salad opportunity. You could easily use EVOO or some sort of nut oil, whatever you like! I grated in one clove of "green" garlic (you could use a regular garlic clove, and just mince it if you don't have a microplane grater) and added a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I dumped in the shredded veggies and tossed them to coat. Because I can't leave well enough alone, I also snipped in some fresh mint and flat-leaf parsley.

I have never been a big fan of beets, I think because the only kind my mom ever served were the pickled ones from a jar, which are an abomination (sorry, Mom!). This salad was deliciously earthy and a bit tart, which made a nice complement to the rich pork ribs. Very yummy, and I would definitely make this again!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sausages on the grill

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled sausages & onions
  • "pizza" pasta salad
  • green salad "bar"
Gorgeous weather today. I grilled. Big surprise, eh?

I had some nice, fresh (non-cured/dried) sweet Italian sausages which I simmered in a big pot of water for about 15-20 minutes, then slapped on the grill to crisp and brown the skins. SO easy. Then I just cut a sweet onion (Texas 1015, in this case) into wedges, tossed them with a bit of EVOO, and grilled them on a grill screen for a few minutes until they'd softened and picked up a bit of color. I don't know why, but I HAVE to have onions with my sausage. I just do. It's some kind of law.

The pasta salad was something different for us, because I just never make it. In our family, pasta and salad are pretty much two completely different dishes, you know? But I got a wild hair and decided to make something with Italian-ish flavors that the kids might like. It was really easy to do, too!

All I did was cook and drain some pasta (wagon wheels -- it's what I had), then rinse it in cold water to chill it down. That went into a bowl along with cubes of mozzarella (not FRESH mozzarella -- the kind you can shred for pizza), slices of pepperoni, some sun-dried tomatoes (not the kind in oil, though you could use those if you wanted), and a bunch of shredded parmesan cheese (NOT the powdery stuff in the green can). I poured a little bottled Italian dressing on top, tossed it all together, and stuck it in the fridge until dinner was ready. It was really tasty! From a visual standpoint, it really needed something green, though. If I made this again I might add a little flat-leaf parsley, fresh basil, or a chopped green pepper.

Green salad bar was the same as on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crappy weather = chili for dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • chili con carne
  • beer bread
You know, I was never conscious of how much the weather affects my cooking mood until I started keeping this blog. Today it was rainy and just kind of gross, so I made chili. It was a chili sort of day, I guess.

Once again, I riffed off of Martha Stewart's chili con carne recipe. This time I actually followed the thing pretty closely for a change, except that I used all beef for the meat and I didn't add any salt at all until the very end. Oh and I used my favorite Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, which are so awesome in chili because of the added smokiness.

Beer bread was the usual also, using only 1/4 cup butter instead of 1/2. Because it makes me feel all virtuous, that's why. We LOVE this bread, y'all. We don't drink that much beer around here, but I've taken to buying it just so I can make this bread. Is that wrong?

Apart from the sliced green onions we used to top the chili, I couldn't be bothered to make a vegetable tonight. Some nights are like that!

Sucky steaks

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled NY strip steaks
  • potato-onion packets
  • green salad "bar"
Oh dudes. I hate it when a good idea goes all wrong in the execution.

It started out okay. I brought a couple of thick, gorgeous NY strip steaks to room temperature. I mashed up a large garlic clove in my mortar and pestle with a little EVOO and let it steep for several minutes, then smeared the resulting garlicky goodness over both sides of the steaks. I sprinkled them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I slapped them on the grill. I wasn't happy with the lack of color they picked up on the outside, and so ... I overcooked them. OH THE HUMANITY. Or bovine-osity, or whatever. They came out medium-well. DH was perfectly happy and thought they were delicious, because he likes his steaks grey in the middle. But y'all know me -- I like mine STILL MOOING. So I was not happy. Argh. I just do NOT have the hang of grilling steaks outdoors. From now on, I'm sticking with my IKEA grill pan on the stovetop. That lets me sear them and still keep them nice and rare-ish in the middle. Lesson learned.

Somehow, in the course of overcooking the steaks, I managed to UNDERcook the potato-onion packets. I sliced up some red-skinned potatoes and a nice sweet onion as usual, then layered them with bits of real butter, salt and pepper in a piece of heavy-duty foil before folding it into a packet. I slapped that sucker on the grill as soon as I lit it, like I always do, letting it cook while the grill warmed up for the steaks and removing it after the steaks were done. The potatoes were STILL crunchy in the middle, and the onions did not get as tender as I like. I ended up having to finish this dish in the microwave. ARGH!

At least the salad was good! Mixed greens from the CSA (including baby arugula, which I am LOVING), sliced baby carrots and mixed cherry/grape tomatoes from the supermarket, and raw baby peas FROM THE GARDEN! This was my first actual produce harvest of the year. SO exciting! Raw peas are SO sweet and yummy. They're like candy, I swear. Okay, maybe not like candy. But they're REALLY good!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Spring grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled ham steak
  • ciabatta
  • grilled asparagus
  • fruit salad
After a week of really crappy weather, it was GORGEOUS today. Perfect for grilling!

Grilled ham steak is the easiest thing ever. You don't even have to DO anything to it. Just take it out of the package, give it a rinse if you're not into all that brining liquid (I LOVE brine, so I don't rinse mine), and slap it on the grill for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak. SO yummy. You will never fry your ham steaks again, y'all.

The ciabatta was store-bought, warmed up in the oven while everything grilled. Easy.

The asparagus was likewise easy. I had a bunch of really skinny spears so they didn't take long to cook at all. Just give them a rinse, snap off the woody ends (this is the most difficult/time-consuming part of the process, which tells you how easy this is), then layer them on a grilling screen (mine is a flat metal sheet with holes in it -- you could also use heavy-duty foil with some holes punched through). Drizzle with EVOO, sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, toss them on the grill and just stir them around every few minutes with some tongs until they're crisp-tender. This is officially my favorite way to eat asparagus. It's kind of the summer version of oven-roasting, which I also love.

The fruit salad was STUPID easy. All I did was drain some canned mandarin orange segments, toss them in a bowl, then add green grapes and quartered strawberries. No sugar, no dressing, just fruit. We really like this combination -- the flavors and textures compliment each other well.

I don't know if it's because I'm such a die-hard minimalist or what, but I swear my easiest dinners are the most tasty. Simple ingredients plus simple preparation equals YUM.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • spice-rubbed beef brisket
  • steamed potatoes
  • leftover coleslaw from last night
This was really easy, though it does take a wee bit of advance planning because of the cooking time. All I did was mix together some brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Then I rubbed it on both sides of the brisket, whomped it into a roasting pan, added a bit of water, covered it tightly with foil, and stuck it in the oven at 325 degrees F for about two and a half hours. Slice thinly across the grain, and Bob's your uncle!

This brisket makes the house smell AMAZING while it cooks, and it comes out fork-tender. I usually cook it longer at a lower temperature, but the day got away from me and I didn't remember to stick it in the oven until after I'd picked up the boy child from school. It still came out just fine.

For the potatoes, I just quartered some red-skinned potatoes (without peeling them) and steamed them in the microwave. Drain, toss with some real butter (or margarine, if you insist), salt and pepper. Done!

Easy dinner. I was feeling lazy.