Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chorizo-Lime BBQ Ribs

*Just Braise has moved. Please visit me at!*

Summer brings a new culture onto the streets of New York City. It lives and breathes the pavement and it waits out the humid days for the cooling nights, begging for a release with rain. People move from their cramped apartments onto stoops, lawn chairs, handball courts, public pools, beaches, parks— even an air conditioned store to roam aimlessly for a cool down.

I walked home the other day and witnessed my neighborhood in a new light. Every winter we tightly latch ourselves into our undersized apartments, bundled under blankets and layers of clothing. I begin to forget the people that live in my neighborhood-- that I pass everyday on the streets-- that I ride the train with into Manhattan while we forget where we are and where we are going. As summer’s heat finally hits hard, the close quarters are too much and private life blends into public.

My neighborhood is a multicultural whirlwind of ethnicities and personalities. A perfect microcosm of New York City, I can walk two blocks in one direction to restock my sheesha; two blocks in the other for the best gyro in the City (or the best frappe according to the New York Times). I can go to the Mexican bodega for $1 tamales on the weekends, the Bangladesh deli for a fresh mango smoothie, or the Indian bakery for fresh gulab jaman. The list continues into the night.

But what emerges in the summer holds more than the variety of stores I relish. It is a look into the lives of others. Purple-haired women drink orange soda as their granddaughters regale their waning days of the school year. A group of kids playing soccer in the streets knock their ball too close to a passerby. A mother sits on the stoop as her son practices handball against their brick building. Young girls seek out the icy man for fresh coconut ices. Neighbors rehash old ties, friendly waves cross intersections, the weight of clothing is reduced, it is summertime and the people are happy.

The heat draws people out of their home physically and mentally. Each day I pass the local bargain shop and spy the cheap charcoal grills, waiting for the perfect time to purchase the one-season specialties. Spending time in the kitchen is cut short as the heat of the oven is viewed as sin. Hamburgers, quick chickens, easy seafood and of course, ribs, are easy on the mind because they lend us the notion of lazy-weekend-outdoor-eating with friends and loved ones.

With that said, I justify yet another round of ribs (pork this time)—perfect for a 4th of July BBQ. This one is dripping tangy citrus flavors off the chin with every bite. It is a thick and chunky sauce, loaded with freshness that screams homemade. It is something to impress friends with and all too easy to make. D believes the sauce recipe is too heavy on tomatoes, but I think it sits perfectly on the ribs— with that said, do what you will with the quantity.

Serving size= 4 people. Active time= 35 minutes. Inactive time= 1 hour 20 minutes
* 5 pounds pork ribs, have the butcher crack the bone but do not separate the ribs
* Chorizo-Lime BBQ sauce (recipe below)

1) Preheat oven to 400F. While oven is warming, begin to prep sauce ingredients below. Place rack of ribs on a large oven-proof baking sheet with a rim, cover with tinfoil. When oven is ready, place ribs on center rack for 15 minutes.
2) As ribs are baking, finish up the sauce on the stovetop. The sauce should be ready around the same time as the ribs in the first part of the baking process.
3) Remove the sauce from the heat and the ribs from the oven (once the 15 minutes are up). Lower oven temperature to 350F. Remove tinfoil and generously coat the ribs with the sauce. Cover with tinfoil and return to the oven for 1 hour.

Serving size= 4 people. Active time= 30 minutes.
* 7 ounces, about 4 chorizo links, diced small
* ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
* 2- 6 ounce cans tomato paste, no salt added
* juice of 3 limes
* 1 cup cider vinegar
* 2 Tbl molasses
* 2 Tbl spicy mustard
* 1 Tbl favorite hot sauce
* ¼ cup water
salt/ pepper to taste

1) In a sauce pan on medium heat, warm the chorizo and cilantro until the cilantro wilts and aromas escape, about 3 minutes.
2) Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Coat ribs and bake or enjoy as extra dipping sauce on the side.

Head on over to Kalyn's Kitchen to catch this week's WHB roundup!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Radish & Peach Sandwich

As previously mentioned the garden has produced crisp, slightly bitter and tremendously juicy White Hailstone radishes, smelling faintly of blossoms and soil. Pulled from the ground (rather, bucket) and washed clean, Kitty even had a taste of the thick green stalks (see picture from June 24).

Desiring more than a salad and noting the meager contents of my pantry I went to the inspiration of cookbooks. Cracking each one, I went straight to the index only to find many a radish laden salad. D grew hungry and impatient, Kitty kept at the stalks and I finally found what I vaguely remembered I had: the Best of Gourmet Paris. The cover image, burned in my memory, showcased two mouth-watering baguettes: one brimming over with a thick schmear of goat cheese covered with raspberries, the other a candy cane assortment of radishes over a blue speckled blanket of cheese.

Using the recipe as inspiration, I headed to the grocery for the best Roquefort I know: Société (with a nod to a certain Frenchman currently displaced in Nottingham, England whose mother used to work at the dairy). Then to the bakery for a (Greek) baguette. In no time, this amazingly simple summer sandwich was produced.

Though D thoroughly rejected my notion that peach would be a sweet and colorful addition to the sandwich, I won in the end and crowned my prized radishes. One bite and I am hooked on the summery nature of this sandwich. The bread, an airy bed for the slightly pungent and salty creaminess of the Roquefort. The garden radishes crisp, with each bite sprinkling dew upon my nose. The peach, pure icing on the cake—the perfect representation of summer that left warm juice dribbling down my chin.

Each ingredient complimented each other to perfection. With a few slices of radish leftover, I placed them on the side, gave them a sprinkling of Lots Wyfe Hawaiian sea salt, creating radish “chips” and popped them in my mouth as a palate cleanser. Hunger problems solved and more refreshing radish sandwiches in the future warming months.

Serving size= 2 persons. Active time= 8 minutes.
*4 medium-sized White Hailstone Radish (preferred)
* 1 ripe peach
* 4 Tbl Roquefort cheese (Société preferred)
* 1 loaf crispy bread (baguette)

1) Cut the baguette in 2 and slice open (this is an open-faced sandwich)
2) Smear Roquefort over the insides of the 4 bread pieces.
3) Chop radish into 1/4-inch thick discs and layer over Roquefort
4) Slice peach into half. Remove pit and slice each half into 8 wedges. Place over radish.

Check out some Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies over at WellFed's Paper Palate.

Head on over to Sweetnick's for more ARF friendly items!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The City Gardener # 8

One morning as I checked my tomato bucket, my neighbor revealed that she had been watering my garden. I eyed her slyly before I made a quick scan of my produce, everything seemed to be in check and unharmed. I thanked her and continued to coo my tomatoes into fruit. I must remember to keep my eye on her.

After weeks of patiently waiting, soothing, encouraging and ensuring the best health possible for my little bucket garden, a few things are revealed. Of course, the most obvious from this photo, is that the radish have come into their own. This was not without some questioning on my part:

A few days back I noticed the leaves of the radish taking form. Growing and growing until sweet little white blooms made their way out. I thought back to the radishes I sometimes purchase at greenmarkets, recalling that no blossoms were ever found. I pushed the soil back a little to reveal the radish bulb, only to see a whitish-green globe. Each day I proceeded to check the radish wondering why they had yet to blush into the rosey hue I expected of their species.

I went online to Baker Creek Heirloom where I purchased the seeds. I looked through the radishes offered, but could not remember which I had ordered. I noticed the White Hailstone. The description sounded like something I would purchase: “superb… best tasting… mild and crisp.” These are a white radish, similar looking to the ones in my bucket.

When I arrived home that night I thumbed through my receipts to confirm my suspicion; I had growing perfectly ripe White Hailstone Radishes. Harvest time.

But now we move on to news a little bit more depressing. All my notes-to-self to purchase chicken wire has gone too long. As I sat one day brushing my hand lightly over my lettuce I turned to D and asked why he thought it was hardly growing. That in fact, it looked like it had receded from the height we left it at pre-vacation. He stooped down, put his nose right up to the greens and proclaimed, “it’s gone.”

“Gone. It looks like it has been clipped off.”

Sure enough, the only lettuce at an edible height were the few in the center of the bucket. Upon closer inspection we noticed tear marks. It seems the squirrels that live in the tree out front have been having a refreshingly delicious spring. A new round will shortly be attempted once chicken wire is purchased.

To leave this on a happy note, the recent rain is doing beautiful things to my Rainbow Chard. Even better, the squirrels don’t seem to care for it.

Oh, and as noticed from the photo above, Kitty likes her radish too! See more WCB over at Eat Stuff.

The City Gardener #7
The City Gardener #6
The City Gardener #5
The City Gardener #4
The City Gardener #3
The City Gardener #2
The City Gardener

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Macerated Strawberries & Blueberry-Jalapeno Mojitos

Fruit is an all too easy summer fallback dessert. While the heat beats us down, time spent in a kitchen presents itself as a not too pleasant option. And now, while fruit begin their turn to the sweetest, is the perfect time to jazz up an already perfect food into superstardom. These two fruity dishes; one beverage, one dessert, allows you more time where you belong in the summer: outside.

The dessert is one that tastes far more complicated and time consuming than it is, a plus for any entertainer. The beverage, originally presented to me by fellow food-lover RF, is a surprisingly sweet compliment to a typically hot notion: jalapeno peppers.

D and I enjoyed these with company. We paired them together at the close of our meal. While the strawberries were a pleasingly sweet and luxurious dish, the blueberry mojitos were refreshingly smooth. Both offer a fabulous cool down in the intense heat of the upcoming season.

Head on over to Sweetnick's for more ARF friendly items!

Serving size= 4 people. Active time= 8 minutes. Inactive time= 2 hours
* 1 quart strawberries, devined and quartered
* ½ cup + 2 Tbl sugar
* 1 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau)
* juice of 1 lemon
* 1 Tbl lemon zest
* 8 pieces chocolate biscotti
* 12 ounces mascarpone cheese
* 1 pint heavy cream

1) In a medium bowl, mix strawberries, ½ cup sugar, orange liqueur, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.
2) Just before serving, make the whipped cream: In a chilled bowl with cold ingredients, beat the mascarpone with the heavy cream and 2 Tbl sugar until soft peaks form.
3) Assemble: layer on a plate or deep glass (for example wine glass) biscotti, then divide strawberries and liquid over biscotti. Top with whipped mascarpone-cream mixture. Coco powder can be dusted on top or mint sprig placed over.

Serving size= 4 people. Active time= 8 minutes
* 6 ounces white rum
* 1 bunch fresh mint
* 1 pint blueberries
* 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
* juice of 2 limes + 1 for garnish
* 1 liter club soda
* 4 Tbl sugar
* crushed ice

1) Place ½ pint blueberries, 1 diced jalapeno, mint, sugar and lime juice in a pitcher or divide amongst glasses. Muddle (crush) to extract aromas and flavors.
2) Add remaining blueberries and jalapeno peppers, crushed ice, rum, and top with club soda; stir to incorporate.
3) Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The City Gardener # 7

Leave a garden at rest and kabam, it’s a crazy jungle out there.

I thought for sure leaving for 3 weeks would destroy all efforts I had put into my little buckets of life. I figured my mother, though she taught me to garden, would be too consumed with indoor plants, cats and the general being of New York City, to tend to my little outdoor plot. And she was.

Lucky me. The three weeks I was away seemed to be not so unusually wet spring weather. The radish are popping out of their skins, the tomatoes have shot up (must remember to beat away old ladies), the rainbow chard is slowly making progress, and for some reason, that lettuce that was supposed to be a quick 4 week process is struggling into life—though still moving.

One day this little City Garden will make it onto a plate. One day those radish will blush their white away. One day that Swiss chard will decide to grow in grand uniform style. One day that lettuce will… well, grow. One day those tomatoes will blossom into fruit. One day…

Until that day I will hope and pray that my leaving nature to do the trick will provide me with maybe 4 salads. Until then I will pull the tiny weeds, water when I can remember, and gently stroke and sooth my babies into growth as I depart each morning for work (yes, I pay them a visit every morning).

And until that day my little kitchen windowsill full of herbs will have to sooth my green dreams. These too, having avoided the chopping block for three weeks, have shot up. Basil is booming, rosemary is blooming, mint is creeping and sage is swaying. That’s another story for another night.

The City Gardener #6
The City Gardener #5
The City Gardener #4
The City Gardener #3
The City Gardener #2
The City Gardener

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dry-Rubbed Beef Ribs

*Just Braise has moved. Please visit me at!*

This past weekend was the annual Big Apple BBQ in New York City. D and I were just coming off our sickness, placing our desire for large amounts of BBQ low. After a few hours, we were craving ribs. Knowing the lines would be killer, we took our newfound hunger into our own hands.

We headed to the butcher and upon arrival asked for beef ribs. Short ribs were brought out and we quickly sent them back. We were thinking Texas style and therefore needed dinosaur ribs. A plastic wrapped package was carried from the back recesses and undone. Ribs longer than my forearm tumbled onto the butcher block. D licked the drool from the corner of his mouth.

6 hulking ribs were purchased for 3 people, a watermelon, and a few supplies for coleslaw. Though D himself is from Virginia, his father is a born and bred Texan. D took the reigns when prepping this slab of meat and gave them a basic dry rub of salt and pepper, covered them, and sent them in the oven on low heat for 3 hours.

The result was succulent, juicy ribs that defied any size and flavor ever purchased before in a restaurant. Dripping with moisture the well marbleized meat fell right off the bone, making it all the easier to fill our mouths.

Every dry rub rib recipe I have had before left small amounts of tough, dry meat to be pulled off the bone. These hulking ribs were brimming with flavor, juice and meat-- an overall success.

Dry-Rubbed Beef Ribs
6 ribs (not short ribs) serves 4 with leftovers. Prep time= 5 minutes. Cook time= 3 hours
* 6 beef ribs (not short ribs); have the butcher remove the cartilegde from the underside and crack the ribs but do not separate ribs. Your butcher can also diamond cut across the meat so the dry rub can be rubbed into the meat more easily.
* 3 Tbl salt
* 4 Tbl fresh-ground pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the ribs in a large baking dish, meat up, and amply salt and pepper; rub into the meat.
2) Cover with tinfoil and place on center rack in the oven. Turn heat down to 300F. Cook for 3 hours.
3) To brown, remove foil and replace in oven for 10-15 minutes.
4) Meat will have pulled back from bone and be extremely juicy. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blueberry Pancakes

*Just Braise has moved. Please visit me at!*

As the summer haze blanketed the Chicagoland area my mother used to stuff us into the Jeep. We would head north into Wisconsin to go fishing at the crack of dawn, or south to the great flea market in Sandwich, Illinois. The best weekend trips were making the loop around the tip of the Lake and heading into Michigan.

We left early and drove with the windows down, only to lock them tight and hold our breath as we passed through Gary, Indiana. To ensure a speedy trip, my older brother forced the younger one to urinate in old take-out cups beneath a blanket in the back seat while my mother kept us wired with the odd stop at a gas station—we had our own fill-up of Pixy-sticks, Sixlettes, and Lick-a-Sticks.

We would arrive in Michigan, buzzed on sugar and ready for the task at hand: blueberry picking. Is it possible that the $5 candy allowance was to negate any possibility of sluggishness for the harvest? My brothers and I grabbed our buckets and dashed into the fields, whizzing past those poor saps who failed to realize the benefit of an 8AM sugar high.

I chose the rare specimens-- the blueberries that bypassed nature and could have landed in a Coney Island sideshow. Plump with juice and ready to burst, I picked the berries that would never make it into a store-bought pint. The berries my radar found were the size of apricots. Destiny had allowed these prized specimens extra strength in their branch, they pulled the bush down, but were refused to fall. They remained freakishly alone, awaiting my chubby little fingers to pluck them out.

Eventually our fingers and tongues faded into blue, the sun became too hot, and our highs turned to hunger. We left the blueberry patch for a friend’s beachside summerhouse where we could cool down in the lake. As everyone changed into suits I grabbed my blueberry pint and sorted my prized possessions—no one was to eat my ginormous ribbon winners. I removed each of my overgrown blueberries from the pint and placed them at my bedside table before I allowed myself to join everyone in the water.

The weekend would end with a bonfire on the beach. I transplanted my special berries into a paper cup and coddled them as we headed home. I would exit the car, run up to my bedroom and slowly remove each blueberry, scrutinizing it for any imperfections before I gently placed it on my windowsill. There they remained to rot, untouched by another human, admired until they deflated into a mush.

This recipe base is the same that appears for D’s Strawberry Banana Pancakes.

Makes about 15 4-inch pancakes. Prep time= 10 minutes.
* 1 egg
* 1-1/4 cup milk
* 5 Tbl vinegar
* 2 Tbl molasses
* 1/4 cup butter, melted
* 1 cup flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
* 3/4 cup applesauce
* 1 pint fresh blueberries

1) Beat together egg, milk, vinegar, molasses, butter, and applesauce.
2) Add flour, sifted with salt, baking soda and baking powder, stir until blended.
3) Add cornmeal, stir until just blended.
4) Warm a skillet on medium-high heat. Melt ½ Tbl butter. When pan is hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop and drop even batter. Sprinkle fruit on top of batter. Cook until bubbles begin to appear, about 3 minutes. Flip, cook for another 2 minutes.

NOTE: Sliced apples, pears, blueberries, or any other fruit is amazing with this batter. Another option is to use buttermilk instead of regular milk and vinegar.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Return

One now out of control garden, trains, planes, ferries, buses, mountains, 1 rented car, the Underground and 1 glacier later… D and I have returned. Safe and fairly ill we crawled through our door, greeted by the kitties, who were happy to have us home— happier to be fed.

London was fab. A quick stint gave us one stunning play, Dying City, by Christopher Shinn, and one great musical, Sunday in the Park with George, by Stephen Sondheim. Both beautiful and should be seen by all. Other highlights include Neal's Yard Dairy with their wide selection of cheeses from around the United Kingdom and Rococo Chocolates. Their little bag of house truffles and organic dark chocolate cardamom bar offered delectable flavors in the coming days.

A 1 pence flight (how can you not love Ryan Air?) found us in Norway ogling at the fjords. Stunning, magnificent, imposing, breathtaking, Lord of the Rings multiplied by twenty; they should be seen by all in a lifetime. The delicacies of Norway include caviar at breakfast, stacking lox higher than pancakes at breakfast and getting nary a disapproving glance, Bergen's fish market (where a 1/2 kilo (just over 1 lb) of shrimp, caught and boiled that morning goes for $8. Peel and eat overlooking the harbor.), and a slew of smoked fish.

We jumped over to the highlands of Scotland for leg 3. The Isle of Skye was mystical enshrouded in clouds, the glens provided sweeping landscapes, and Ben Nevis (the highest peak in the UK) proved conquered, even in white-out conditions and a snow-capped top. Wee drams during whisky tours (no “e” in Scottish whisky) were an educational and peaty experience while the dairies we popped in at dished up some smooth spreads and great knowledge of the trade.

All in all, a fabulous time, though I am quite stunned to find no sheep crossing my path in New York City.

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