Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Musings over an empty package of ravioli

Packaged foods are mysterious.

Tonight I was feeling like pasta, but wasn’t feeling like making my own. So I bought a package of Four Cheese Jumbo Ravioli from Trader Joe’s refrigerator section. The package contained 12 huge (approximately 2x3 inches, not my bite size for sure) flat rectangles, and the label said “Serving size 1 cup. Servings per container about 2.5”

I have a degree in Math from one of the best universities in the world. I couldn’t figure out how many pieces per serving. Or how to fit them in a measuring cup. So I just ate them all. They are OK. Oh, and the instruction on the package tells you to bring water to a rapid boil, and then cook the pasta over a medium boil gently. I have a lot to learn about cooking.

With our midnight cheese and wine course, the man likes large rectangular whole wheat crackers, and I like small round water crackers. His crackers have the food pyramid on the box, instructing you to eat 6-11 servings of bread, grains, and pasta per day. The crackers’ serving size is 4. That would be 24 large crackers a day for me, or 44 for him. I would rather die. My small crackers say that the serving size is 3. Just 18 for me and 33 for him a day. We can live again.

What a scary mess must be the live of someone who trusts a printed word!

There is no recipe in this post. Or, wait a minute, there is one:

Four Cheese Jumbo Ravioli
Serves 2.5
1-10oz package Trader Joe’s Four Cheese Jumbo Ravioli

Add pasta to 3 quarts of rapidly boiling water. Cook for 8-10 minutes over a medium boil gently stirring occasionally. Drain (divide between 2.5 plates?) and serve.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Barbecue Spareribs

We were getting ready for a long hot summer of chilled wine and fresh figs, no cooking, but m-elle posted a photo of herself in the Distillery, wearing summer clothes, without the usual blanket, sweater, and fur boots, and this scared the summer away. So we are freezing here, in the beautiful sunny California, once again.
Wine and figs are not nourishing enough in this chill; the body needs some smoked meat. And here it is:

I rubbed the pork spareribs with a mix of Old Western BBQ Spices (sea salt, paprika, coriander, pepper, curry, onion, garlic, oregano, celery and mustard powder) and chili powder the day before cooking, then refrigerated them for about 20 hours. When ready to cook, I wrapped the ribs in aluminum foil and baked them in a medium hot oven for an hour. This helped to melt out some fat, while keeping the meat tender, and gave me time to clean and heat my water smoker grill.

I used about 1/3 of a bag of lump hardwood charcoal for the heat, and a few handfuls of hickory chips, soaked in water for an hour, for the smoke. Every time the grill stops smoking, about every 30 minutes, I add another handful of chips. The sauce is made while the ribs are smoking. I got the idea of smoking the onion for the sauce together with the meat from Jamison and Jamison Smoke & Spice book, one of the very few cookbooks without pictures that I own and read for inspiration anyway.

The recipe for the sauce makes about 3 cups; if you don’t eat the sauce with a soup spoon, there will be some left over. It keeps refrigerated for about a week and is good with any grilled meat too.

The entire process keeps you warm and moderately busy for five hours. And then we eat.

Smoked Pork Spareribs with Tomato Barbecue Sauce
Serves 3

3-1/2 lb slab pork spareribs

2 Tbsp Old Western BBQ Spices
1 Tbsp chili powder

2 cups meat drippings
1 smoked onion (or fresh onion), diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup red wine
6 oz can organic tomato paste
2 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt, pepper

Rub the ribs with BBQ Spices and chili powder, wrap in aluminum foil, refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the ribs in their foil wrap for 1 hour.

While the ribs are in the oven, prepare the water smoker. Heat it up to about 200 F.

Remove the ribs from the oven. Carefully open the foil and pour the rendered fat and meat juices into a small bowl. Chill the drippings for an hour or so to separate the fat.

Place the ribs together with the unpeeled onion in the smoker. Smoke for 4 hours, or until the meat is very tender and falls off the bones. Check the onion 90 minutes through cooking. It should be somewhat softened but not mushy. Remove the onion and set to a side for 15-20 minutes to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and chop the onion.

Remove the bowl with the meat juices from the refrigerator and carefully scoop and discard all the fat that is beginning to solidify on top. Pour the meat juices into a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Add all other sauce ingredients, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor if needed: add more cayenne for hot, molasses for sweet, or vinegar for sour. Puree in blender, holding down the lid to avert a disaster.

When the ribs are ready, remove from smoker, cut into portions, pour some sauce over the ribs, or serve separately in a bowl.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June Heat

So, what do you cook when it's 100 degrees outside? I don't. Chill some fresh fruits from the market, chill the white wine, slice the cheese, set everything out in the sunshine for long enough to take a picture - this will bring the cheese (and the wine) to "room" temperature. Move into the shade, put an ice cube in the wine, try to eat.
Then, if the temperature drops to the comfortable 90-ies, slice the eggplant, summer squashes and spring onions, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill. Shower, then eat.

There is no recipe in this post.