The Ribs.

When I moved to Alberta, there were a few stereotypes that I hoped to actually participate in. One of those was eating massive amounts of meat, carnage-style. I won’t disclose the other stereotypes at this time. I came across a rib recipe that has now been capitalized in my life as The Ribs. When people come to visit (as my mate’s mother did this weekend), it was known that I would be making my Ribs.

I have given this recipe to some friends along the way, who have all had the same success with these bad boys. The recipe is more along the lines of a Kansas-style BBQ, with a sauce that has sweetness to save from the spice. I don’t find these overly spicy — just warming in your mouth…enough for some interest.

The greatness of this combination is that it fits to any protein and can be used solely as a rub or with the sauce. I highly recommend with the sauce. But then, I love sauce and may be biased. At the very least, make it and decide for yourself.

I prefer using pork side ribs and this weekend had the pleasure of using a local Berkshire pork from Sunshine Organic Farms here in Alberta. Not kidding – the meat is so beautifully lean, dark and flavourful…it was the entire topic of the dinner conversation. (http://www.sunshineorganicfarm.com/product.htm)

The Ribs
Adapted sparingly from Martha Stewart, the Queen

Serves “4”. But don’t be surprised if you eat them all yourself.

2 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper
1 rack (5 lbs.) pork ribs, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, and patted dry
1 can (14 oz.) tomato puree, or crushed unspiced tomatoes
1/2 c. honey (although after tasting I usually up this a bit to make it sweeter and have more caramelization on the BBQ)
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced (again, usually upped if it’s for us)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine spices with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture for the sauce. Rub both sides of ribs with remaining mixture.

Place ribs, fatty side up, on a rimmed baking sheet, and cover tightly with foil; bake until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (There will be hot liquid in baking sheet when removed from oven.)

Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small saucepan, combine tomato purée, honey, Worcestershire, garlic, reserved spice mixture, and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat grill to medium. Cut ribs into four equal parts. Brush ribs generously with barbecue sauce; grill until charred in spots, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with remaining sauce.

Devour. Thank me and Martha.

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spaghetti puttanesca

Whenever I ask my mate what dinner he would like to have most, it’s always a toss-up between this dish and another that I shall share at a later time. This is a delicious, fast, and easy pasta dish.

And so, when the mate’s mother is in town and I am to cook a welcome dinner – this is what is going on the plates.

Spaghetti Puttanesca is translated to “Whore’s Spaghetti”. It’s got a great history: According to Annarita Cuomo, writer for Il Golfo, a newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida, sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.

The moment of inspiration came when near closing one evening, Petti found a group of hungry friends sitting at one of his tables. Petti was low on ingredients and told them he didn’t have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” or “make any kind of garbage,” they insisted. (In this usage, puttanata is a noun meaning something worthless or something easy to prepare even though it derives from the Italian word for whore, puttana.)

At the time, Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers; the basic ingredients for the sugo. And thus, it was born. Check out Wikipedia for more on this dish.

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca
Adapted from Bitchin’ Kitchen on the Food Network

Serves 4. Or 2 hungry lemurs.

450 grams spaghetti (16 oz)
2 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (I also use grape tomatoes here and about a full pint and a bit more works, halved).
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
6 anchovy fillets, chopped and mashed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. hot chili flakes (or to taste)
2 tbsp. brown sugar (to be honest, I rough this every time)
pinch sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Boil spaghetti in salted water until it is slightly undercooked (1 minute away from being al dente), strain.

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add chili flakes and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant and golden.

Add mashed anchovies and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add cherry tomatoes and sauté for an additional 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes begin to create a light sauce.

Once tomatoes have sauced up, mix olives, capers, brown sugar, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper into the sauce.

Add the spaghetti to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and use tongs to stir until the pasta absorbs the sauce, about 3 minutes.

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cheesecake.

Gateau du fromage. My love for cheesecake is somewhat unnatural. I could easily pack away a full cheesecake solo only to wake up after, surrounded by graham crackers and lactose, in a fog.

I have long wanted to make my own homemade cheesecake but it’s a bit daunting for some reason. I wanted it to be real, legit, delicious cheesecake. After much searching, I found a recipe on Epicurious for New York-style cheesecake. It sounded like exactly what I wanted.

I set out to make it, ambitiously, on a Friday night. After further reading in the recipe, I see that the cheesecake cannot be rushed. A minimum 8 hours are needed, and that is cutting it too close for comfort. Further to my problem, I lacked a springform and the
Save-On Foods let me down. I made cheesecake brownies to stave off my cravings and decided to wait.

And so, I have made it. Biggest advice, do not rush yourself. Do not make the cheesecake with the hope of having it for dessert later on. It is a planned dish.

This recipe is from Gourmet in 1999. God, I love Gourmet. I added some more graham crumbs and butter to the crust, because I used a 10-inch springform. Personally, I love the crust, so I would still add a splash more. I obviously didn’t keep a record of how much I added. I am wild like that.

New York Cheesecake
Adapted from Gourmet 1999

1 c. finely ground graham crackers
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (I, as per usual, used a bit more. Hee.)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

5 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I used about 1 tsp)
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
(You can also add some orange zest. I didn’t though).

Preheat your oven to 550 degrees. Yes, 550. Shush.

Butter your springform pan. Mix all the dry crust ingredients together and add the butter. Mix it up and press it into the springform pan, including going up the sides. Trust. Leave about an inch from the top of the sides. I didn’t do this and I wish I had. You can leave the pan on the counter, but I was recommended to pop it in the freezer so it’s nice and set when you are ready to go. Pop it in. Fight with your frozen vegetables as I did.

Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour, and zests with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions. Make sure you mix it well but don’t overmix. You don’t want lumps, but you also don’t want cracks later.

Put springform pan with crust in a baking pan. Pour filling into crust (springform pan will be completely and scarily full) and bake in baking pan (to catch drips – I had butter in mine, I think) in middle of oven 12 minutes, or until puffed. Keep an eye on your cake – your oven might brown it fast and if that happens, just go ahead and reduce away. Reduce temperature to 200°F and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour more. If you are in doubt, as I was, turn off the oven and leave the cake in there for a bit longer. It will continue to firm up. I found that the best way to tell was to put my hand on the top and gently press to see if it’s firm, but still have some shimmy-shake to it.

Run a knife around top edge of cake (not all the way down) to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate.

I served mine chilled, as that’s the way I roll. As well, I made a quick raspberry coulis to go along with it. Just pop a pint of raspberries, some lemon juice and a couple tablespoons of sugar, with 1/4 c. of water in a blender. Push it through a fine sieve. Look thrilled at the colour and the fact that you can say that you serve something called “coulis”. Coo-lee. Mmm.

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cheddar-scallion-jalapeno drop biscuits

Yum. Can I just say that to start? These are genuinely satisfying. I thought it might be because I have been South Beach dieting the past two weeks (read: no carbs) but upon further investigation, they are just damn good.

Drop biscuits are one of my guiltiest pleasures. I add more butter than I know the recipe requires (such flaky, buttery goodness!) and I eat them quickly. While warm. And fresh. Crime? I think not. The real crime would be to leave them unattended. They are a tasty little date that you can’t say no to.

I was using a variation of this recipe for my strawberry shortcakes. Still am. But, I am moving toward keeping this recipe for biscuits as a savoury one only. Ballsy, true. But aside from the strawberry shortcakes, I can’t imagine them as anything but savoury now.

Although it is summertime and chili won’t be coming out for many a month, the thought of a hot and meaty bowl of chili with these biscuits is making me salivate. Or do as my mate did and spread some jalapeno pepper jelly on them. Or butter.

Brace yourself, friends.

(Must go eat another biscuit.)

Cheddar, Scallion, Jalapeno Drop Biscuits (Makes 6ish depending on your scoop size)

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking power
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. sugar
5 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits (or, as I call it, as much as I want until it looks like I want it to)
1/4 cup diced scallions/green onions
1 c. shredded old cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you love and adore)
1/2 large jalapeno pepper, minced with seeds (unless you are not a spicy person, then you can either omit or lessen…or add more if you love spice. Basically, choose your poison here)
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 and put the rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or don’t. You don’t have to, but I find it much easier).

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs. I also like to give it a little squeeze to see if it has some moisture to stay together. Stir in the cheese, scallions and jalapeno. Add buttermilk and stir it into a soft, sticky dough. It will be shaggy. Quite.

Drop the dough in mounds about 2 inches apart on your baking sheet and bake until golden, puffed and delicious looking (12-15 minutes). Keep an eye on the bottoms, as they can get dark very quickly between being done and being slightly overdone. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you can leave them alone for long.

These are craggy and crunchy on the outside and flaky and buttery and melty cheesy on the inside. A perfect biscuit.

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the beginning.

Hello. This is new to me.

Really, I just needed a place to organize my recipes, food trials and ideas. And so, this is it. So, other foodies, eat well and prosper.

Enjoy, or don’t.

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