Believe it or not, you can actually make your own super tender spicy baby back ribs in your kitchen. Southerners are famous for their smoked ribs but it’s actually very easy to get similar results at home and you don’t even need a smoker, all you need is an oven and a BBQ! And even if you don’t have a BBQ, you can even use the broiler in you oven to caramelize them.
These are so easy to prepare you won’t believe it. All the work is done in the oven with very little involvement from you. The secret to super tender ribs is to slow cook them in your oven at a very low temperature for 5 hours, that’s it! This is the perfect recipe when hosting a BBQ for a large group as it takes little effort, and everything can be prepared in advance except for the final stage at the BBQ where you caramelize the ribs with the sauce.
I must however outline just a few tips when buying the pork ribs. We’re actually fortunate in Quebec for having some of the best pork around, however this may not be the case everywhere else. Since there are no grades of pork as there are with beef, to ensure you get the best pork ribs simply pick a rack that has a deep pink colour.
Additionally, note that before we apply the rub on the ribs, it is also important to remove the membrane, which is found on the back of the bone-side of the ribs. This is however the most difficult thing to do as sometimes it all comes off in one piece and other times you just have to go at it in strips.
The best way to remove the membrane is to start at the narrowest end of the ribs on the bone-side of the ribs, and at this point, using your knife, lift up the corner of the membrane so you can grab a hold of it. Then grab the corner of the membrane with a paper towel and pull it straight up and away from the rack of ribs, sometimes it helps to just to run your fingers under it to push it along. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound like much fun but that’s really the only hard part in preparing these ribs! Trust me it will be worth it and once you do a few of these you’ll get the hang of it!
4 half racks of baby back ribs
3 tablespoons chili powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
BBQ sauce ingredients:
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup honey
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
spicy baby back ribs
Cut a piece of aluminum foil double the length of a rib rack and place it on a baking sheet.
Once you have removed the membrane from the back of the pork ribs, place two racks on each baking sheet and sprinkle the chili powder all over both sides of the ribs and massage it in. If time permits it’s best to refrigerate the ribs, uncovered, for an hour or so, which will help the rub infuse the meat.
Preheat oven to 250oF. Fold the foil over the ribs so all the meat is covered and fold over all the edges to make a bundle. Then cut a couple of small vents with a knife on the top of each bundle.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 3 hours.
Then reduce the heat to 225oF and bake for another 2 hours.
After cooking for 5 hours the meat should be very tender and the meat should have started shrinking away from the bones.
While you are heating up the BBQ to high, you can prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan stir together all of the ingredients for the sauce and place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until all of the flavours are well blended for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the sauce from heat and set aside.
When ready to BBQ, oil the BBQ rack, season the ribs lightly with salt and pepper and and brush the top of the ribs liberally with the sauce and place face down (the side with the sauce) on the BBQ grill. (If you do not have a BBQ or just want to do these in the winter, preheat your oven broiler to high and place ribs face up with sauce on an oiled rack in a broiler pan.) Grill the ribs until caramelized, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Then turn ribs over and brush with additional sauce, and cook until caramelized for another 8 minutes.
Transfer ribs to a serving plate. For the perfect BBQ serve with corn on the cob and buttermilk coleslaw! Buttermilk coleslaw recipe follows!
This buttermilk coleslaw is my go-to summer BBQ salad! It is a great side to most meats that you will BBQ, such as beer-can chicken, baby back ribs, as shown above, or sausages. It is especially well paired when you’re serving up something that is spicy as it helps cut the spice with it’s creamy and rich buttermilk dressing. It is also perfect in a pulled pork sandwich too!
This is a great salad to prepare for a BBQ as it can be made in advance and refrigerated. My husband even prefers it the next day so you can even prepare it a day in advance if need be. It’s so easy and quick to put it together that you can also make it on a weeknight BBQ as you can whip this up in under 15 minutes!
Take note that even though the dressing tastes rich, it doesn’t necessarily have to be high in fat content. Yes, the buttermilk is low in fat, but feel free to use light mayonnaise and low-fat sour cream, as I do, it will cut down on the fat and be just as rich and creamy tasting!
1 small red onion (or ¼ of a large red onion) thinly sliced
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Packaged coleslaw (pre-cut green and red cabbage and carrots)
If there are no carrots in the packaged coleslaw julienne 1 carrot
The beauty of spring is that we no longer have to buy expensive fresh herbs from the grocery store, which often go bad before we get to use them all up. We are now able to pick our own fresh herbs either from a window box or a home garden. There’s nothing like using fresh herbs and here’s a pesto recipe that will beautifully leverage the bright flavours of the fresh herbs in your garden.
This is an updated version of the pasta served with pesto. The pesto is comprised of four herbs which you should hopefully have in your herb box or garden; parsley, tarragon, sage and basil. The difference between the basil pesto and this four herb pesto is that these herbs are chopped and not taken through the blender so the flavours of each herb is much more prominent. The four-herb pesto spaghettini can be served as is for a vegetarian option, but if you enjoy a little protein as I do, you can simply top the pasta with chopped strips of prosciutto as I have done here.
The pesto can be prepared a few hours in advance and then combined with cooked pasta when ready to serve.
four-herb pesto spaghettini
½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh sage leaves
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
spaghettini for two
pinch of freshly ground pepper & kosher salt
2 slices of prosciutto (optional)
four-herb pesto spaghettini
Boil lightly salted water in a large pot over medium-high heat for the spaghettini.
Finely chop the parsley, basil, tarragon, and sage and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice on the herbs and coat the herbs with the lemon juice.
Combine the garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts in the blender or food processor. Then add the olive oil slowly as the machine is still running and process until mixture is creamy and fully blended.
Pour this oil mixture into the bowl with the herbs and stir to combine.
Add the spaghettini to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
If you wish to top the pasta with prosciutto, while the pasta is cooking chop the prosciutto into ribbons and set aside.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to a serving bowl and toss pasta with the pesto, a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
A cold soup is the perfect appetizer for a summer BBQ and this one is particularly refreshing, as the crushed caraway seeds and the dill give it that special zing. Since this is the beginning of the growing season, it’s a perfect time to use the locally grown garden cucumbers instead of the all-year-around English cucumbers which have little flavour in comparison to the garden cucumber. If you can’t find the local garden cucumber you can of course use the English cucumbers.
This easy recipe is adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe. The only special equipment you will need for this recipe is a blender to purée all of the ingredients.
This refreshing chilled soup can be prepared in advance up to 12 hours before you serve it, which makes for an easy appetizer to serve when entertaining a group of friends for a BBQ.
4 garden cucumbers peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 cup Greek yogurt (low-fat)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 green onions, both light green and darker green tops, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped and a few sprigs for garnish
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
3/4 cup vegetable stock or broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
cucumber and dill soup
After peeling, halving lengthwise and taking it out the seeds of 3 cucumbers, chop the cucumber halves coarsely.
Transfer the cucumber halves into a large bowl and combine with the yogurt, lemon juice, green onions, dill, garlic, caraway seeds, salt and white pepper. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside a room temperature for about an hour.
In the meantime you can peel, half and seed the 4th cucumber and then dice this last remaining cucumber into small ½ inch cubes. Set aside until ready to serve.
Once the flavours of the cucumber and the other ingredients have combined you can pour into a blender and purée until smooth. Then slowly add the vegetable stock and continue to purée until it is fully blended, for about 30 seconds.
Transfer soup into a pitcher and cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours. You can actually make this soup about 12 hours in advance as it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until your are ready to serve it.
When ready to serve the soup, mix in the olive oil into the soup and serve in small bowls or as we did in verrines. Then just add cubed cucumber to each bowl, top with a sprig of dill and serve immediately.
Spring is here and the BBQ is starting to work overtime! Here’s my favourite grilled lamb chop recipe, not only because it is super easy to prepare but most importantly because I wooed the man I would marry on the third date with these lamb chops!
They say you can win a man’s heart through his stomach. I’m sure there’s more to that, but I agree that good food does help! And serving lamb with mint jelly just doesn’t cut it, so if you want to make a lasting impression, whether for your date or for your guests, the best way to savour lamb chops is by grilling them on the BBQ with a herbes de provence marinade.
lamb chops with herbes de provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon dried herbes de provences
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 medium size lamb chops, trimmed of fat
squeeze of lemon
Mix first 6 ingredients together in a small bowl.
Rub marinade lightly on each of side of the chops, you don’t want the marinade to overpower the meat as the meat is so flavourful.
Let chops sit at room temperature for a half an hour. Or you can cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, just make sure to let the chops stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes before grilling.
Heat grill at medium-high and grill each chop for 3-4 minutes each side depending on thickness (about 3 minutes if an inch thick and 4 minutes if thicker). Ideally lamb chops should be served medium-rare to medium, often referred to as rosé.
You can then let chops rest for 5 minutes before serving and then just squeeze a little lemon on top of each chop.
These lamb chops go well with a Greek salad. That’s it, it’s that easy!
Spring is a perfect time for freshness but also for a bit of heat. Here’s a great shrimp appetizer to serve to your guests that has a little bit of kick but is gently tempered by some refreshing guacamole. The secret to cooking this shrimp is the addition of a homemade sweet and spicy chill sauce.
There are three parts to preparing this appetizer, in addition to cooking the shrimp, you will have to make guacamole and prepare the sweet and spicy chili sauce. It does take a little work, but thankfully the sweet and spicy chili sauce and the guacamole can both be prepared in advance. You then just need to cook the shrimp before you’re ready to serve your guests. This is not a complicated recipe, it just involves a lot of chopping and mincing. However I guarantee that the efforts you put behind this will be worth it!
spicy shrimp and guacamole
sweet and spicy chili sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons hot red pepper, seeded and minced
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoon lemon rind, finely grated
1 tablespoon lime rind, finely grated
salt to taste
Add sesame oil to a pan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, shallots and hot red peppers and sauté until softened for about 2 minutes.
Add sugar and water to the pan and stir gently until sugar has dissolved.
Let sauce simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until sauce has slightly thickened and has slightly darkened in colour. No need to stir as the sugar could crystallize.
Transfer sauce to a bowl, and add lemon and lime rind.
Let it cool and season with salt to taste.
You will have enough of the sauce for another meal, as this makes about 3/4 cup, and you can keep this sauce in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
2 avocadoes, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ red pepper, seeded and minced
¼ cup cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sweet and spicy chili sauce as per recipe above
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl and roughly mash together.
Season with salt and refrigerate until needed. To keep in refrigerator cover the surface of guacamole very tightly with plastic wrap to ensure there is no air. This will allow you to keep the guacamole for up to a day in the refrigerator.
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 large uncooked shrimps with tail, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons sweet and spicy chili sauce as per recipe above
cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
Heat a medium frying pan over high heat and add sesame oil to pan.
Then add shrimp and sauté with a little kosher salt. When shrimp is halfway cooked, after 1-2 minutes or so, add the 2 tablespoons of the sweet and spicy chili sauce and caramelize for about another minute. Remove from heat.
To serve place 2 tablespoons of guacamole on a small plate and top with two or three shrimps depending on the quantity of shrimp you have cooked. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
It’s quite pleasant with a glass of chilled white wine, my preference being a sancerre blanc!
You can’t beat this combination, beets and burrata. I must admit that I have only become a fan of beets, that is, roasted beets, just recently. Pardon my ignorance, but the reason I never ventured into the beets territory is simply because for all these years I thought beets always came out of a jar in their vinegary form! For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of food pickled in vinegar so I just avoided trying anything with beets. And while I’m at it, why pickle anything? Aren’t eggs just better fresh anyways and if you’re going to keep anything why not just put it in olive oil, instead of vinegar…
Anyhow enough about the pickling, let me tell you about one magical day in a restaurant in Montreal which changed my perception of beets. A friend had mentioned that the best salad on the menu of this restaurant was the beet and goat cheese salad. Well, this was the game changer for me, at that moment I discovered that beets come in wonderfully bright colours other than dark burgundy and that they are actually very flavourful especially when roasted.
So, yes roasted beets are quite good served in a salad with goat cheese, as it is often prepared, however you can bring it to another level by serving it with burrata instead of goat cheese.
If you haven’t experienced burrata yet, let me introduce you to a whole new world of fresh italian cheese which is just heavenly creamy. In my book, once you go burrata you can’t go back to mozzarella or even mozzarella di bufala. It’s just a better version of mozzarella as the mozzarella is combined with cream in a pouch made of mozzarella. It’s quite indulgent and can be served with fresh tomatoes just as is done with mozzarella di bufala or served with roasted beets as done here.
The beets and the vinaigrette for this recipe can both be prepared in advance, up to a day prior to you serving the salad, which makes for a great first course when hosting guests. It is not only bright and colourful but it’s spectacular because of the addition of the oh-so decadent burrata. The roasted hazelnuts are also a must in this salad as they add the necessary crunchy texture to the mix.
beets and burrata
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons shallot, minced
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8-10 medium sized beets, golden, candy-stripped or red beets, tops trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 200g packs of burrata or fresh mozzarella di bufala if you can’t find burrata
bunch of basil leaves, cut lengthwise into ribbons
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven at 375oF
To make vinaigrette combine vinegar, lemon juice and shallot in a small bowl and stir in mustard. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can cover and chill vinaigrette while the beets are roasting.
Toss beets in oil and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer beets to a baking dish large enough to fit all beets. I prefer to line the baking dish with aluminum foil as it prevents me from having to clean and scrub the baking dish as the beets will bleed in the baking dish. Then cover baking dish with foil really tightly so steam cannot escape. Cook for about 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothbpick can slide easily through the beets.
Carefully uncover the baking dish as the steam is very hot. Let beets cool for about 10 minutes, until you can handle them, then peel beets by using a paper towel to help rub off the peel. This will also help in ensuring you don’t stain your hands.
Quarter the beets. In a medium bowl toss beets with ½ of quantity of vinaigrette.
Spread burrata on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper. Top burrata with beets and drizzle remaining vinaigrette over the beets and burrata. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and basil.
I just love the concept of appetizers! The Spanish, with their tapas or the Greeks with the meze have it right when it comes to enjoying an entire meal savouring multiple small courses all night long. Tapas are great because it prolongs the time you spend around the table or, in our case, often around the kitchen island. What’s not to love when you get to taste a multitude of different courses instead of just the traditional three-course meal.
However serving tapas to your guests can result in a lot of work and stress if not planned properly. My husband and I have learned that the best way to serve tapas is to have on hand a combination of cold and hot tapas, which have been prepared in advance. All that needs to be done when the party comes around, is just some minimal assembly or reheating before they are served. This will ensure you can enjoy the party as much as your guests!
We’ve got a long list of favourite appetizers which I’m looking forward to posting on this blog, but as a start, I am sharing with you the easiest app you’ll ever make, my mom’s artichoke squares! It’s a little like a frittata because of the eggs, but don’t be fooled the taste is sophisticated enough for an appetizer.
This is a super easy recipe that requires minimal bowls and pans. You can make this one ahead, bake it and freeze it until you are ready to reheat and serve. Couldn’t be easier! And I can’t tell you how tasty and addictive these squares are, I guarantee that your guests won’t leave any behind.
mom’s artichoke squares
mom’s artichoke squares
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (398 ml or 1 1/2 cup) artichoke hearts, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups strong cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup bread crumbs
1 ½ tablespoon greek oregano or regular oregano
2 dashes of tobasco
pinch of salt and pepper
Preheat oven at 350oF.
Transfer chopped onion into a large microwaveable bowl along with butter. Cook onions and butter in microwave for about 3 minutes until onions are softened and remove from microwave. As you know, handle bowl safely as it may be very hot.
Before chopping each artichoke, ensure to drain each heart of water by squeezing the water out of them.
Thoroughly combine remaining ingredients (garlic, artichokes, eggs, cheddar cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, tobacco, salt and pepper) in bowl with softened onions.
Spread artichoke mixture evenly into a 9″ square pan.
Bake at 350oF for 35 minutes.
Cool slightly and cut into squares and serve warm.
mom’s artichoke squares
If freezing before serving, cool completely after baking and cut into squares. Store squares in an airtight container with parchment paper separating layers of squares. You can therefore serve the quantity that you wish when needed and store the rest for up to 2 weeks in the freezer. Before serving reheat oven at 350oF and bake for 15-20 minutes.