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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bulk Up and Trim Down for the 4th of July: Brown Sugar Ribs and Open Faced Cheese sandwiches

For 4th of July there's always a tug of war in our house. Do we go traditional and make ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled corn on the cob, cole slaw, potato salad and apple pie? Or, should we keep an eye on calories as we watch the fireworks, serving fresh fruit, salads and lighter fare?

In the spirit of liberty and freedom, why not do both? That means brown sugar ribs, deliciously fatty, sweet and salty and open faced melted cheese sandwiches with shrimp for a lighter but no less finger-licking-food entree with  tossed arugula and homemade crouton salad and end of the season sautéed asparagus for greens.

And, because the farmers market is filled with delicious berries and fruit, for dessert have a fresh fruit salad with blue berries, freshly picked strawberries, ripe yellow peaches and dark purple pluots.

The good news, none of these dishes take much time to prepare and they all work beautifully in the backyard or packed in a picnic basket.

Open Faced Cheese Sandwiches with Grilled Shrimp

Serves 4
Ingredients:

2 large slices of white or whole wheat French bread or 4 smaller slices of bread/person
16 medium, raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, washed and pat dried
1/2 pound white cheese (Comte, cheddar or Monterey Jack), thin sliced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard (deli, dijon or brown) (optional)
Sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
2 tablespoons scallions, white and yellow parts, thin sliced (optional)

Directions:

Heat a bbq grill. Toss the shrimp in the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Grill evenly one minute on both sides to get light charring. Remove.

Lightly toast the bread. I prefer thin slices so the cheese and shrimp predominate. Line up the slices and prepare them assembly line style. If you like mustard, spread a thin layer on the bottom of each toast, topped with 2-4 shrimp, depending on the size of the slice.

Lay thin sheets of cheese over the shrimp and for added flavor sprinkle sesame seeds and/or scallions on top.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 F degrees. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil or a silpat sheet on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Place the open-faced sandwiches on top. Place into the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

For a beautiful crusty finish, raise the temperature of the oven to broil and cook until the cheese lightly bubbles and browns. Be careful not to burn.

Remove from the oven and serve.  If transporting to a picnic, let cool on a wire rack, pack in an airtight container with sheets of waxed paper between layers. Do not refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Variations:

Instead of mustard use remoulade sauce or mayonnaise

Dust the shrimp with cayenne for added heat

After the shrimp are grilled, toss with 1 tablespoon finely chopped mango chutney

Brown Sugar Pork Ribs


The cooked ribs can be kept in the refrigerator covered 2-3 days or frozen in an air-tight freezer bag.

Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

1 3-pound rack, pork ribs, washed, pat dried
2-3 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Olive oil
Black pepper
6 ounces Italian tomato paste
1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped

Directions

Trim excess fat, the membrane, and flap from the ribs. Caprial Pence the owner-chef of Caprial's Bistro in Portland, Oregon shows how to prep the ribs with easy-to-follow photographs. Reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos.

Spread a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter 5” larger than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cumin.

Mix together the brown sugar, cayenne and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then spread the remainder of the dry mix to cover. Place a second piece of plastic wrap over the ribs, seal, fold in half and place into a Ziploc or plastic bag. Place in a pan overnight in the refrigerator.

In the morning remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry. Very alchemical! 

In a sauce pan sauté the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned, season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Capture the liquid from the plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. Add the tomato paste and simmer the sauce on a low flame for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor as necessary.

Line a large baking tray with tin foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray and lay the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350 degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high.

Whether on the grill or in the oven, cook the ribs 30 minutes, turn them over, cook another 30 minutes and turn over again. If the ribs are tender, then baste the ribs with the sauce and cook another 30 minutes on each side or until the meat is tender. 

Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve.




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