Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dibs on Ribs!

I have a confession to make.

I used to love cooking. I am lucky in that I am somehow genetically able to cook. My parents are both handy in the kitchen, but it was the seventies and 80's- I remember lots of casseroles, lamb chops, and broccoli. But I primarily learned how to cook from both my grandmothers.  Those ladies were excellent chefs, in very different ways.

I am Armenian on my Mom's side, and Grandma Marge would do all the special dishes: the cheese borags, the yalanchi, the kufta, and then when we would visit on the weekends, there was always a blow-out giant diner-style breakfast. She would ask what you wanted, and then make it for you. Ham! Eggs! Bacon! Toast! Potatoes! Your plate would be filled, and re-filled. Everything was always delicious., and if you kept eating, she would keep feeding you. Even if we were out and about, you could always count on her to have orange or mint Tic-Tacs in her purse. Always funny, sweet and smiling, and always the consummate hostess. Occasionally (if I was very good) Grandma Marge would let me put fillings in the borags, and help her roll the yalanchi in grape leaves. Most of the time I just watched, wide-eyed, as she draped sheets of tissue-thin phyllo dough like a magician, or fried eggs in bacon grease- something I had never witnessed at home.

The people who lived in her neighborhood after she was widowed would all stop by for treats- she had a sort of open house in the afternoon. So when we would stop by, an ever-changing parade of characters would filter in for iced tea, wedges of melon, or whatever she thought looked "interesting" at the store that day. The family always called her house and enormous kitchen "Maggie's Cafe." She especially loved to feed my Dad, because at 6 feet (she was 4'11"!) she thought he was incredibly tall, and had nicknamed him "Jumbo Jack". She passed away before she could have met my hubby- I know she would have loved him. Although at 6'5", she probably would have kept trying to feed him until he exploded! 

Grandma Ruby was something else entirely. She was German and English, a front line field nurse in WWII, and she didn't take crap from ANYBODY. She was the go-to babysitter, as she lived the closest, and I vividly remember Dad ominously saying, with a twinkle in his eye: "Now, behave yourselves: Grandma SPANKS!" While I only witnessed one spanking, it was old school, with a wooden spoon- I am thankful it wasn't me! A child of the depression, her fridge was always crammed with leftovers. Nothing went to waste, and she could "disguise" just about anything and make it taste delicious.  You soon learned not to ask what was in it- the ingredients in just about everything varied with what she had unearthed in the fridge.

Grandma Ruby drove home the point that cooking had rules. If I was going to help, I had to tie my hair back. There was a little apron in my size, always hanging up behind the kitchen door. I washed my hands, presented them for inspection, and occasionally had to re-wash. We set out all the ingredients beforehand, and cleaned up as we went (something I still struggle with, but you did NOT say no to Grandma R.) While I did have to follow her rules- woe betide me if I neglected to use my thumb as a spatula to get every last bit of egg out of a shell- I had a lot more autonomy, as long as I was careful. She taught me to taste as I went, and if I thought something was a good idea, I could have a little bit extra for "experiments". Heady power for an eight-year old!

Along the way, somehow, I lost all that. Cooking became a chore. I am surprised  at how long it took me to figure out why, but it became evident when I started loving to cook again- when I stopped counting calories, and just focused on real food. It's a lot easier to count the calories you are eating if you can just read it off the back of the box. Breaking down the calories in a recipe is time consuming, and well- a skinless chicken breast with steamed veggies and a half-cup of brown rice isn't exactly inspiring. Does anyone was to photograph that? Probably not. Just the thought of eating it makes me feel kind of- well, uninspired, and sad.

So, if you're still with me...let's talk about ribs.

I have to admit, they initially looked a little....well. Yeah.
I have never made ribs before. Here is the basic recipe I followed, from Paleo For Foodies. I also used their Spicy BBQ sauce recipe. I didn't bother with sauteing anything, just threw it all into the crock.  I regret to say that SOMEONE ate the pineapple I thought I had squirreled away in the back of the fridge, so I couldn't add it in. I settled for a little extra honey, used coconut oil instead of olive oil, and supplemented with a couple of squirts of Sriacha.

As I was going to spend the rest of my day scouring the bathroom, I crossed my fingers, and set the trusty Crock Pot on High for 4 hours.


I want my babyback babyback babyback riiiibs

Ok, so the difference isn't really THAT amazing. However, I was knackered after cleaning all day. The thought that dinner was already done was a heady one. And the smell that was drifting out of my kitchen reminded me of those Bugs Bunny cartoons, when the tendrils of scent will bodily pick up a character and waft them through the air, while their eyeballs bulge out and their pupils turn into tiny hearts.  I walked into the kitchen when the timer beeped- to find Moxie, staring fixedly at the CrockPot like this. (See below.)

It is taking all the restraint I have not to Photoshop hearts onto her crazed and bulgy little eyeballs. If she were wearing a t-shirt, it would read, "I <3 U, Crock Pooooooot!"

This recipe is definitely a keeper. Hubby and I both really enjoyed it. I am glad that our Tara Firma box is coercing me to add new items to the repetoire on a continual basis!

The meat was so tender, knives were unnecessary. However, I do recommend paper towels, as these suckers were messy. The sriacha worked really well in this recipe. Oh- and next time, I will be sure to have pineapple to put in, as I think that would have made it even better. Verdict- Super-YUM!

Obligatory finished product photo:

One of those ribs lived to fight another day.  I couldn't finish!

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