Rib-Fest 2011

My dad has always been a master at making barbecue ribs.  In fact, I would never get ribs out somewhere because they honestly do not compare.  This year my parents hosted Rib-Fest with four rib entries.  Honestly all were fabulous.

Here are the contenders, from left to right: Larry, Gary (my dad), Alysse, and Deb.

Entry #1 was a garlic rib from Alysse.  The garlic was STRONG, but it was very good.  Bring your mints along for this one!

This apple glaze rib from Deb was literally falling off the bone. It was sweet and delicious.

 Entry #3 was from Larry.  He was a smoker that he can apparently fit 6 turkeys in, and these ribs were prepared in that.  They had a dry rub, and they were very smoky and juicy.  I would love to have some of these again.

Entry #4 is my dad’s.  A classic rib that is prepared in I think about three steps.  I will eat these any day.

So…who was the winner?

Well, no one could decide.  It was a draw.

There was also a bunch of wonderful food prepared by my mom:

Although Lucy did not eat any ribs, she had a blast with a strawberry, and I was there documenting the whole thing:

 

 

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Asian Dinner Party: Spring Rolls, Steamed Dumplings, and Key Lime Pie

Yesterday we had our friends Caleb and Kara over for dinner.  As you can see from the photo to your left, Lucy did not want me to spend my time making the meal.  So I strapped her to me, which is not the easiest way to make a meal, and started cooking.  Here I am making spring rolls, and she had finally fallen asleep. Despite having a baby strapped to me, it was a very fun evening.  I had only met Kara a few times before so it was great to get to know her better.

For the dinner we made the yellow Thai curry that Alec and I like so much.  Here is the link to that: https://meteaandlucy.com/2011/04/05/yellow-coconut-curry/

To accompany the main dish we made vegetarian spring rolls and pork steamed dumplings.  To finish off the meal I meal I did a key lime pie.  I have been making key lime pies for a number of years and slowly improving on it.  I think I might have perfected it last night (not to sound too arrogant about my pie or anything).

To be honest, I made too much food like usual.  You would not need to make all these things for a dinner.  You could probably have a nice appetizer dinner with spring rolls and dumplings for example.

Spring Rolls:

This is a recipe you can easily modify according to taste.

Ingredients:

Spring Roll Wrappers (You can find these at Asian grocery stores or the ethnic food aisle at your grocery store.  They are large, hard, translucent discs)

Warm water in a large dish

Thin rice noodles

Cilantro

Green onions (cut lengthwise)

Radishes (cut very thing)

Carrots (I use a peeler to cut carrot ribbons)

Avocado

Firm tofu (cut into long strips)

Method:

Take the hard wrappers and soak them in warm water until they are soft and flexible.  It will take about 30 seconds to a minute depending on the water temp.  Move the wrapper to a large cutting board and lay it flat.  Put the fillings in the center of the wrapper:

To fold them up I do it like they roll burritos at Chipotle ( I am guessing most of you know what I am talking about here).  So you take the bottom of the shell and bring it up over the filling, then fold the sides in, then roll it up.  Make sure all the folds are nice and tight.

I served them with soy sauce and Sirachi sauce.  You could serve them with any number of Asian sauces though.

Steamed Dumplings:

I had made these years ago when Alec and I were first dating.  It is a recipe I modified from a Thai cookbook called Easy Thai (the recipes are not as easy as the name would imply).

Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground pork (cooked and slightly cooled)

1 egg

1 small can of water chestnuts

1 carrot

A sprig or so of cilantro

1 dried red hot chili (you could leave this out if you don’t want them to be spicy)

Salt and pepper to taste

Wonton wrappers

Method:

Take all the ingredients and put them in the food processor, and blend until nice and smooth.

Once it is blended you are ready to fill the wrappers.  I put about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper.  I line the outside edges with water and then seal them up.

I don’t really have any advice on rolling them up because mine did not look all that great.

To cook them, fill a large pan with water and put a colinder in it.  If you have a steamer, use that.  I do not have a steamer and this worked fine.  Put about 5 dumplings in at a time and cover.  It will take a few minutes to cook them.  You will be able to tell when they are done.  The wrappers get kinda translucent looking.  You can always eat one or two just to make sure though!

Key Lime Pie:

I really hyped this up, but it is good.  I originally found a recipe online.  Since then I have drastically changed it.  I think the real trick is using a flour/butter crust instead of a graham cracker crust.  I know this sounds weird because they are always made with graham cracker crusts, but I swear this is better.

The pie crust:

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks of butter (cut into 16 pieces and put in the freezer for about 15 minutes)

1/3 cup very cold water with 3 tablespoons of sour cream or full fat yogurt mixed in–it really doesn’t matter which one

Method:

Put everything except the water mixture into the food processor and pulse until blended.  Add the water mixture bit by bit until it is the right crust consistency.

Once it is mixed, divide into two.  Shape into a 5 inch disc which will be about 1 inch thick.  You only need one crust for this dessert, so put one in the fridge to cool and put the other in the freezer to keep for later (when you want to use it just take it out and thaw it in the fridge over night).

Roll it out and put it in a a glass pyrex pie plate.  Here is an easy pie crust tip I got from Jaime Oliver.  If you aren’t into rolling out pie crust, cut the dough into thin strips and press it into the pie plate.  It works just fine.  Cover the shell with greased tin foil and fill with pie weights.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

While the pie crust is baking make the filling.

Filling Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup lime juice (I used to use key lime, but I can’t tell the difference between key and regular limes.  Regular limes are much cheaper and it is much easier juicing big limes instead of all those little limes.  Make sure you use fresh limes juice not any of that bottles stuff).

Zest of one or two limes depending on size

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.

Once the pie shell comes out of the oven, drop the oven temp to 325, fill the crust with the filling, and put it back into the oven.  Bake for about 15 minutes.

Let the pie cool until room temp and then put in the fridge.  When you are ready to eat top with whipped cream.  I whip my own cream because it is really good.  For a pie this size put about 1 cup of whipping cream and one tablespoon of white sugar.  Whip until thick.

Madras Beef Curry and Chapatis

Tonight Alec made Madras Beef Curry for dinner.  It was wonderful.  I generally make the food in our house, so it was very nice to have the night off too! Although he did the cooking I took some pictures and saw enough to post the recipe here.  To accompany the meal, I quick made some Chipatis, which is are unleavened flat bread from India.  We also made some Ceylon tea because I mistakenly thought it was from India, but it is actually from Sri Lanka.  For some tea that is actually from India, you could try Darjeeling, Assam, or Nilgiri (Darjeeling is my favorite of the three).

First you need to start by making the Madras curry paste.  This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of curry paste.

2 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground tumeric

2 cloves crushed garlic

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, then move from the pan.  Grind the seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Put the coriander and cumin, the mustard seeds,  black pepper, chili powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and salt in a small bowl and mix together well.  Add the vinegar and mix to a smooth paste.  The paste will keep for about a month in the fridge.

Madras Beef Curry

1 tablespoon ghee (we used butter)

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons of the madras curry paste

2 pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup beef stock

Sauté the onion in the ghee or butter until browned.  Add the curry paste and stir for about 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add the meat and cook, stirring, until coated with the curry paste.  Stir in the tomato paste and stock.  Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and then uncovered for another 15.

When done the meat should be tender and the sauce will be nice and thick. See picture below:

Serve with rice.

Chapatis

Chapatis are much quicker to make than naan, which is why I chose it to be honest.  They remind me a little bit of a whole wheat tortilla with butter brushed on.  They are grilled instead of baked.  If you have a griddle, it works really well, but a pan would be fine too.

1 1/2 cup atta or whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

scant 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon olive oil

melter ghee or butter

To make mine a little more flavorful, I added some cumin seeds and a dash of curry powder to the dough.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl (if using extra spices, add them here).  Add the water and mix to a soft dough. I did this with the dough hook attachment on my Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Add the oil.  After mixing, turn out the dough on a lightly oiled surface.

Knead for 5-6 minutes or until smooth.

Place in a covered bowl for 1/2 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  Divide into 6 equal pieces.  Shape each into a ball.  Press the dough into a larger round with the palm of your hand, then roll into a 5 inch round.

Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium-high heat.  If using a pan, cook the chipatis one at a time.  You can cook more with a griddle.  Cook for a couple of minutes or until they start to bubble and brown slightly.

When cooked, brush them with some melted butter or ghee.

Meatballs

The other day my husband suggested we have meatball sandwiches for dinner.  I love meatball sandwiches actually, but I had not made them in a long time.  Meatballs are a great and versatile food.  They freeze well so you can make them in advance.  They work on pasta, in sandwiches, with couscous, etc.  Below is a very basic recipe, but you can easily add more to customize your meatballs.

1 pound of meat (beef, pork, turkey, or lamb)  I made plain beef ones this time but I think a beef/pork mix tastes better.)

1 egg

1/2 c. breadcrumbs

1 onion finely chopped or grated

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix it all together by hand.  I have tried to do it with a spoon because I am not a fan of mixing meat by hand, but I always end up tossing the spoon aside because it really doesn’t work.  Roll into balls about one and a half inches wide.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I suggest lining your baking pan with tinfoil.  The meatballs leak out a bunch of fat and it is not fun to clean off your pan.

Variations:

Italian meatballs: add basic, oregano, and garlic to the meat

Greek meatballs: use some lamb in the meat base and add some mint

Swedish: add some nutmeg and cardamom

Or: add your favorite spices and make up your own custom meatballs

You can also vary the size of your meatballs, just vary the baking time.  For small ones, about half an inch or so, you can cook them on the stove top with a little olive oil.

Note: If you freeze meatballs, a good way to thaw them is to put them in a saucepan with a little water and put over medium heat until they are warm.