CHOOSING THREE FAVORITES isn’t easy. The prep is easy, but with all my potential favorites whittling down the list wasn’t a cinch.
To narrow the field, rather than choosing dishes with long or hard-to-find ingredient lists, or dishes with culinary techniques that require time and dedication …
I selected dishes that are very easy to prepare and are superb for stress-free entertaining at home.
Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs – Sweet, Tangy, Luscious
I’m a longtime fan of grilled bone-in baby back ribs and spareribs. So enamored, I never ventured to the part of the meat counter that showcases the somewhat motley-looking assortment of country-style pork ribs. Those country-fied slabs look more like thick elongated chops, often displaying both light and dark meat, plus varied marbling. They are strips cut from the region where the loin meets either the blade or shoulder. Some have bones, others don’t.
I found out that they are quick to grill and have very rich flavor. Serve these easy-peasy “ribs” with some show-off salads; I like to serve a big green salad with loads of raw veggies, plus a grain-based salad made with farro, rice or quinoa.
Sweet and Tangy Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs
Serves 4 to 6
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds country-style pork ribs, trimmed, boneless preferred, but bone-in is ok
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus extra for serving, bottled sauce such as Bull’s-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce
1. Combine sugar, salt, chili powder, and cayenne in bowl. Rub mixture all over ribs. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burners to maintain grill temperature around 350 degrees.
3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place ribs on hotter side of grill. Cover and cook until well browned on both sides, 4 to 7 minutes total. Move ribs to cooler side of grill and brush with 1/4 cup sauce. Cover and cook for 6 minutes. Flip ribs and brush with remaining 1/4 cup sauce. Cover and continue to cook until pork registers 150 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer ribs to serving platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve, passing (heated) extra sauce separately.
Source: adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated magazine
Alan Greeley’s Root Vegetable Carpaccio Salad
To describe this salad as visually stunning seems a bit of an understatement. The colors of the shave-cut root vegetables are so vibrant, the plate looks like a contemporary stain-glass window in full sun. The salad is the brainchild of Alan Greeley, chef-owner of The Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa. Super-thin rounds of radishes, beets, carrots and turnips fall onto large white plates fresh from a mandoline’s blade. Greeley ferrets out the most colorful roots he can find, both from visiting local farmers markets, as well as utilizing vegetables acquired at the Japanese market in downtown Los Angeles by his produce purveyor.
Salads change from one day to the next, depending on what is available. Often, it showcases slender slices of deep crimson carrots, French breakfast radishes, pompom turnips, canary golden beets, and candy cane beets. They scatter across the plate, raw and ice-water chilled. The final flourish is provided by watermelon radishes, those tri-color orbs that have pale green exteriors with bright fuchsia interiors ringed in white. The salad is judiciously dressed with simple vinaigrette.
“Women love this salad,” Greeley says. “They force the guys to eat it and they end up loving it too.”
Alan Greeley’s Root Vegetable Carpaccio Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 red beet
1 golden beet
1 French breakfast radish
1 watermelon radish
1 rainbow carrot, deep maroon preferred, see cook’s notes
2 cups baby arugula
Dressing: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar, 1 large shallot minced, 1 large garlic clove (minced), leaves from 1 sprig fresh oregano (minced), salt and pepper (to taste)
Garnish: Maldon sea salt flakes
Garnish: Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Cook’s notes: Because Greeley wants to keep the color on the vegetables’ exterior for definition, most often doesn’t peel them; instead he rubs them gingerly with a “green scrubby.” His favorite mandolin is the Japanese-made Benriner Super at Chef’s Toys in Fountain Valley ($49). He says that sometimes he adds a little Calabrian chili to the vinaigrette.
1. Soak vegetables in ice water for 2 hours. Pat them dry. Place four 12-inch white plates on the countertop. Using a mandoline, slice vegetable crosswise into very thin slices, allowing the slices to fall onto plates (some slices can overlap, but it is most dramatic to have most of the slices in a single layer). You’ll want to finish with the most colorful vegetables, such as the watermelon radish and maroon carrots.
2. Place arugula in medium bowl. In separate small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together. Dressing will be tart and tangy. Spoon dressing vegetable slices to coat. Add enough of remaining dressing to lightly coat arugula; toss. Place small mounds of arugula in center of plates. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt flakes and tiny drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve.
Source: Alan Greeley, chef-owner The Golden Truffle, Costa Mesa
There wasn’t anything complicated about the three layer tray-passed appetizer that Yvon Goetz served at a late-summer reception at The Winery Restaurant in Newport Beach. Yet, guests gobbled them down and seriously jockeyed to get more. Goetz, executive chef-partner at the restaurant, teamed three elements that were in perfect harmony; sweet, herbal flavors balanced with tangy, plus a buttery crunch.
On top – peeled super-sweet cherry tomatoes (I suspected they were Sweet 100’s) that were slowly roasted in a combination of extra-virgin olive oil and herbs, and then brought to room temp. In the middle, thin slices of tangy Humboldt Fog cheese; that’s the alluring artisanal goat milk cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre that has the stripe of edible ash in the center; it’s floral and creamy with a mild citrusy finish. On the bottom, rounds of buttery rosemary-spiked ciabatta bread, toasted and cooled.
Yvon’s Confit Cherry Tomato and Humboldt Fog Canapes
Yield: 12 hors d’oeuvres
Rosemary ciabatta bread, cut into 3/8-inch thick slices
Melted butter, about 1/4 cup
12 sweet cherry tomatoes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces Humboldt Fog cheese, cut into thin slices
Garnish: fleur de sel (fancy finishing salt) and chopped fresh basil
Cook’s notes: If you can’t find rosemary ciabatta bread, you can substitute a rustic white bread with or without rosemary. Humboldt Fog cheese is sold at cheese shops and supermarkets with large cheese sections, such as Whole Foods Markets.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a 2-inch circle cutter, cut out 12 rounds of ciabatta. Lightly brush both sides of bread with butter and place on baking sheet. Place in preheated oven and toast until lightly browned, turning as needed. Set aside and reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil on high heat. Use a paring knife to make a shallow “X” on the bottom of each tomato. Place a bowl of ice water next to stove. Add tomatoes to boiling water and submerge for 3 to 4 seconds. Scoop up with slotted spoon and transfer to ice water. When cool enough to handle, slip off skin being cautious no to cut into flesh.
3. In a medium-large bowl, combine oil, thyme, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and sugar; stir to combine. Add tomatoes and gently toss. Place in a 9-inch baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and bake 60 to 90 minutes, or until tomatoes are slightly shriveled and soft to the touch without falling apart. Cool. (Tomatoes can be prepared ahead and refrigerated airtight up to 3 days.).
4. Evenly spread the thin slices of Humboldt fog on top of each toasted ciabatta. Remove the tomatoes from the excess oil and place atop cheese. Sprinkle with a little fleur de sel and chopped basil. Serve.
Source: Yvon Goetz, The Winery Restaurant, Newport Beach and Tustin