Spilling the Beans

There are some secrets that people who keep kosher might never tell you. Especially people who have only started keeping kosher relatively recently, like me. They might not want to tell you that kosher food isn’t all fattening. That it isn’t all somehow simultaneously too salty and too bland. That it isn’t just bagels with lox and matzoh ball soup all the time. 

They might not tell you those things, because then they would have to share their recipes with you.

Or if you are me, they might not tell you because they are actually keeping secrets. Things their Rabbi might be shocked to hear. Like how at our house, we stopped buying hechshered meat and started buying local, humanely raised meat instead. 

We don’t eat a lot of meat at our house, for lots of reasons. It’s expensive; it’s not always the healthiest, easiest protein; we prefer cheese and real butter over meat and dairy alternatives; etc. A while ago there was some controversy over the way that kosher meat was raised and slaughtered. Basically, it’s agri-business as usual. I won’t get into the politics of it here because they are too complicated and it will distract me from what I really want to tell you about. Suffice it to say that we chose to start buying local meat instead–at least until we can get a local, kosher option–because we think local and humane is better than kosher for kosher’s sake. 

I took a field trip to the farmer’s market last week. I had a few for sure things on my list. Salmon, peas, cherries. And I wanted to pick up something to grill. I stopped at the Olsen Farms tent, because I knew I could find something tasty there. I drooled for a second over their 100% beef sausages, but in the end I decided on some ribs. Plain old ribs. Just enough for Joe and I, and a few little nibbles for Lilli. Well, those and a package of all beef bacon, but that’s for another day. The ribs were a pretty penny, but they were worth every cent.

I’ve been craving BBQ probably since I started keeping kosher almost 3 years ago. I knew exactly what I was going to do with these ribs–all I had to do was give them a little bit of my time. 

Lilli went down for a nap and I headed straight to the kitchen. Things have been accumulating in the fridge, just begging to be made into BBQ sauce. I had some leftover chopped up onion, the last couple of chipotles from a chipotle apricot chicken kick a while back, and various tomato ingredients from making a version of these delicious white beans earlier in the week. I put everything I had together and let it simmer for a bit, tasting as it went along and adding dashes of this and that. Then I blended it, in a couple of batches to prevent further harm to the blender. I used a bit as a marinade for the ribs and saved the rest to slather on while they cooked on the grill.

At this point it was only about noon, and I was nearly beside myself with impatience waiting for dinner time. I calmed myself by licking the spoon. 

Later, as I par-boiled the ribs so they would be mostly done by the time they got to the grill, I dressed up some sugar snap peas. And by “dressed up” I mean I blanched them, covered them in olive oil, and skewered them. It was a simple costume, but sometimes less is more when it comes to grilling vegetables. 

The sun even came out for our BBQ, which made the evening so much better. We coupled it with some simple rum and cokes (Made by Joe while I started the grill, because he’s not the best griller in the world. He told me it was OK to tell you that.) It was a perfect dinner for three.

Gratuitous shot of the garden

Ice-Box BBQ Sauce 
makes about 4 cups, give or take
1/2 Walla Walla or other sweet onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 -1 whole can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 can tomato paste
1/4-1/3 maple syrup, to taste (I use less)
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional, or you could add more if you want it spicier)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
A note about making BBQ sauce. It’s kind of an imperfect art. You want a little sweet, a little spice, a little tang. It’s good to start with a base and taste often as you go. You can adjust any of the ingredients as you see fit for the sauce you want to end up with. It’s great on pretty much any type of meat you can imagine.
Heat a saucepan and add a little swirl of vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook until just beginning to brown a bit. Add the garlic. Add the tomato paste and let it get thick and start to brown. Now add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, and let it come to a simmer. Then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and turn down to medium-low heat. Let it simmer for 10 or so minutes so that the flavors can combine. Taste often and adjust. If you like it sweeter, add more syrup or maybe even some ketchup or brown sugar. Want a little more tang? Add more vinegar. You can experiment with other spices and also you could add bourbon. Just sayin’.
When it tastes like BBQ sauce to you, blend it in the style you prefer. If you use a blender, remember to do small batches so you don’t end up with hot sauce all over your cabinets. Although, sometimes this happens to the best of us. Now slather it on your favorite meat and introduce it to a flame. You will not regret it. Even your baby will love it.

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