• Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

    Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce.

    Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce.

    We do love our ribs here at the farm. And, without a doubt, we love Memphis-style barbecue ribs with a dry rub, mop and slow smoking over applewood and hickory. Toss in some hot, vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce and Nirvana awaits. But we just made it into spring, the rains come and go, it’s still cold and the smoker needs to be set up (and we are tired from working in the garden). Time to turn on the oven.

    orib2oribs3And there is nothing wrong with making ribs in the oven. In fact, some would argue that it may be a better place to cook ribs, assuming you use the right tools/technique and choose the right seasoning and sauce. The one thing that is really hard to do is get the deep smokey flavor and “smoke ring” color from the oven. But you can get very flavorful, tender ribs.

    oribs5oribs6As for the tools and technique, the main thing you need is some time, sauce (we will get there) and aluminium foil. The big thing with ribs is that they need to cook low and slow and, preferably, in a moist environment so they don’t dry out. This is particularly true for baby back ribs, which don’t carry much extra fat. But if you season and sauce the ribs and then wrap in a packet of foil, you can trap the juices from the ribs and gently steam the ribs for a few hours until they reach the desired temperature of 185 F. You need the temperature to get at least to 185 so the collagen in the meat turns to gelatin (that luscious texture) and the ribs get tender. Then you open the foil packets, add some more sauce and finish the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice crispy, caramelized crust. Easy, but like most good things, you need a few extra steps.

    oribs7oribs9And now for the sauce. Since we don’t feel we can get a southern-style smokey flavor, we look more to Asian flavors. Instead of a base of ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire and hot sauce, we go with ketchup, onion, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and Sriracha. You get a familiar texture of barbecue sauce but the more Asian-inspired notes and some heat. And you can control the heat to your liking by just adding or subtracting Sriracha and/or some red pepper flake. Good stuff and good fun.

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  • First Come The Herbs…

    Oregano in the garden.

    Oregano in the garden.

    While we are still deep in winter citrus, and the fruit blossoms are everywhere, we only have a few “crops” that are ready (or close to ready). But we do have some of the good stuff. The mix of sun and light rain brought the herbs back to life, and with gusto. Oregano, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, mint, chocolate mint and the always-present rosemary are thriving. Still have to wait on basil, but soon (sigh). Artichokes and potato plants seem to bend the laws of nature, they grow so quickly. And the blueberries and strawberries are forming, first tastes in 7-10 days (hopefully). Serious planting is starting soon….

    Marjoram.

    Marjoram.

    Tarragon.

    Tarragon.

    Mint, already trying to take over.

    Mint, already trying to take over.

    Artichoke.

    Artichoke.

    Blueberries forming.

    Blueberries forming.

    Strawberries sooner than you think.

    Strawberries sooner than you think.

  • Lasagne. You Gotta Problem With Dat?

    Lasagne. Hungry?

    Lasagne. Hungry?

    Well, we certainly don’t. Is there a better dish in the world than good lasagne? Even the word “lasagne” (or is it “lasagna”?) brings a smile to our faces. There is something about a bunch of meat, cheese, béchamel and tomato sauce encased in pasta, and then covered by more cheese, that almost always works. Heck, you can make tasty vegetarian versions of the dish and it will still rock. Hard to go wrong here…as long as you have a good recipe and take your time.

    las2las3las8And if there is one drawback to lasagne (beyond expanding waistlines), it does take a little time to make. But not nearly as much as you think. And since you can make a big batch, you can feed your family for a couple of meals. Make lasagne over the weekend and you get an easy night during the week. So you can even view lasagne as a time saver…kinda…sorta. In any event, you get the idea, we think lasagne is a perfect dish to make at home.

    las4las6las7The key to a good lasagne is not to accept any short-cuts. You need to make your own meat sauce, béchamel and ricotta mixture. Again, none of these steps are hard, they just take time. You can save some time using “instant”  lasagne noodles, if you like. We have run this experiment enough, and don’t see any difference (unless you use fresh pasta). But one of the secrets is to use as little pasta as possible, just enough to keep everything together. That way you get a big dose of tomato, béchamel, meat and cheese (and that is what you want, and what you need).

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  • Weekly Cocktail #45: The Paper Plane

    The Paper Plane cocktail.

    The Paper Plane cocktail.

    “Now that’s a good brown drink, I like that”, is something we rarely hear from Carolyn when whiskey is involved. She likes her gin, vodka and rum just fine, but most “brown drinks” with bourbon, rye or scotch taste too sweet and heavy for her tastes. And to be honest, even I prefer the spice of rye to the sweetness of bourbon. But we do like the caramel and vanilla notes of good bourbon, we just don’t want it to dominate the drink. But this week’s cocktail, the Paper Plane solves this problem quite nicely. It is by all measures a bourbon drink, but it is a very bright and refreshing sip.

    planeplane1Created a few years ago by well-known New York bartender Sam Ross, the Paper Plane combines equal parts good bourbon, lemon juice, Amaro Nonino and Aperol and is garnished with a lemon twist. The combo of the whiskey and lemon is standard, but the key to the Paper Plane is the use of two sweet and bitter ingredients, the Amaro Nonino and Aperol. These are both bitter ingredients but come from very different ends of the spectrum. We would not have thought to combine these ingredients, but it really works, and that’s why cocktails are fun. There are always surprises awaiting.

    plane4plane3Aperol (which we have discussed in the blog and is one of our favorite ingredients) is Campari’s lighter, less boozy, cousin and features sweet citrus and rhubarb notes with a bitter finish. The Amaro Nonino is a whole other animal. It’s amaro, but it is sweeter and boozier than most and with some fruity notes to compliment the herbal core. Nonino is seriously good stuff and is fun to play around with in all sorts of whiskey-based drinks (Nonino Manhattan variants are very tasty). Also fun to substitute for Benedictine. Along with Montenegro, the Nonino is now one of our favorite amari for mixing. Worth picking up a bottle if you can.

    The Paper Plane cocktail.

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  • White Whole Wheat Biscuits

    Bisk

    White Whole Wheat Biscuits.

    bisk1So let’s get right to the question, “what is white whole wheat”? It’s real whole wheat, just from a variety of wheat that has none of the red color and somewhat less of the overtly strong and tannic flavors of traditional whole wheat (think albino whole wheat). White whole wheat flour has all the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, but has a softer flavor with just a pleasant hint of “nuttiness”. What it also means is that you can bake whole wheat biscuits, scones and pastries for your kids (and other picky eaters) and they will eat and enjoy these treats as if they were made from refined flour. A neat trick. Good for you, too.

    bisk2bisk3And if you get your hands on some white whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur, but there are other brands), we suggest you make some biscuits. Why biscuits? Firstly, who doesn’t like a biscuit? Secondly, you can get a good idea how white whole wheat flour provides a hint of “whole wheat” flavor and color, while having a texture like refined flour. And finally, biscuits are easy once you get the hang of it.

    bisk5bisk7Making these biscuits follows a mostly traditional method. You combine dry ingredients with cold butter. Then add in wet ingredients and lightly mix to create a dough that just holds together. The less you handle the dough, the less gluten forms, the more tender the biscuit. The only trick in this recipe is that if you use honey as your sweetener (and you should, but you can use sugar), is that you need to heat it slightly so it will mix easily with the eggs and cold water without clumping. Otherwise, just cut the biscuits from the dough, bake, eat and repeat. And smile.

    bisk8bisk9Before we get to the recipe, a note about one of the ingredients you may not see in most recipes, the dry nonfat milk powder. Dry milk powder is basically the calcium and protein from the milk without the water or fat. Protein makes baked goods firmer and calcium helps with browning- without adding extra water that may alter the chemical balance of the recipe. In this case, the milk powder helps get you a nice brown biscuit that holds its shape. There are other ways to add protein and calcium, but they can require some serious reformulation (and remember, baking is chemistry), we just use the dry milk powder when we are told. It works. So if you see it in a recipe, there is nothing to worry about, just get some and use it, there are even organic versions. One more tool for your baking “arsenal”.

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  • More Blossoms….Because We Can.

    Early cherry blossom.

    Early cherry blossom.

    All sorts of new blossoms at the farm this week. Spring, it seems, keeps…um, springing. And we are quite happy about that. In just the last week cherries, pears, strawberries and apples all started to bloom. And the peaches, nectarines, figs, rosemary and blueberries came into full flower. Our potato plants are taking off, the mint is already trying to take over the world and wisteria is just starting. Citrus still sits ready on the tree (but not for much longer).The bees are back, doing their magic. Wildflowers start to cover the hills. Color and sound fills the soul. This never gets old. Never.

    bloom6bloom5

    First apple blossoms.

    First apple blossoms.

    Peach blossoms.

    Peach blossoms.

    bloom4

    Early comice pear blossoms.

    Early comice pear blossoms.

    Figs, growing quickly.

    Figs, growing quickly.

    Blueberries. Can't wait.

    Blueberries. Can’t wait.

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