Gatherings of family and friends are better with food, and few foods are more universally beloved than salsa. Whether they’re hosting a gathering for the big game or a celebration of Hispanic culture and cuisine, hosts who want to go the extra mile can forgo store-bought salsa for the following homemade recipe for “Warm Black Bean Salsa” courtesy of Judith Finlayson’s “The Health Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness” (Robert Rose).
Winter squash yields some of my favorite vegetables, and there are so many varieties I can’t believe they all belong in the same family, from acorn to turban and butternut to pumpkin.
That’s right, pumpkin is a type of squash, and I include it here as an example of what you can do with winter squash — everyone knows you can bake with pumpkin, but you can use any type of orange winter squash and come up with the same results.
Squash, in botanical terms, is the fruit of a member of the gourd family. In culinary terms, we identify squash as a vegetable because that’s generally how we use it. In cooking, we tend to group the various types of squash into summer or winter.
This year, there are some big things going on at the Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn. Organizers are asking, “Are you ready for big?” As the theme of the annual event, it’s a good one. And I’m thinking the Horticulture Barn will have its share of big — entries will be accumulating this week in the biggest elephant garlic, biggest tomato, heaviest onion, largest pumpkin, biggest stalk of corn and tallest sunflower categories.
This summer went by way too fast. This is the month in which department stores replace the summer patio chairs and sun umbrellas with school supplies and book bags. Summer, doggone it, is supposed to be the time you enjoy leisurely cookouts on the grill with your family and friends.
Yet, here it is August already and I haven’t had enough of any of those things. I figure there’s about a month left for cooking outdoors. That’s because come September, the evening sun dips down in the sky just a bit sooner, the nights get cooler and parents with kids in school are much too busy to enjoy a leisurely midweek get-together on the patio.
Corn on the cob
Everyone knows it, but it deserves repeating: For the sweetest sweet corn, get it fresh from a local grower; there are plenty around.?Then cook it up quick. Cooking it on the grill is best.
One old-timer I know always said the best sweet corn is soaked in milk before cooking. And that is good, but I just soak mine, unhusked, in water. This is to saturate the husks, which you leave on throughout the grilling process. This accomplishes two things. First, it keeps the corn from burning, and second, the absorbed water steams the corn. Soak it at least an hour, then lay the corn on a preheated charcoal fire that has gone grey. Turn two or three times and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. Adults should peel the husks away before serving to the smaller kids because the steam that escapes is hot enough to burn little hands. Serve with butter and salt as needed.
Don’t forget other vegetables when you are grilling. Right now there is plenty of zucchini in the garden, so that’s always a good choice. Wash but do not peel any combination of zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan or green Benning squash. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in an aluminum pie tin or some other usable pan that can go straight on the grill. Splash with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some herbs, such as chopped chives or parsley, thyme or savory, on the top. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and set on the side of your grill for about 30 minutes. Stir once or twice to check the cooking.?As soon as the vegetables are fork-tender, they are done.
Dry rub pork ribs
St. Louis-style ribs
Use a dry rub of spices to give the ribs flavor. Figure one pound of ribs per person. Rub the whole rack of ribs with the dry rub spice mixture. Once cooked, cut the ribs (St. Louis cut) into two- or three-bone sections.
Cook very slowly on the grill for about 45 minutes. This makes for a “chewy” rib. If you like the meat “falling off the bone,” boil the ribs in water for 15 minutes, drain, blot dry with a towel, then proceed with recipe. You could do this a day or two ahead.
For the last 15 minutes of cooking, brush the ribs with barbecue sauce. The reason you don’t do this from the start is that the sauce has a certain amount of sugars in it which will burn more quickly than the meat itself. You don’t want the ribs too dark too quickly before they actually are cooked through. Use your favorite barbecue sauce or try this recipe.
Dry rub for barbecue
1 tsp. ground or minced, dried garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley, crushed fine
3 Tbsps. barbecue spice
Mix all ingredients together. You can make a larger batch and store this, tightly covered, for weeks.
Makes 1 cup
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. dark molasses
2 tsps. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for five minutes.
Use for chicken, pork roast or ribs.
There are three things you need to make a quick dinner on a weeknight: First, a well-stocked freezer; second, a well-stocked pantry; and third, enough self-control to get past all those fast-food places on the way home from work.
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