SPICY PEACH BARBECUE SPARE RIBS

This recipe for sweet and spicy pork ribs is one of my family’s all-time favorites.  Seems like every time the warm summer weather rolled around, we could expect my Mom to whip up a batch of these sticky ribs to eat out on the patio on a warm night.  Their flavor is so unique and the dish itself so craveable that I was stunned to learn how simple they are to prepare.  If you have a can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup, a pinch of crushed red pepper and a bottle of supermarket barbecue sauce in the pantry, then you’re in business.  Now, I’m a nut for good, slow-smoked, true barbecue, but if you need to feed a crowd and don’t have the time or equipment needed to produce the genuine article, these will do just fine.  Serve with some baked beans and grilled corn and you’ve got a dang good BBQ dinner.

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GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH WITH PESTO GOAT CHEESE SPREAD

Summer time means basil, and basil means pesto.  But this isn’t a recipe for pesto -  I make mine different every time – no, this is a recipe that takes pesto and makes it something more, something special.  How do you make pesto, already chock full of robust herbiness and garlic, better? Two words: goat cheese.   Think of this humble sandwich as a stage. If the grilled chicken, marinated in garlic and Italian herbs, is the lead, the pesto goat cheese spread is the supporting role who steals the show.  The chicken we clap for; the spread gets a standing ovation.

Metaphors aside, this is a solid summer sandwich, just right for a weekend lunch or casual weeknight dinner and fairly easy to make, too. Even the harshest critics, are sure to give it rave reviews.

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HOMEMADE SESAME SEED BUNS

If you’re at all like me, you absolutely loathe the crappy, mass-produced, light-as-air hamburger buns that they have on hand at most major supermarkets.  I’m talking about the ones that you throw your hot, juicy burger onto, that in turn dissolves into a condiment-laden sponge within minutes.  Last Summer, I’d finally had enough and decided to try making some of own.

While significantly more substantial than those found at most fast food establishments, these little guys are still very tender and delicate, retaining a resiliency that not many sesame seed buns can boast.  Unlike those at the grocery store, these will not melt or crumble in your hands.  They can stand up to a good amount of juices and have a flavor infinitely more complex than your typical factory-made variety.

With Memorial Day hours away, grilling season is finally upon us. Do yourself a favor this summer and try making these buns from scratch at least once.  I promise, your burgers will thank you.

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RED CHILE & CHORIZO CHILAQUILES

I love chilaquiles.  In fact, I crave them so often that I drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday morning at least once a month to feast on one of my favorite versions from Primavera at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  That’s what you have to do if you’re going to try to beat the hordes of people that line up for this delicious Mexican breakfast dish every weekend.

We’ve all had huevos rancheros at one crappy diner or another at some point in our lives, but for those that have never tried authentic chilaquiles, it’s understandable how the concept could sound a bit bizarre.  Admittedly, the idea of crispy tortilla chips drowned in a sea of flavorful red chile sauce seems a bit unorthodox.  I mean who likes soggy nachos anyways? But for those that simply can’t wrap their head around the idea of a somewhat soggy nacho, I’d encourage you to think outside of Latin American cuisine to another ethnic group that also marries sauce and carbohydrates so beautifully — the Italians.

I an effort to convey the craveable aspects of this dish, I’d encourage you think of chilaquiles as you would the perfect bowl of pasta.  Here, the thick-cut (preferably homemade) tortilla chips play the role of al dente pasta that has a bit of soft crunch and resiliency left to it, but has also absorbed some of the delicious sauce that surrounds it.  Topped with spicy chorizo, tangy Mexican crema, crumbled cotija cheese and ripe avocado and you have a breakfast dish that will set you up for a whole days worth of activities…or an early afternoon nap.

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PHRIK KHING CURRY PASTE

Every once in a while I’ll spend a Sunday afternoon making some Thai curry paste. Like I mentioned in my recipe for panang curry paste, a quick trip to the Asian market for a few hard to find ingredients and about an hour in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle will set you up for a good month of authentic Thai cooking at home.

As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is money in the bank.  It keeps for a  up to a month in the fridge and is perfect for pulling together a bona fide Thai meal in minutes.  Stir-fry the paste, some meat and a few handfuls of seasonal vegetables in your favorite wok, add in some stock, palm sugar, fish sauce and Thai basil, throw it all on top of some sticky rice and you’ll be set up for some truly delicious eating.

Unlike a red, green or yellow curry, phrik khing is considered a “dry-style” curry, free of any coconut milk.  Instead, the paste is fried in oil and moistened with a bit of stock to create a sauce that clings to the protein and veggies.  The resulting dish can be characterized as smooth and a bit peppery with fragrant notes of galangal and lemongrass throughout.

So, next time you’re looking for something to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon, consider making some homemade curry paste and look forward to reaping the rich culinary dividends of delicious Thai meals in the weeks that follow.

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