April 30 – May 6, 2018

Dana and Elise

Dana and Elise (in First Communion Gown)

Hat Lunch

Prettiest Girls at the Hat Luncheon for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy:                                      Julie, Beez, Katie, Rosie, Hilda, Kathleen and in front on right, Shelley and Jessica

Monday:                      Grain Bowl with Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms

Chicken with Mustard Sauce

Tuesday:                      Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with Grapes and Pickled Mustard Seeds

Rotini with Spinach and Rictotta

Wednesday:                Rotini with Spinach and Ricotta


Thursday:                    Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Mustard-Chive Butter, Parsley Potatoes


Friday:                         Salmon en Cocotte

(Picture of Elise to appear hear – she’s really cute, I’d check back in a day if I were you)

Saturday:                     Elise’s First Communion Dinner


Sunday:                        Deviled Eggs / Salumi Platter / Barbecue Ribs / Barbecued Baked Beans / Cole Slaw / Cheese, Figs, Nuts / Calvados

On Saturday, our grand-niece Elise made her First Communion.  She also read – quite beautifully, the first reading of the Mass.  It was a great conjunction of innocence and beauty, and we were happy to be there and at the party that her parents, Duffy and Dana, threw afterward.  That party, by the way, featured approximately 137children and babies, great food and, alas, a disappointing Penguins game.

By contrast, Sunday began cold and cloudy, then cleared up, like a good boy, and then, defying all forecasts, as Pittsburgh so often does, cooled down, clouded over and began to drizzle.

We were bound and determined to grill ribs for Billy and Greg and the kids. (Emily was on a business trip, shortly after finishing the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in a time that would have put most of us in traction for a month.)   When I say determined, I mean – we had $30.00 worth of ribs, a new recipe for baked beans that we wanted to try, a dynamite new take on deviled eggs, and for dessert, figs and blue cheese and Calvados.  And I had a burning desire to stand over my charcoal fire, Rob Roy in hand, assisted by nephew Mike and cooking something really good for the family.

As SWMBO and I were watching a resurgent Jason Day win the Wells Fargo championship, the rain stopped, the sun came out (briefly), and we were back in business.  And what a fine business it was.  The devilled eggs were superb and the baked beans a revelation, but, of course, the ribs were the foundation of the meal and they were more than satisfying.  I will not claim that we cook the best ribs in creation – too many people vie for that title nearly every weekend at some cooking event – but if you like smoky, tangy ribs that come off the bone easily but still have some chew.  Come on over – most weekends, we can accommodate you.

I’ve been cooking ribs (in various ways, with various marinades and sauces) for a few decades now.  And I’m going to share with you my favorite method for getting cooked, but not dried, ribs, without spending your entire day building and feeding fires and tending the pork.

This way of cooking ribs, mostly in the oven, after 4 – 6 hours of marinade, with a finishing turn on the grill, will allow you to sit with your own personal SWMBO, talk to your guests during the cocktail hour, and then, quickly, finish the cooking and join everyone for a well-deserved meal.  If you’re smart, you’ll cook the beans and devil the eggs earlier in the day, then fill the cooler with beer and ice, chill the wine, sweep the walk, sit back and wait for your guests.

ribs on grill


(adapted from recipes from various recipes, mainly Steve Raichlein and Jamie Deen)

This recipe calls for 4 hours of marinade (2 hours in brine, 2 hours in rub).  You’ll also need to put together a good rub (spice mixture) and cook some barbecue sauce.  The best way to approach this is buy your ribs one day ahead, make the rub and the barbecue sauce in the morning, then marinate the ribs around noon.  They’ll need to cook for about 75 minutes in the oven before you finish them off on the grill for 10 – 20 minutes.  You can let them rest for a bit in-between the oven and the grill.  I.e., this is a recipe that, with more than a few moving parts, is easy and hard to foul up.  Note:  Take a look at the ingredients for the rub and sauce and buy those one day ahead so that you don’t sputter in frustration and yell at the dog when you get around to cooking.

Timing:                                    5 ½ hours (mostly inactive)

5 minutes to make the spice rub

4 – 6 hours or longer, for marinating the ribs

1 ½ – 1 ¾ hours to cook

Ingredients:                                       Feeds 6

Maybe 2/3 cup of barbecue rub (see ingredient list below)

3 cups or so of barbecue sauce (see ingredient list below)

2 racks of baby back ribs (or 3).  We get rather large racks – not full St. Louis ribs (spare ribs), but close, at our supermarket.  If you get more petite racks, consider cooking the St. Louis style ribs, cut from a mature pig.

6-8 cups of apple cider (enough to cover the ribs in a roasting pan)
2 lemons

For the barbecue rub:

¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sweet paprika
3 tablespoons black pepper
4 tablespoons coarse salt (Morton’s Kosher Salt is ideal her.  I prefer Diamond Crystal for most cooking, but the coarseness of Morton’s helps to rub the spices into the ribs)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

For the barbecue sauce:

2 cups of ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons of molasses
2 tablespoons of prepared mustard
1 tablespoon of tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon of barbecue rub
2 teaspoons of liquid smoke
½ teaspoon of black pepper


Make the barbecue rub

Mix all of the ingredients well in a bowl.  Put any leftover rub in a tightly sealed plastic container

Make the barbecue sauce:

Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan (not aluminum or copper) and bring to a boil slowly over medium or up to medium-high.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally to make sure that the sugar is not burning or sticking to the bottom.  (You can store this, refrigerated for weeks.)

Marinate the ribs:

Place ribs in a single layer in a roasting pan (cut the racks, if need be, to fit) and cover them with the apple cider.  Halve the lemons and juice (or squeeze letting the juice fall through your fingers as you catch the seeds) and pour into the cider.  Give the ribs a few turns to soak them and leave them meat side down in the marinade for 2 -3 hours.

At that point, drain the ribs and generously season and rub with the barbecue rub.  Marinate for another 2-3 hours.


Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Tightly cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and cook the ribs for about 75 minutes.  The meat will contract and you will see the rib bones protruding an eight-inch or more from the meat, when they’re ready.

When you’re ready to finish the ribs on the grill (they can rest for a while after they come out of the oven, since you’re going to reheat them), start a charcoal or gas fire.

There are two possible strategies here.  You can cook the ribs indirectly on a grill – in which case pile all your coals to one side.  Or, you can cook them directly over the coals.  We like the second method since it gives a nice char to the ribs (it caramelizes the sugar in the sauce).

Put the ribs on the grill and baste with some of the barbecue sauce.  If you’re using the direct method, you’ll need to turn and baste regularly for about 10 minutes.  If using indirect, maybe go 20 minutes.

Remove the ribs to a cutting board, cut into single or double rib pieces and serve.

 cut ribs


  1. Barbara Ghanoush walked into the luncheon
    Like she was walking onto a yacht
    Her hat strategically dipped below one eye
    Her blouse, it was apricot
    She had one eye in the mirror
    As she watched herself gavotte…

    – “Barb’s So Vain”

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