While it's fun to gather up the family and head out to your favorite barbecue joint for a big feast, you can put in a little work at home to make your own righteous rack of ribs, along with slightly more interesting sides than you might find at your favorite restaurant.
It's easy to make great ribs at home when the championship rib masters share their tips so willingly in a new book called America's Best Ribs, by Ardie A. Davis and Paul Kirk (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99). Members of the renowned Kansas City Barbeque Society and winners of seven world barbecue championships between them, these guys have compiled a valuable guide for novices and experts alike.
Sassy smoked hot pepper-glazed baby back ribs
For the ribs:
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3 slabs baby back ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1. Heat a cooker to 250 or 275 degrees. Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper.
2. Oil the grate and place the ribs on it, bone side down, over indirect heat. Cover and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn and cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the cider, onion and jalapeño in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves, then remove from heat. Set aside.
4. Turn the ribs and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until pull-apart tender, glazing the ribs with sauce at 10-minute intervals during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
5. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and let them rest, covered loosely with aluminum foil, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the ribs into individual pieces and serve with the remaining glaze.
Nutritional information per serving, based on 6: 300 calories, 18 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 488 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 53 percent of calories from fat.
-- "America's Best Ribs"
Fresh corn gazpacho
Sweet corn is one of the pure pleasures of summer. Here's a delightful idea for grilled corn that comes from a new book, I Love Corn by Lisa Skye (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99), just in time for the season. Skye offers this grilled corn gazpacho recipe from a restaurant called Cadaques in Brooklyn, N.Y., where executive-chef Guillaume Thivet likes to serve the cool summer soup with thick slices of grilled country bread rubbed with garlic cloves and brushed with olive oil. You can make this recipe a day in advance to give the flavors more time to meld.
2 small ears corn, unhusked
1 medium-size tomato, seeded and chopped
3 cups tomato juice
1 large unpeeled cucumber, diced
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
Half a jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves, for garnish
1. Preheat grill to 325 degrees. Grill the ears of corn with the husks on for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the husks are burned, turning every 4 or 5 minutes. Remove the ears from the grill and let them cool.
2. Remove and discard the husks and slice the kernels from the cobs. Measure 1 cup (discard the rest or set it aside for another use).
3. Combine all ingredients except basil in a large bowl and stir until mixed together. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
To serve, ladle the gazpacho into bowls and garnish with minced basil.
Nutritional information per serving: 117 calories, 1 gram fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, no cholesterol, 673 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 7 percent of calories from fat.
-- "I Love Corn"
Southern fried okra
This recipe comes from Beth Duggar, who serves on the executive committee of the National Cornbread Festival, held annually in South Pittsburg, Tenn. "Take the okra straight from the garden and put it directly into freezer bags," Duggar says. "When ready to use, thaw and wash. This way the okra holds its 'slime,' which is what makes it great!"
2 quarts okra pods
1 or 2 large eggs, beaten
About 1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion or garlic powder (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup bacon drippings or vegetable oil, enough to fill the skillet 1/4 inch deep
1. Wash the okra with lots of water and let dry. Remove the ends and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick rounds into a large bowl. (If the okra is tough, throw it out.) Pour the egg(s) over the okra and mix until the rounds are coated. Mix the cornmeal, salt, pepper and onion or garlic powder, if using, into the okra.
2. Heat the bacon drippings in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. To test, put a slice of okra in the skillet to see if it really sizzles. Pour the okra into the skillet and cook until golden brown all over, turning it with a metal spatula. (Some people like it almost burned.) You may need to add more bacon drippings.
Nutritional information per serving: 535 calories, 28 grams fat, 58 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 724 milligrams sodium, 16 grams dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
-- Beth Duggar