Baby Back Ribs with an Asian Twist

baby-back-ribsI love baby back ribs. Maybe it’s because they seem to have more meat and a less pronounced pork flavor. Growing up just hearing that ribs were on the menu would make me happy. Fourth of July at our house always meant a barbecue blazing with porterhouse steaks and plenty of baby back ribs. My mom relied on teriyaki sauce for the steaks and a sweet tomato based barbecue sauce for the ribs.

Through the years I have experimented with different ways to cook baby back ribs and different sauces to complement them. Despite being a California girl, I never learned the ins and outs of proper barbecue techniques. Usually it was throw the ribs on the barbecue and brush sauce on them a few minutes before they were done so the sauce wouldn’t burn the ribs.

I have found that first marinating the ribs and then baking them in a 325F degree oven enclosed in aluminum foil, essentially steaming them, results in a moist and very tender slab of ribs. An extra bonus is that this can be done a day ahead, cooled and refrigerated.

This marinade combines the slightly sweet soybean flavored hoisin sauce with honey and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-style glaze that is a fun twist on classic sweet American barbecue sauce. You can also try this method with fruit sauces or chutneys.

If you’re wondering what to serve with these tasty morsels, consider simple coleslaw flavored with a bit of chopped cilantro. Grilled corn on the cob would be just right with the ribs. A platter of grilled vegetables drizzled with vinaigrette would round out the menu and offer choices for everyone at the table. For an easy dessert, how about fresh summer berries with sliced pound cake? To drink I like ice-cold Chinese beer or dry Rose.

Help is on the Way:

  • When you are selecting ribs I prefer the meaty and less fatty baby back ribs, sometimes called loin ribs. They have a covering of meat over the bones and also between them that makes them leaner and meatier than spare ribs. They are shorter and smaller than spareribs. They are a bit more costly than spare ribs but I think well worth it.
  • Look for racks that have significant meat on the ribs and not a lot of fat. It’s best to purchase fresh ribs that have not been frozen.
  • Sometimes you will find the smallest ribs cut up and called Chinese-style ribs. These are the small ribs from the end of the loin rack. You can substitute these individual ribs if you prefer; these make a great appetizer.
  • Use this marinade on pork tenderloin or chicken.
  • This may be prepared 1 day ahead through step 4, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling.

Hoisin-Honeyed Baby Back Ribs

Serves 4-6


1/2 cup hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons oil

1 scallion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

4 pounds pork loin ribs cut Chinese style or baby-back ribs

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Place the ribs in a jumbo plastic sealable bag. Add the marinade to the ribs and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  1. Place the ribs on a piece of foil large enough to wrap tightly without any holes. Place the package in a large roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. Or alternately, place the ribs in a roasting pan and cover well.
  1. Remove the ribs from the oven. Remove the ribs from the foil, drain and reserve the juice and place in a dish.
  1. Prepare the barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Grill the ribs about 3 inches from the flame for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until they reach the desired doneness, basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, making sure they do not burn. Place on a serving platter and serve with the reserved juices, if desired.

A fresh take on caprese salad

Italian Caprese Salad is made for the summer season. This classic dish alternates vibrant red tomato spokes with slices of creamy mozzarella and fragrant bright green basil leaves. It kind of reminds you of the color of the Italian flag.

You don’t even need a recipe for this well-loved salad. Pick the freshest, ripe tomatoes as the star component. Alternate tomato slices with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh green basil leaves and you are good to go. All you need for garnishing is some fruity olive oil and salt and pepper.

Sometimes I like to freshen up the idea and give it a new look. Years ago I enjoyed a tomato and watermelon salad in East Hampton and thought it would be the basis of a good alternative to the classic Caprese Salad.

Beautiful on a buffet table, this variation s a welcome surprise. Here, large red, ripe tomatoes are sliced and overlapped on a platter. The refreshing and texturally pleasing watermelon, cucumber and feta relish is dolloped on top of each tomato. Make sure to have a couple of large spoons for ease in serving.



Summer Caprese Salad with Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Relish

Serves 6 to 8


1 1/2 cups ½-inch diced seedless yellow or red watermelon

1 ½ cups ½-inch diced European cucumber

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped



¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


2 cups mixed greens like spring greens or arugula or mache

6 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes



  1. Combine all of the relish ingredients in a medium bowl carefully, making sure to not break the watermelon into smaller pieces. Reserve.


  1. In a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar. While whisking, slowly stream in the olive oil and continue whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper.


  1. Just before serving. Arrange the mixed greens in the center of a large circular platter. Cut the tomatoes into 1 ½- inch slices and arrange on a platter in a circular pattern overlapping.
  2. Pour about half of the dressing over the relish and mix to combine. Taste for seasoning. Place a dollop of relish on each tomato slice. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve immediately.


Advance Preparation: Relish and dressing may be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered and kept at room temperature. It is best to finish this just before serving.


The Clever Cook Could:


  • Substitute diced or tiny balls of fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese for the feta cheese.


  • This can be doubled. Use a very large platter or 2 platters.


  • You can make these into towers. Place a slice of tomato on the bottom of a salad plate and then a dollop of relish. Repeat 1 more time.

Easy as Fourth of July Ice Cream Sundae Pie

Easy as Pie Ice Cream Pie

Easy as Pie Ice Cream Pie

Desserts can be tricky for a Seriously Simple cook, especially as the temperature goes up. Making pie dough or baking a fancy cake isn’t what I have in mind in the heat of the season. Quick and easy to put together, this ice cream pie answers the call for a decadent, delicious and very easy to-put-together dessert. Since you are buying the crust, insert the pre-made crust in the foil into a glass or porcelain pie plate. This will make a pretty presentation

Softened strawberry and vanilla ice cream is spooned into the crust in layers. Then a simple decoration can be added by lining the outside of the pie with alternating raspberries and blueberries. Best of all, this can be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead, covered tightly, and frozen. Instead of a chocolate sauce warm blueberry compote is spooned over the pie slice just before serving. It’s a knockout Fourth of July dessert that will leave your guests asking for the recipe. It’s fun to stop by the party store and pick up Patriotic decorations that really make the pie stand out.

This is so easy to make and can involve children as well. Kids can help decorate the finished frozen dessert. For other occasions you can vary the ice cream if you like. Just remember that the crust is either graham cracker or chocolate and go from there. A few of my favorite flavors include Cookie Dough, Oreo, Coffee, Salted Caramel and English Toffee. Make sure the ice cream is soft enough to work with but is not already melting; remove the ice cream from the freezer for 20 minutes before working with it.

No matter what flavors you choose, you really can’t go wrong. So make time this summer to create your own signature ice cream pie. This is a great item to keep in your freezer. Remember to remove the pie from the freezer 15 minutes before serving for easy slicing; dip a knife in hot water for ease in cutting. Happy Fourth!


Fourth Of July Ice Cream Sundae Pie with Blueberry Sauce


Serves 6 to 8


For Pie

1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened

  • (9-inch) purchased graham cracker or chocolate piecrust

1 pint raspberries

1 pint blueberries


Decorations like mini-flags and/or red, white and blue sprinkles


For Sauce

4 (6-ounce) containers blueberries

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon brown sugar



  1. Spoon ice cream into crust (if doing two different ice creams, spread one on top of the other); smooth top. Decorate the pie by alternating raspberries and blueberries around the outside rim. Freeze until firm.


  1. To make the sauce bring berries, water, and brown sugar to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring gently, about 4 minutes; remove from heat.


  1. To serve: remove pie from freezer 15 minutes before serving and decorate with Fourth of July sprinkles or other decorations.


  1. Cut pie into wedges; place on plates. Spoon warm sauce over and serve immediately.



With summer on the horizon, it’s time to think about potato salad

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

At a national potato salad contest I judged last summer, every entrant claimed to have the “best” recipe. After sampling more varieties than I can remember, I came to the obvious conclusion that taste is truly a matter of personal opinion.

I couldn’t enter either of my potato salads into that contest but I still think either of these “coulda been a contender.” One has all the components of classic American potato salad with a little pizzazz. The secret ingredient is celery seed. This salad is creamy, mustardy and even includes chopped hard-boiled eggs. Make sure to keep the salad chilled at all times to avoid any health problems.

My other recipe is a zesty, tomato-vinaigrette-dressed potato salad that has no dairy in it, so you can serve it at an outside gathering without worrying about leaving it in the sun. It is also perfect for those allergic to dairy. Much of the flavor comes from the sun-dried tomato pesto, balsamic vinegar and capers.

I prefer unpeeled potatoes for potato salad because they add color (not to mention it saves time in the kitchen). Scrub them well since there can be dirt on them.

Diane’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

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Serves 6-8

3 pounds medium red rose or bliss, tan-skinned or yellow (Yukon Gold) potatoes


3/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 teaspoons celery seed

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon grainy mustard

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.
2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes for 30 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. Do not peel. Cut into 2-inch chunks and place in a medium bowl.

3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, celery, scallions, celery seed, parsley, chopped egg, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Pour mixture over potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to one day ahead.

5. To serve, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve cold.

Advance preparation: Can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Caper Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8


1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons store-bought Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

2 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup olive oil

3 pounds small potatoes such as creamers or fingerlings, unpeeled

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for the garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, mustard, tomato pesto, capers, salt, pepper and parsley. Whisk well to combine. Slowly stream in the olive oil, while whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Set aside.

2. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.

3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook potatoes about 20 to 25 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a medium bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning.

4. Transfer into a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours. Take out of the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Advance preparation: This can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Make sure to remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Taste for seasoning.

Passover White Fish Terrine

This modern take on gefilte fish is a hit on my Passover table year after year.

This modern take on gefilte fish is a hit on my Passover table year after year.

Whitefish Terrine with Beet-Horseradish Relish

Ground whitefish is used here as in the popular Jewish dish gefilte fish, and is often available in supermarkets and fish markets during Jewish holidays. If you can’t find the fish ground, process the filets in the food processor, making sure to remove the skin and all the bones. (You’ll need to buy about 2 1/4 pounds whitefish filets with the skin on if you are going to grind it yourself. Remove the skin before processing.) The accompanying bright red beet-horseradish relish adds a burst of color and flavor to the chilled terrine. This terrine can be served in overlapping slices either on individual plates or on a large platter with crisp crackers, matzo or thinly sliced pumpernickel bread. Pass the colorful horseradish relish separately.

Serves 10-12

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 large eggs

3 1/2 tablespoons matzo meal

3/4 cup chicken stock (or fish stock or water)

1 1/2 pounds ground whitefish or a mixture of whitefish, pike and buffalo fish

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 lime, freshly squeezed

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 (5-ounce) jar prepared horseradish cream

2  cooked beets

lemon slices and parsley sprigs for garnish

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet and sauté carrots and onion over medium heat until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly coat a large (9 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch) loaf pan with cooking spray.
  1. Beat the eggs with the matzo meal in a large bowl with an electric mixer. When well-combined, add the broth, fish, cooled carrots and onions, salt, pepper and sugar and continue to beat until well blended.
  1. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Pick up pan with both hands and slam down on counter to settle any air bubbles. Squeeze the lime juice over the top, sprinkle with paprika and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a long wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  1. Meanwhile, place the horseradish cream and roasted beet in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until pureed. Transfer to a small container and refrigerate.
  1. Remove terrine from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Wrap in foil and chill overnight.
  1. Remove the loaf from the pan, place on a platter, and serve garnished with lemon slices and parsley, accompanied by the horseradish-beet cream.

Advance Preparation: Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.

Chef’s Salad

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  • 2 heads of butter lettuce, pale inner leaves only, washed and dried
  • 13 pound honey-baked ham, cut into julienne
  • 13 pound smoked chicken or roast turkey, cut into julienne
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack or Swiss cheese, cut into julienne
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a large salad serving bowl, arrange the leaves of the butter lettuce, tearing the larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Arrange the ham, smoked chicken and cheese on top of the lettuce. You can keep each ingredient separate from the others or jumble them all together. The julienne strips could radiate outward from the center of the salad like the spokes of a wheel. Place the wedges of cherry tomato and hard-boiled egg among the main ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper until well-blended. While continuously whisking the dressing, drizzle in the oil, and continue whisking for another 10 to 20 seconds until emulsified.
  3. The salad should be served with the dressing on the side, then dressed and tossed at the table.

Makes 4 servings.

Chilled Artichoke Halves with Two Sauces


  • 3 large globe artichokes
  • Water
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Cut the sharp points off the artichoke leaves with kitchen shears. Remove the small, dry outer leaves from around the base of the artichoke. Cut off the stem 1 inch from the bottom of each artichoke.
  2. Soak the artichokes in cold water for at least 15 minutes to clean them.
  3. Place the artichokes upright in a large pan with about 4 inches of water, lemon slices and olive oil. Cook them on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, partially covered, or until the leaves pull off easily. Bring the artichokes to room temperature and then cut them in half.
  4. Scoop out the choke of the artichoke with a teaspoon and discard it. Place the artichokes in the refrigerator. Just before serving, arrange the halves on serving plates and spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce into each half.


Here are two sauces that can be used on the artichoke. They are NOT meant to be used together.

Summer Vinaigrette


  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 12 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, basil, chives and parsley. Whisk to combine and slowly add the oil until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the vinaigrette in a tightly covered container and refrigerate. Remove it a half hour before serving to thin the dressing.

Red Pepper Aioli


  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped medium sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until they are pureed. Add the red pepper and process until it is well-blended. Add the mayonnaise and process. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne, and taste for seasoning.
  2. Refrigerate the sauce until serving time.

Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Flank Steak with Smoky Salsa



  • 1 cup Smoky Salsa (see below)
  • 1 cup full-bodied beer
  • 1-2 pound flank steak


  1. Combine 1/2 cup of the salsa and 3/4 cup of the beer in a medium mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Flatten out the flank steak in a shallow, large nonaluminum dish. Pour the marinade over it and marinate for 2 to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator; the longer, the more tender.
  2. In a small serving bowl, combine the remaining salsa and beer for the sauce and mix together. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Prepare a barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill it 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for a medium-rare. Place on a carving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to 1 day ahead through step 2 and refrigerated.

Smoky Salsa


  • 5 large Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/3 medium bunch of cilantro, bottom stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon canned chipotle peppers
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock


  1. Prepare a barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling. Grill the tomatoes, onion slices and scallions until partially charred, turning occasionally. The red onions will take the longest. Transfer to a plate. Grill the cilantro for about 30 seconds, just to wilt and give off a slight smoky flavor.
  2. With the motor running, add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until pureed. Add the grilled vegetables and remaining ingredients and process until all the vegetables are pureed. Taste for seasoning. (For a thinner consistency, add more chicken stock.) Serve with chips and guacamole or as a condiment for grilled chicken or meat.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to one week ahead, covered tightly and refrigerated.

Makes 4 to 6.