Archives for May 2006

It’s All About the Meat

My son J was sitting at the kitchen table with the pieces of his latest Lego spaceship spread all around, when he suddenly shouted out “Hey, where’s the meat? Are we having MEAT for dinner!?

I had just returned from firing up the grill with some fine Kingsford mesquite charcoal, and a smoky halo had apparently clung to me like good karma on the Dalai Lama. I suppose the scent was enought to tickle his nostrils and trigger what I think is his almost primal, instinctive need for animal flesh.

I wish I could phrase it more delicately, because it really does surprise me a little. Ever since my children were able to use their pincer grip on small pieces of food, they’ve been wild about eating meat. They pretty much start growling when I casually mention that I might be cooking up some bacon in the near future. When my first-born was a mere babbling infant, she reached across the table to grab a bloody-red squab leg that I had prepared for her dad’s birthday. She had to advance to the age of two before she could ask for a pile of bacon for her lunch whenever we took her out to a restaurant.

It’s not that we discourage that sort of behavior or anything, but my personal desire for meat products tends to be more moderate. I’ve been known to create entire meals around a block of semi-firm tofu and a can of chickpeas. But, inevitably, there are days when nothing but a side of cow or pig will satisfy.

Today, for instance. I saw the cover of the June Food and Wine magazine and knew I had to taste that glistening pile of ribs. I made a special trip to my local international food store to find the canned guava paste, but, man was it worth it. This recipe is outrageously good. The guava barbecue sauce is tangy-sweet, and forms a very appealing crackly crust on the ribs, which are falling-apart succulent. “Juicy and a little saucy” is how my son described them.
And my daughter is already planning her next birthday dinner with these ribs as the highlight.
We had these for dinner with a big bowl of cole slaw.

Rosemary Snack Bread

Rosemary Snack Bread

I’ve been craving this bread after seeing its tempting photo in Desserts and Sweet Snacks, Rustic Italian Style by Viana La Place. It’s called Sweet Olive Oil Quick Bread in the book, and it really is simple to put together – I mean all of 5 minutes, in 2 bowls. My son was my very willing mixer.

I varied the original recipe somewhat by omitting raisins ( I have a thing about raisins embedded in my baked goods, but more on that later), and added some chopped rosemary from my garden. I also replaced milk with an Australian Muscat wine that I had languishing in the fridge, which adds a slightly sweet tang that reminds me of the Italian wine biscuits I used to eat when I was little. This really is a perfect snack because it’s not too sweet. Wrap it up and it will keep for a few days on your counter – maybe. Mine is already vanishing…

2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sweet wine, such as muscat
1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange rind

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard size (9 x 5 x 3-inch) loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Whisk together the eggs, wine and olive oil in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients; add egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated. Scrape into pan and bake 50 minutes, or until the top is rich golden brown.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Slice into thick slices while warm or let cool completely. (We have a hard time waiting in our house).
Makes 1 loaf.