Monday, June 8, 2009

Settling Into Summer Routines -- Or A Lack Thereof. With Ribs.

School's out.

Not, as Alice Cooper eventually proclaimed, "forever," but at least "for summer."

I know this, first, because there are two additional, oversized bodies bumping around the house, each dividing his or her time equally between foraging for food; dwindling the charge on my MacBook; carpeting the floors with soggy towels and P.E. clothes which haven't seen the inside of a washing machine since before Christmas; misplacing my MacBook after the draining the battery; planning, scrapping, then re-planning social outings; and finally, in the ongoing quest for sustenance, begging to be taken off-premises -- to Harris Teeter, Smoothie King or Chick-Fil-A -- for still more food.

Second, I know school's out because both of my beloved and believed-to-be-bright children has already had the audacity to whine, "I'm bored." Silly them. As if there isn't always dog poop to be scooped and kitty litter boxes to be sifted.

Even more audacious, each of them, separately, has protested indignantly, "What difference does it make if I leave my wet towels (dirty laundry, Jolly Rancher wrappers, backpack contents, fill-in-the-blank) on the floor? It's summer! Why do you care so much?"

Well. I've got gracious plenty responses for that, but before I make a list, did you really think that tone of voice would change my mind?

Honestly, though, I see their point. Wouldn't it be delightful if life actually worked that way? If school let out for summer, the temp soared to 90, and no one had to do laundry or take out trash or clean toilets? If the pantry were endlessly stocked with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, the fridge with Minute Maid Limeade and the freezer with filet mignon? (No kidding about that last one. It would be difficult to overstate the number of times, in this week alone, that my 14-year-old-son has asked, "Do we have any steak?" -- as if we routinely snack on $20-a-pound, medium rare, grilled meat.)

Some things do slack up, of course. Dress codes are abandoned. Bedtimes slide. Breakfast becomes every-man-for-himself. I even have a friend who, for years, got away with telling her young children that, "Yes, church is closed during the summer. Just like school."

In truth, when I was a kid, it felt as if all routines did come to a halt during the summer. Every morning, we'd get on our bikes and go -- ride trails, build forts, catch fiddler crabs and dine on Lowcountry delicacies like blackberries, wild plums, honeysuckle and sourgrass (that last, despite our parents telling us it was only sour because dogs peed on it).

We could go shoeless for days. To break any monotony that might creep in about mid-July, we'd shove someone off a boat -- in three feet of water or 30. Life jacket, life schmacket.

What a life.

So OK. No more pencils, no more books. School is out for my kids. I can't abolish all routines, but provided they can keep my MacBook on the charger, I reckon I can let a few other things slide. It's summer. We may as well enjoy it -- starting with these savory ribs inspired by a recipe I found in Bon Appetit magazine.

Babyback Ribs With Asian Flavors

Note that preparation for these ribs must begin hours in advance, or even better, the day before.

1, 3-3 1/2 lb. rack babyback ribs

1 tablespoon ginger paste (or 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon asian fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced to a paste with 1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Prepare ribs. Rinse in cold water. Using a small thin knife, peel white membrane from underside of ribs. (Tough to do, but worth it.) Pat dry with paper towels.

Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl (or better, a small food processor or blender). Rub both sides of rack with mixture, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 250. After refrigerating ribs, cut into several (single-serving) sections. Put in a large baking dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake for two hours at 250 degrees.

Remove ribs from oven, check for tenderness. Ribs should be fully cooked and tender. Baste with pan juices and grill over indirect medium heat, until browned and crusty on both sides -- 10-15 minutes per side.

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