The Greatest Pork Spareribs

Pork spareribs are a go-to staple for any time I am looking for a meaty main course that will reheat and hold well at room temperature. It’s also very easy to do this recipe in stages: make the rub and season the meat one day and cook it one or two days later. I find cumin, brown sugar, paprika, and garlic are essential pork rub ingredients. Beyond that, you have a lot of flexibility. Grate in some nutmeg, add a spoonful of harissa, or experiment with other dried spices. When buying pork spareribs, look for ones with some visible fat on the outside of the ribs—it’s a lot easier to trim off a little extra fat than to add it back on! The fat will dissolve slowly as the ribs cook, basting the meat so the ribs don’t dry out. If you can only find really lean ribs, you can drape the rubbed rack with a few strips of bacon.

In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine the paprika, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves and finely grind. Transfer to a bowl and add the salt and brown sugar.

Rub the mixture onto the ribs, coating both sides, then transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Combine the vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Brush any loose spice rub from the ribs, then rub the racks with the vinegar mixture and transfer to the baking sheet, bone side down.

Bake until the ribs are deeply colored and very tender but not yet falling from the bone, about 11⁄2 hours, occasionally rotating the pan to encourage even cooking. Transfer the cooked ribs to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut between each rib. Serve warm.

Boneless Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Rosemary, and Salsa Verde

Skirt steak has gotten extremely popular in recent years, but bavette and hanger, if you can find them, are equally (if not more) delicious. They also tend to be less expensive. Because leaner cuts like this can be chewy if not cooked properly, be sure not to overcook and slice against the grain. Oh, and don’t forget the chimichurri—with tons of fresh herbs and a good hit of sherry vinegar it adds great zing.

1. To make the chimichurri, combine the parsley, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Pulse until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and vinegar and pulse to combine. Season the chimichurri to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Let stand for at least 1 hour before serving. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days; let come to room temperature before serving.2. Take steak out of the fridge, season generously with salt and pepper, and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the coals.

3. Light charcoal (we highly recommend a chimney) 20-30 minutes before you want to start cooking.

4. When ready to grill, coat the steak in a little bit of olive oil, place on the hot side of the grill, and cook for about 3 minutes per side.

5. Remove, let rest 2 minutes, slice against the grain and serve with chimichurri sauce.

Originally featured in Grilling with Belcampo, and the Pleasures of Less Expensive Cuts of Meat

Fresh Tomato Risotto

Though risotto is often considered a winter dish, this is one for summer, when you have a surplus of excellent tomatoes. Fresh tomato puree stands in for half of the broth, resulting in a lighter-bodied risotto packed with tomato flavor. Serve it as a stand-alone main course or as a side dish for grilled sausages or chicken. Any leftover risotto can be made into fritters: Let it come to room temperature, form it into balls, roll the balls in beaten egg, then bread crumbs, and deep-fry until golden for an indulgent little antipasto.

Grate the tomatoes on the large holes of a box grater into a bowl, discarding the skins and any tough cores. Combine the tomato juice and pulp with the broth; you should have 8 cups of liquid. Transfer to a saucepan and warm over medium heat.

In a large heavy pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the grains of rice begin to turn translucent. Add the sofritto and stir to combine. Add some of the tomato-broth mixture to the rice by the ladleful, stirring often and allowing each addition of liquid to be fully absorbed by the rice before adding more. Monitor the heat; the risotto should be bubbling faintly.

Continue adding liquid by the ladleful until it has all been incorporated and the rice is tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Crescenza, season to taste with salt, and spoon into warmed bowls. Garnish with basil and serve immediately, accompanied by more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Fried Mortadella Sandwiches

I first tried fried mortadella sandwiches not in Italy but on a sweltering day in São Paulo, Brazil. I was on the second floor of a massive marketplace near the center of town in a food court that had six separate restaurants, each serving the same thing on the menu: sanduíche de mortadela. The sandwich was irresistable: soft bread crisped on the grill, about an inch of thin-cut griddled mortadella, and a layer of gooey cheese.

Frying the mortadella stacks is crucial to this recipe. The meat crisps irresistibly on its edges, and the small amount of fat that renders out of the mortadella is the perfect medium for toasting the bread, which absorbs the porky flavor. Though some specialty shops sell slices of massive mortadella (in Italy they are made up to a foot in diameter), for this recipe you want slices that are less than 5 inches in diameter. When serving the sandwiches as a starter, I cut them into quarters for an excellent handheld snack. Not surprisingly, the salty sandwiches are great with cocktails.

Arrange the sliced mortadella into four even stacks of seven slices each. In a dry cast-iron or heavy frying pan over medium heat, fry the mortadella stacks, turning once, until sizzled and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Place each mortadella stack on a slice of bread and top with a slice of provolone and a second slice of bread to make a sandwich.

Return the pan to medium heat and add a few tablespoons of butter. Put the sandwiches in the pan and weight them down with a second, smaller cast- iron pan or other weight. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Add more butter to the pan, flip the sandwiches, weight them down again, and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 3 minutes more. Remove from the pan, cut into halves or quarters, and serve hot.

Vitello Tonnato

This is an unfussy dish often served in Italy during the summer, when a cold main course is welcome. The finished product is a platter of very tender, thinly sliced boiled meat covered in a flavorful tuna-caper sauce. Though it’s a very traditional Italian recipe, vitello tonnato has become somewhat fashionable in the United States, often presented as some sort of a rare roast that has been thinly sliced and topped with a mayo-based sauce to which tuna and anchovy fillets have been added.

While I like that version, my own is Italian grandma– style—the meat is simmered until completely cooked through and the sauce is thickened with tuna and hard-boiled-egg yolks. The use of two types of fish in the sauce (the name means tuna-fished veal) harkens back to a time in northern Italy when salt-packed fish were used as much for salt as for flavor. Even as recently as the 1930s, many Piedmontese families could not afford the comparatively expensive granular salt and instead used salted fish as a seasoning in pretty much every sauce.

The great thing about this dish is it just keeps on giving. The cooked meat and the sauce will last a week in your fridge and any leftovers can be turned into elegant antipasto the next day or used for a great sandwich or salad topper. Though boiled meat may sound wintry, the bright, light sauce and lean cut of beef make it a dish well suited to spring and summertime. I like serving it as a first course before a nonmeaty main, like Asparagus with Fried Eggs (page 121) or a pasta with spring vegetables.

Trim any exterior white fat or silver skin from the eye of round and place in a large, heavy pot. Add the wine, celery, bay, sage, and a healthy pinch of salt. The meat should be fully immersed in the wine; add more wine as necessary to cover. Let sit at room temperature overnight.

Remove the bay and sage, then transfer the pot to the stove top. Bring the wine to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the liquid is barely simmering, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour. While the beef simmers, put the salt- cured anchovies in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for 30 minutes, then gut the anchovies, pull the fillets from the skeleton, and set aside. Put the capers in a separate bowl, cover with warm water, and let soak for 15 minutes, then drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

When the beef has cooked for an hour, uncover the pot, add the soaked anchovy fillets, and increase the heat so the liquid is simmering more vigorously. Cook for 30 minutes more, during which time the liquid should reduce by half. Remove the beef from the pot, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and let cool to room temperature. With a slotted spoon, remove the anchovy fillets from the broth and set aside. Save the cooking liquid.

While the beef cooks, put the eggs in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for 9 minutes, then transfer the eggs to an ice water bath. When cool, peel the eggs and remove the yolks (the whites can be discarded or saved as a cook’s snack).

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the reserved anchovy fillets, egg yolks, tuna, soaked capers, vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. Process until
the sauce has the consistency of softly whipped cream, adding a bit of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to achieve the correct fluffy texture but taking care not to add so much liquid that the sauce become runny. Season to taste with additional salt.

Thinly slice the cooked beef and transfer to a platter. Drizzle the sauce over, then garnish with parsley leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Pickled Grapes

I am a sucker for a simple pickle, and these grapes— which can be assembled in less than 10 minutes, start to finish, and are ready to eat the next day—are a fine example. They walk the line between sweet and savory and are an excellent accompaniment to charcuterie and cheese. Since commercial grapes are heavily sprayed, seek out organically grown fruit.

Pack the grapes into the pint jars. Add a sprig of tarragon and a garlic clove to each jar. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, then pour the hot brine over the grapes.

Let cool to room temperature, then cover tightly and refrigerate. The grapes are ready to eat in 1 day but will keep, refrigerated, for 1 month. Serve alongside confits, pâté, or other rich meats.