A 4th-coming BBQ

I love 4th of July house parties, so this year we hosted un pequeño partido at Casa H. Mother Nature had been serving up uncooperative weather all day with on-and-off rain, so setting up all of the outdoor lights, candles, and table settings had been a tenuous process. (Not to let a little rain dampen our parade, we had a Plan B in place… just in case.) Getting the party started, and making an appearance in order of their arrival were, Rosanne and Gary Zarrilli, Barb Walsh and Brad Collins, and Jeremy Parry.

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Setting up after—and before—the rains came…

The Zarrilli’s presented me with a surprise early birthday gift knowing we wouldn’t be seeing each over for at least a month due to respective vacation plans. Wrapped in bright aqua tissue paper—exactly matching the hue of Gary’s shirt I might add—and tied in a lovely wine-bedecked ribbon, was a gorgeous glass “wave” plate. I immediately started imaging what I could put on that plate at a future party—but I digress to the one at hand…

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My early birthday gift from the Zarrilli’s—thanks!

Like myself, Jeremy is an avid gardner. And as testimony to her many garden club awards, she is also a talented arrangement artist. So it was no surprise that the generous patriotic flower display she gave us was a perfect accompaniment to the festivities—many thanks for the thoughtful gift dear friend! Plus she told me that the seed pods would produce beautiful purple flowers if dried out over winter and replanted… you just know I’ll be doing that!

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Jeremy’s gorgeous patriotic flower arrangement—most of which came from her own garden.

For starters the house cocktail of the night was a newly concocted “Patriotic Pleasure” made with the stunning turquoise color of Hypnotiq–a liqueur made with premium French Vodka, exotic fruit juices and a touch of cognac. It was finished with regular vodka, a splash of fresh lime juice and a frozen strawberry—very patriotic-looking indeed—and strong! Unfortunately due to a recent dentist appointment that had Jeremy taking antibiotics, she couldn’t imbibe for the evening, although curious, she wanted just a taste of the Hypnotiq, upon which she gave her full approval.

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The “Patriotic Pleasure” house cocktail.

Speaking of dentists, Jeremy absolutely detests going, in fact she’d rather “pet spiders” which launched into a crazy conversation on who likes going to the dentist the least—it wasn’t me, I actually prefer going to the dentist over getting my hair cut—go figure! This weird verbal exchange took place while enjoying appetizers on the patio. Barb made a tasty homemade tomato topping for a Bruschetta, while the house supplied a Cheese Platter: Fontina, Dubliner Cheddar, Gruyere, and an Asiago with rosemary crostini and sliced soprasetta.

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Enjoying the appetizers while conversation flowed.

The meal’s main attraction was Russ’s Baby Back Ribs. They are a bit time consuming up front, but with an easy finish—perfect for an outdoor BBQ. The evening before the party Russ rubs his special spice mix all over the racks. Since Gary has a more “delicate” palate and doesn’t like a lot of spice, we rubbed his rack with Adobo Secco. The ribs then get covered and place in the refrigerator to get happy over night. The morning of the party, we cook the meat on baking trays with 2 cups of water in a 250-300 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours. Afterward they cool down and the drippings are placed is a separator to remove any fat, with the remaining liquid cooked in a pot until heavily reduced. Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce is added to the sauce reduction.

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Raw, spice-rubbed baby back ribs awaiting the oven.
Raw, spice-rubbed baby back ribs awaiting the oven.
Platter of grilled baby back ribs.
Platter of grilled baby back ribs.

Our sides consisted of just-picked fresh Butter and Sugar corn on the cob with a homemade aioli, and if so desired topped with minced fresh chives and a sprinkle of Tajín—a “seasoning” powder (called salsa en polvo in Spanish) consisting of chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice—a perfect finisher! Another side was a Jeremy trademark, her Asian Coleslaw made with Ramen noodles and prepackaged broccoli slaw. It has a good crunch and nice, complex flavors. Supposed to be topped with slivered almonds, Jeremy was proud that she toasted them without burning, but then totally forgot to bring them to the party!

Along with some asparagus drizzled with balsamic, Rosanne crafted a lovely Tomato and Watermelon Salad (recipe follows below) found on Epicurious.com. Knowing she needed to add fresh herbs, I told her to wait until she got to our house and we’d snip fresh whatever was needed from our herb garden—which ended up being a medley of tarragon, basil and mint. My bad, I neglected to take a photo of this beauty 😦

With a warning from Russ that the ribs would be ready shortly, Gary grabbed a wand lighter and began the process of lighting all of the candles–and there were a LOT! But before we sat down to eat, Jeremy ran out to her car and brought in an assortment of July 4 head gear. Like a group of happy children, we all chose one to compliment our outfits—or not. I wanted to get pictures of the group, and wouldn’t you know, just as the ribs are ready it friggin’ starts raining again! Without time to mess with the camera and set up a timer photo, we took a couple of quickies and sat under the umbrella to feast. Luckily it wasn’t raining hard and we persevered, although Russ and Brad braved the elements in the only two seats not covered by the umbrella. My hat (or more precisely, visor) off to you gentlemen!

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As the rain started coming down—again—we posed for a few group shots with our festive head gear. Notice the rain drops on the patio…

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Gary and Brad sporting their hat choices…

For dessert, Russ wanted to serve his Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream with a chocolate pound cake. While stopping at Shady Brook Farm to pick up the corn, we only found angelfood and other cake varieties that wouldn’t necessarily work in concert with his vision. So he whipped out his cell phone and googled Chocolate Pound Cake to see what ingredients were needed and what time guests would be arriving to calculate if he’d have time to bake it. Our final stop was at Target where we also scored some dark chocolate sauce to drizzle over the dessert.

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Homemade chocolate pound cake and strawberry ice cream with dark chocolate drizzle.

With another fun party coming to an end, we said our goodbyes and the guests packed up any personal belongings… although Jeremy, you forgot your denim shirt! I guess we’ll have to reconnect soon so I can return your property…

Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 small to medium heirloom tomatoes, in assorted colors, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 small English or regular cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 cup 3/4-inch-cubed yellow or red seedless watermelon flesh
  • 1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs, in any combination: basil, tarragon, chives, and cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, avocado, and herbs. In a spice grinder, grind the coriander seeds to a fine powder. Add the ground coriander to the tomato mixture and toss gently.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the tomato mixture and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.
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