It’s Memorial Day weekend, the official (unofficial?) start to summer.  If you’re like us, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be grilling and barbecuing more than a few times over the next few months.  Of course you know the difference…right?

I’ll admit, I had to learn the hard way.   Growing up in New Jersey, I always referred to any situation where meat was being cooked outside as a barbecuing.  Burgers, hot dogs, whatever…if it was being cooked over propane or coals, you were barbecuing.

But step outside the northeast, and you’re likely to be met with funny looks if you talk about barbecuing a burger.  Barbecue is low-and-slow cooking that involves smoke, low temperatures and tough cuts of meat that combine to form something magically delicious.  And although you can call any old cookout a barbecue, you can’t call just any cooked meat barbecue.

Need more insight into the different styles of barbecue?  Check out this video that Tim Carman dug up over at the City Paper.

Now that we’ve established the difference between grilling and barbecue, I wanted to share a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce that I used for a community potluck earlier this month.  When word got out that I’ve got some experience with barbecue, I was asked to smoke some up for our new neighborhood.  So I cooked up forty pounds of pork shoulder in a neighbor’s bullet-style smoker, and I decided to go one step further and cook up my own barbecue sauce to go with it.

A while back, I found a barbecue sauce recipe at AmazingRibs.com, a site I’ve used on a couple of occasions as I’ve learned the ins and outs of good homemade ‘cue.  I tried it and found it tasty but not quite what I’d grown accustomed to as I’ve tasted my way around Kansas City.  There were a few flavors that seemed to be missing, most notably tomato, celery seed and cumin.

So I worked with it a bit and came up with the version you can find after the jump. (more…)

FarfalleOne of the best things about our cookbook challenge has been the opportunity it provides for us to visit with some of the oldies-but-goodies in our collection.  You know how it goes – with each new option, the old standbys fade further and further into the background.  It’s not because of anything they did or didn’t do; sometimes that’s just the way it is.

For us, Giuliano Hazan’s “The Classic Pasta Cookbook” is one of those faithful friends.  Some of our first cooking experiences together while we were dating were taken from this book, which belonged to a friend: a basic pomodoro, a spicy all’arrabbiata, a rich carbonara.  It had served us so well that I gave a copy to Elizabeth for Christmas one year, and I even reached out to the author to ask him to sign it.  But changing cooking habits (we rarely make pasta anymore) and an influx of new cookbooks with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients have relegated Hazan to the bookshelf. 

Filet Post CuringWhen we started the challenge, this was one of the books that we were most looking forward to revisiting.  It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we would hold onto it, but what dish would we make to test it (and ourselves)?  Elizabeth was flipping through the book when she lit upon farfalle al salmone affumicato.  The handy translation informed us it was “Bow Tie Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Roasted Bell Peppers,” and we knew we had a winner.

Besides…it gave us another opportunity to fire up the Big Green Egg!

Once we had the salmon smoked it was just a matter of making the recipe – details after the jump. (more…)

As it turns out, gazpacho is one of those dishes that everyone seems to have a recipe for, but none of them even come close to matching.  I learned this the hard way this weekend while staring down several pounds of beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes that I picked up at the H Street FreshFarm Market on Saturday.

If you’ve been to a farmers’ market recently, you know that we are finally enjoying the bounty of late summer produce that our area puts forth: tomatoes in all shapes and sizes, peaches, peppers, summer squash, and watermelons are out in force.  This is the BEST time to visit your local market, as the prices are good and the produce is better.  And with the cost of conventional groceries on the rise, shopping farmers’ markets for your fruits and vegetables is becoming a truly viable option for most Washingtonians.

On my visit, I found myself picking up a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes along with some peppers, squash and eggplants.  I knew that I wanted to make my favorite cold soup, but I was uncertain how best to proceed.  What I found when I consulted some of our more trusted cookbook resources (Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, The Bon Appetit Cookbook) and several internet sources was something of a consensus on ingredients but no clear winner in terms of process.

Rather than following any one recipe to the letter, I opted to take in their combined wisdom and turn it into my own version of gazpacho.  And – in the interest of perpetuating the Babel-like proliferation of gazpacho recipes on the internet – I’m about to share it with you.

Ingredients, process, and an insider’s tip after the jump. (more…)

The dog days of summer can be rough on a baker: farmers markets are brimming with produce and potential but cranking up an oven during a hot August afternoon feels like a fool’s errand. What’s a sweet tooth to do? Luckily, tiramisu is here to help.

Tiramisu is a creamy Italian dessert cake built with four basic ingredients: egg yolks, mascarpone, lady fingers and espresso. Homemade tiramisu can be created with store-bought lady fingers which means you won’t need to bake anything. The only thing heating up your kitchen will be your electric mixer and coffee machine. As an added bonus, this dish is heavy on assembly and light on cutting: it’s a great cooking activity with kids. (more…)