I’m actually wearing a tank top and shorts. Sandals. And
sweating glistening. Which means we are officially entering BBQ season. And I’m a huge fan of BBQs, for a few reasons:
(1) With a little prep, the grill does most rest of the work, like a hot sous chef, while you mix and mingle with friends or make guacamole.
(2) You can accomplish some genius batch cooking by cooking extra meet and vegetables (and FRUIT!) for the week ahead, all while the coals are still hot.
(3) The grill itself gives food an extra smoky flavor, adding something special to everything it touches. Including romaine (bleh) lettuce.
(4) And contrary to common belief, BBQ’s can be super low-so friendly. Especially when you access that creative center in your brain. And think beyond traditional recipes.
Yes, it’s true that a lot of staple BBQ items — like buns and patties and franks and sauces and condiments — are a no-go due to salt and high-sodium content. But you do not have to settle with a sad plate of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and red onion (i.e. raw toppings) for your meal. Because without much time or effort, you can bring big flavor to the grill that will impress both you and your salt-loving friends.
So today let’s start with two ideas that will take your next BBQ to the next level: Bacon-Spiced Ribs and Quick Shaved Fennel Relish.
You may already be aware of the life-changing, no-salt, one-hour bacon recipe in my new book (AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER NOW). The secret lies in a spice mix that uses smoked paprika, cumin, and liquid smoke. A spice mix so good and so genius that it needs to be celebrated beyond thinly sliced pork. Which got me thinking about all the other places it belongs (deviled eggs, savory oatmeal, apple chips!). Which got me thinking about ribs. Which, you can imagine, were insane.
Seriously, don’t know why no one thought of this before (maybe they have). But I may never rub my ribs the same way again. Thanks to the liquid smoke, it tasted like real BBQ. And if you do not wish to use liquid smoke, you can achieve the same huskiness with extra smoked paprika or even smoking chips.
As for relish, even the “sweet” versions tend to land around 100mg sodium per 1 Tbsp serving. And while you may assume making it from scratch requires too much salt and too much time, it’s actually very easy (like Rachel Ray 30 minute easy) to give some shaved fennel a quick pickle in tangy apple cider vinegar. I added mustard seeds, caraway seeds, dried dill, and a little turmeric for extra bite. And the result is a low-so good impersonator, ready in minutes, and begging to top burgers, sausage, or even eggs and avocado toast. I ate mine with a spoon.
So let’s dig in. And don’t forget all the other fun ways you can mix up your BBQ to make it low-so and every-guest friendly. Like using untraditional meat choices (like lamb!) or filling patties with shredded zucchini and chopped cauliflower, for extra veggie goodness; making your own steak sauce or hot sauces or ketchup; and using sturdy cabbage or lettuce leaves to wrap your burgers or homemade hotdogs. Unless you want to make rolls and buns yourself.
BACON-SPICED PORK BABY BACK RIBS
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
- 1 Tbsp liquid smoke
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 3 tsp cumin
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 racks pork baby back ribs (2 lbs each)
- Portion control (kidding!)
*Don’t want to use liquid smoke? Substitute with a pinch of salt-free hickory smoke powder, extra smoked paprika to the rub, or soaked & drained smoking chips placed directly on coals or in a smoking box, according to manufacturers directions
While the grill is getting hot, mix first five ingredients together in a small bowl to make your rub. Season racks evenly with the rub. And double the rub recipe for more intense coverage/flavor. Wrap rib racks (separately) in two layers of foil. Place on direct, medium heat and cook for 40 minutes with the lid closed. Rotate the packets with tongs (carefully) for even cooking.
Carefully remove the ribs from the grill and take them out of the foil packets. If using smoking chips, add them now and close the lid for 10 minutes. Then, place them back on the grill to get a some charred goodness on them, about 10 to 12 more minutes. Let rest for five minutes. Slice and serve.
QUICK SHAVED FENNEL RELISH
Makes 1 1/2 cup
- 1 medium to large fennel bulb
- 1/4 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (no sodium, unseasoned)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp caraway seed
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Prepare the fennel by washing and cutting off the bottom nub and fronds. Remove outer layer if bruised (and if you care). Otherwise, chop the bulb lengthwise into a few thick chunks. Then use a food processor (or a box grater) to shred the fennel pieces.
Place everything except the fresh parsley (aka: fennel through black pepper) in a medium pot. Bring it to a boil and let it cook until the liquid reduces, about 5 to 8 minutes. Let it cool, about 10 to 15 minutes. And then transfer into a clean glass container with a lid. Place in the refrigerator until use. Will last up to a week.