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Jumping to the Barbecue Two-Step

June 25, 1997|BEV BENNETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Bennett is the author of "Dinner for Two" (Barron's, 1994)

Are you doing the barbecue two-step this season? If not, let me introduce this safe, streamlined way to get delicious grilled foods with fewer health risks. I call it a two-step because food is started in the oven, then finished on a grill outdoors.

Roast meat at least halfway through in the oven, and while it's cooking, heat up the grill. You'll use your grill to enhance the meat's flavor and create a crusty exterior, not to thoroughly cook it.

The advantage of this method is that it should reduce the number of potentially carcinogenic chemicals that form when meat is cooked, especially at high temperatures. Baking or roasting meats creates fewer of these compounds, called heterocyclic aromatic amines, than such methods as broiling, frying or grilling. Vegetables do not form heterocyclic aromatic amines.

This dish and the accompanying Sweet Potato Fries were inspired by chef Douglas Rodriguez's recipes in "Nuevo Latino" (Ten Speed Press, 1995; $27.95).

MANGO-BASTED BABY BACK RIBS

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

3/4 cup dry red wine

2 small racks baby back ribs, about 1 1/2 pounds

3 tablespoons tomato paste

6 tablespoons mango vinegar or apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large mango, peeled, seeded and diced

Combine red wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, cumin and wine in shallow bowl. Add ribs and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning ribs once.

Simmer tomato paste, mango vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, mustard and salt in small pan 10 minutes. Add mango and simmer until fruit is pulpy, 10 to 15 minutes. If fruit is still chunky, puree in food processor or blender. Taste and adjust vinegar and/or brown sugar for tangy flavor. Set aside.

Remove ribs from marinade. Pour marinade into small pan and boil 2 minutes.

Place ribs on foil-lined rack on baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with heated marinade.

Remove ribs from oven and brush generously with mango sauce. Place ribs on grill over ash-covered coals and continue cooking 30 minutes, frequently brushing with mango sauce.

2 servings. Each serving:

771 calories; 2,305 mg sodium; 139 mg cholesterol; 43 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 34 grams protein; 1.22 grams fiber.

SWEET POTATO FRIES (30 MINUTES OR LESS)

1 large sweet potato

Canola oil

Salt

Wash potato and trim off ends. Cut unpeeled potato into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks.

Heat 1 to 1 1/2 inches canola oil to 375 degrees in heavy-bottomed pan. Add enough sweet potato sticks to fry in single layer without crowding. Fry over medium heat 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

If necessary, place fries on baking sheet and keep warm in preheated 200-degree oven while frying remaining potatoes. Season with salt to taste just before serving.

2 servings. Each serving:

122 calories; 1,187 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.55 gram fiber.

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