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Barbecue, Indoor Style


Grills in California never go into storage, but cooking starts moving indoors as the weather cools. Spareribs, typically reserved for the barbecue season, become succulent and tremendously flavorful as they roast in the oven.

Making these chipotle ribs is a two-step process, but it's fairly hands-off for the cook. First, the ribs are browned, sealing in their juices, then generously brushed with chipotle barbecue sauce for yet another flavor layer. Creating a chipotle barbecue sauce from a bottled sauce is a nice shortcut. Be sure to taste the bottled sauce before adding any sugar or lemon juice as noted in the recipe.

Baby backs are popular because their meat is tender. They're from the upper part of the rib section of the loin. They're typically leaner than spareribs, which come from the belly of the pig. You can also use this recipe for an appetizer; baby backs are popular party nibbles.

The two do-ahead side dishes--Texas rice and baked zucchini and spinach--can be reheated in the oven with the ribs. The rice has zip and variety that holds up to the ribs, while the vegetables are deliberately subtle.

For a meal with this much flavor, you'll just need some simple accompaniments. Try warmed corn or flour tortillas and chilled Mexican beer.


Chipotle Barbecued Ribs Roasted in the Oven

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours

2 racks lean baby back ribs, about 1 1/2 pounds each, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, blotted dry

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup bottled barbecue sauce

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar or 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, depending on sweetness of barbecue sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the ribs, rounded side up, in a single layer on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. Combine the chili powder, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste in a small dish. Remove the ribs from the oven and sprinkle the chili mixture on both sides, rubbing the mixture in. Continue to roast the ribs, rounded side down, for 20 minutes. Use tongs to turn. Roast 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, bring the barbecue sauce, onion, water, pureed chipotles, 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar or lemon juice and cumin to a boil; reduce the temperature and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

After the ribs are cooked, cut into 2-rib portions; place in a large shallow casserole. While the ribs and barbecue sauce are hot, pour all but 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce over the ribs. Brush the sauce on both sides. (This can be made a day ahead, cooled and refrigerated, well covered. Chill reserved sauce separately.) Bake the ribs, rounded side up, covered with foil, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake about 20 to 30 minutes longer. Serve hot; pass the remaining sauce separately.

4 servings. Each serving: 515 calories; 1,306 mg sodium; 137 mg cholesterol; 36 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 34 grams protein; 1.46 grams fiber.


Texas Rice

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 55 minutes

1 tablespoon oil

1 cup rice

1 cup minced white onion

1/3 cup diced green pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded as desired, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes in sauce

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the rice; cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, green pepper, jalapeno, garlic, cumin and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of broth and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. This can be served immediately (after stirring in the cilantro) or made a day ahead and refrigerated. (If made ahead, reheat, covered, in 350-degree oven until hot, about 45 minutes. Add more broth if the rice is too dry. Stir in the cilantro. Serve hot.)

4 servings. Each serving: 157 calories; 482 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.37 grams fiber.


Baked Zucchini, Spinach and Cheese

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

2 tablespoons oil

3 large zucchini, about 1 1/2 pounds total, shredded in food processor

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach

3/4 cup grated Chihuahua cheese, about 2 ounces

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until some of the zucchini just starts to wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach. Toss into the zucchini. Cook, stirring, until some leaves begin to wilt. Remove from the heat.

Transfer to a shallow baking dish, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. (This can be baked now or cooled and refrigerated overnight, well covered.)

Bake, tented with foil, until the liquid is bubbling, about 40 to 45 minutes. (Remove the foil after 35 minutes so the cheese browns a little.) Carefully drain off the accumulated juices. Serve hot.

4 servings. Each serving: 145 calories; 411 mg sodium; 15 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 2.95 grams fiber.

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