I woke up out of a deep sleep in the wee hours of the morning two weeks ago. I had felt something brush against my shoulder near my neck. It was pitch black and the glasses that alleviate my extreme near-sightedness weren't within reach so I sat up and squinted around to see what it had been. I saw a large, dark spot on the short sleeve of my pajama shirt. In my sleepy, hazy mind I formed the immediate and unshakable conviction that there was a mouse on my sleeve.
In the daytime, I'm a rock. No snakes, mice, foxes, mink or any other locally grown critters faze me in the waking hours. That's one reason why I live in the area of the country where I do: There are no insects that can kill me. Take my glasses away and wake me up with the "certain" knowledge that there's a mouse on my shirt, however, and you have an entirely different scenario.
Cue the panic.
I started screeching, "Get it off me!' repeatedly and punching at the blankets. In hindsight, I'm not sure what striking at the blanket would've done to remove a mouse from my sleeve, but I've already established that I don't possess 20/20. My husband woke up and asked, "What's the problem? What are you..."
... And that was all he got out of his mouth before I punched him squarely between the legs.
My poor husband doubled over wheezing. I had knocked the wind out of him. And that was when I woke up properly. I immediately realized that the dark spot on my sleeve was actually my sleeve folded up on itself. While apologizing profusely and trying to help my husband, I found my previously missing glasses and deposited them on my nose. After my husband firmly established that the only thing he could do to help was to not do that ever again, I grabbed a flashlight and looked around. There were no mouse droppings anywhere and the culprit that had rubbed against my shoulder was a corner of my pillowcase.
It was then that I developed a serious case of wildly inappropriate laughter. I laughed heartily for a good hour and then devolved into a steady giggle for another hour. I managed, somehow, to make it worse by laughing every time I apologized and then laughing even harder at my inability to maintain a straight face.
Mercifully, my husband is not only a very forgiving person, but also has a good ear for a humorous story. He has retold the story as many times as I have. I still have giggle-fits when I think about the incident. I feel the need to do something concrete to apologize for my midnight fists of fury, so I will be making a please-forgive-meal of some of my husband's favorite foods this Memorial Day; grilled ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, corn salad, fresh mango salsa and homemade ice cream.
The mango nectar serves a dual purpose with the ribs. It imparts its wonderful flavor, but it also contains proteolytic enzymes that tenderize the meat. If you can't find mango nectar you can substitute pineapple or papaya juice or nectar.
Caribbean Grilled Ribs
2 slabs loin back or about 4 lbs. spare ribs, membranes removed and cut into serving-size pieces
11/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. ground dry mustard
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
1 t. fresh ground black pepper
3 c. mango nectar
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. dark rum or whisky, optional
2 fresh habanero or jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded or 1 t. ground cayenne pepper
2 t. fresh garlic, minced
1 batch homemade barbecue sauce (see below) or 1 bottle barbecue sauce
Combine brown sugar, mustard, garlic and onion powders and black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture evenly over both sides of the ribs and rub to distribute spices and make them stick. Place rib sections in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add mango nectar, lime juice, rum, hot peppers and garlic to the bag. Seal and gently shake the bag. Place bag in refrigerator and marinate at least four hours and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Remove ribs from marinade and place ribs in a shallow baking dish with the meat side up. Discard marinade. Bake ribs for about 3 to 31/2 hours or until cooked through and the bones become loose (you will be able to turn the bones in the meat when done). In a hurry? Preheat to 350 degrees and bake for about an hour. They're both good, but yield different results. We find the slow-cooked ribs more delicious.
To finish the ribs on a charcoal grill, build a bed of low coals. To finish on a gas grill, preheat the whole grill and turn off the burners over which you place the ribs. Brush ribs with barbecue sauce and grill, turning and basting frequently, until ribs reach desired color. I like them with little just-beginning-to-char bits. Serve to your adoring and appreciative crowd.
Bec's Barbecue Sauce
1 c. ketchup (Muir's Organic has the best flavor)
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. prepared mustard
2 T. cider vinegar (Bragg's is the best!)
1 T. minced fresh garlic
1 T. Sriracha hot sauce (or your preferred hot sauce), more or less according to taste
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. liquid hickory smoke
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and darkened slightly. Can be used immediately or poured into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
This corn salad is now officially a family recipe as it was given to me by my grandma who got it from my Aunt Sarah. This is always doubled around here because leftovers keep beautifully in the fridge.
Corn Salad Caliente
2 (10-oz.) packages frozen corn, thawed
1 (15-oz.) can kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (2-oz.) jar diced pimientos, undrained
3/4 c. bottled or homemade red wine vinaigrette
1 small red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 small green pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 c. sliced celery
1/2 c. sliced black olives, drained
1/2 c. cubed hot pepper cheese
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 t. ground cumin
Combine all ingredients, except cheese, and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving. Just before serving, gently toss in cheese cubes.
You can read more of Rebecca Lindamood's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at www.foodiewithfamily.com.