Break Out the Ribs for Your Cookout

Mike Crisolago | June 29th, 2015

Here, six crowd-pleasing recipes for your summer cookout.

Imagine walking into your dining room to see your four-foot tall 84-year-old grandmother sitting at the table, hunched over a plate of bones picked clean with a look of fulfillment usually reserved for pets getting their tummy rubbed.

That was more or less the scene when I conducted an unofficial Zoomer taste test of Mastro’s new no-fuss Italian-style pork back ribs (though the messy napkins and loosened belts seemed quite official). The verdict: these pre-sauced, fresh-not-frozen ribs are excellent.

First, the jury: joining me were five fellow diners that ranged in age from 50-something all the way up to my grandmother.

The ribs, which do not require pre-cooking, come in three flavours: balsamic and fig, roasted garlic and tomato, and spicy fire-roasted tomato.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: you don’t hear terms like “pre-cooked” and “pre-sauced” much in the Italian vocabulary. But these are Italian style ribs, so I’ll give them a pass on that.

We decided to prepare one pack of each style. Since most of the work is already taken care of, they were ready to eat in around 15 minutes.

To say that the taste-testers devoured the ribs would be an understatement – the table more closely resembled the remains of a hyena feeding frenzy than a family meal.

The ribs were so tender the meat practically fell off the bone. My grandmother overcame the double handicap of wearing dentures and possessing the appetite of a bird to polish off multiple helpings – the first ribs she says she’s been able to eat in years.

As far as taste, the spicy ribs actually had a bit of a kick to them, which was nice since too often food that claims to be “spicy” is more accurately only “slightly spicier than usual.” The roasted garlic and tomato was full of flavour and proved the favourite among most, though the balsamic and fig, despite its more subdued taste, had its supporters. I’m almost embarrassed to say that my mother even finished off the sauce residue inside the rib packaging.

In all, three packs (along with side dishes) served six of us, while leaving no belly unstuffed. And speaking of sides, Maestro’s got some great recipes for dishes to accompany your ribs (see following pages).

If you’re planning a weekend cookout with family and friends, these ribs come garnished, are quick to prepare and, if my family is any indication, are sure to please guests of all tastes and appetites.

As the Italians would say, bellissimo!

Mastro Italian-Style Pork Back Ribs, available at Sobeys, Metro, Real Canadian Superstores, and No Frills

CLICK THROUGH FOR RECIPES FOR YOUR CANADA DAY COOKOUT

Recipes and photos (courtesy of Mastro)

 

Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

 24 spears fresh asparagus about 1 ½ lbs, tip: for this recipe use asparagus spears that are not too small but yet not too large. Ones that have a stalk that is about a ½-inch thick.

Drizzle Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 2-3 tsp.

Drizzle Mastro Balsamic Vinegar, about 2-3 tsp.

2 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

24 slices San Daniele/Mastro Sliced Prosciutto or Smoked Prosciutto (approximately two 150 g packages)

12   6-inch bamboo skewers soaked in cold water for 1 hour

Trim ends of asparagus spears and place in a large bowl or pan. Cover with cold water and let stand for 1 hour. This will allow the asparagus to absorb a little moisture and stay crisp and moist when grilling.

Drain asparagus. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Add garlic and season to taste with pepper. Gently mix to evenly coat the asparagus.

Lay a slice of prosciutto vertically (short end at the bottom) on a flat work surface. Place one seasoned asparagus spear across the middle of the prosciutto at the bottom end and roll up tightly.  Repeat with remaining asparagus.

Line up 4 prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears. Skewer the 4 spears together with 2 skewers per group of 4 wrapped asparagus. This will make it easier to grill. Repeat until you have 6 skewers of 4. They end up looking like little rafts of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus.

Preheat grill to medium high (450-550 F).

Cook asparagus until tender and prosciutto crisp, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove from grill, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve immediately with Mastro Cucina Italiana Italian Style Cooked Ribs

Serves 6.

Next: Grill Plank Baked Tomato Caprese Salad


Grill Plank Baked Tomato Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

1 grilling plank, soaked in cold water for at least1 hour

 (Grilling planks maybe found in the seafood section of most grocery stores as well as in the barbecue section of big box and specialty stores)

 

12 small vine-ripened tomatoes, about the size of a ping pong ball. These are often call cocktail tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes

12 tsp. pesto (purchased is fine or you can choose to make your own – recipe below)

1 ball buffalo mozzarella

Drizzle Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle Mastro Balsamic Vinegar

Garnish fresh basil

 

Using a sharp knife, cut ¼-inch off the top of the stem side of each tomatoes. Cut the bottom end of the tomato just so that the tomato can stand upright. Place a spoonful of pesto onto the top of each tomato and place evenly spaced onto grilling plank.

Slice mozzarella into ¼-inch thick slices about the same diameter as the top of the tomato. Place a slice on top of each pesto-topped tomato.

Preheat grill to medium heat (400-500 F).

Place plank on grill and close lid. Bake the tomatoes for 5 to 6 minutes or until cheese is melted and tomatoes just warmed.

Remove from grill and top each tomato with a small dollop of pesto. Drizzle with oil and vinegar; season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with basil leaves

Serve immediately with Mastro “Cucina Italiana” Italian Style Fully Cooked Back Ribs

Tip – you can make your own Pesto

Pesto

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

4 plump garlic cloves

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/4 cup Maestro extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggianno

1 tsp. lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In food processor, chop pine nuts and garlic. Add basil and pulse a few more times. Slowly add oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and lemon juice; pulse until well blended and pesto has a relatively smooth texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups.

Next: Grilled Vegetable Skewers with Lemon Olive Vinaigrette

 

Grilled Vegetable Skewers with Lemon Olive Vinaigrette

Lemon Olive Vinaigrette

½ cup sun-dried black olives, pitted (about 18 olives)

4 cloves garlic

1 lemon, zested and juiced (¼ cup lemon juice 2 tsp zest)

3 anchovies (optional)

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. Mastro Balsamic Vinegar

4 tbsp. Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Freshly ground black pepper

 

In a food processor, combine olives, garlic, lemon zest and juice, anchovies (if using), Parmesan, sugar and vinegar; pulse until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a small bowl and season to taste with pepper. Set aside.

Makes about 1 cup.

Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

6   10-inch wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 1 hour

1 large white onion

2 zucchini

12 brown mushrooms

1 large red bell pepper

1 large yellow bell pepper

1 large orange bell pepper

3 tbsp. Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Cut the vegetables into uniform chunks and skewer onto pre-soaked wooden skewers.

Set aside.

Brush vegetable skewers all over with a little olive oil. Preheat grill to medium high (450-550 F). Grill vegetable kebabs for 10 to 12 minutes per side until the vegetables are lightly charred and tender.

Remove from grill and spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of Lemon Olive Vinaigrette over each skewer. Serve immediately with Mastro Cucina Italiana Italian Style Ribs.

Makes 6 skewers.

Next: Fennel & Apple Slaw

 

Fennel & Apple Slaw

Tip: use a sharp knife to slice the fennel, cabbage, apple and onions as thinly as you can for a more tender salad with bigger flavors. If you wish to use a food processor or mandolin to make the job easier and quicker, go for it!

1  small fennel bulb, trimmed of tops and thinly sliced, about 2 cups

¼ small green cabbage, thinly sliced about 2 cups

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced, about ¾ cup

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 green apple, thinly sliced and cut into thin strips

1 orange

2 tbsp. Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 ½ tsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

In a large bowl, combine fennel, cabbage, celery, red onion, green onion and apple. Set aside.

Zest and juice the orange. You want about ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and about 1 tsp of zest. Add to fennel coleslaw mixture.

Add oil, vinegar, tarragon, parsley, lemon juice, sugar and pepper. Season to taste with kosher salt. Mix well and refrigerate for 1 hour, mixing at least one more time to allow the full flavors of the salad to combine.

 

Remove from refrigerator and serve with grilled garlic bread and Mastro Cucina Italian Ribs.

 Next: Fire-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

1 small sweet onion, sliced into ½-inch thick rings

6 ripe plum tomatoes cut in half

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 green onion, chopped

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Big drizzle Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle Mastro Balsamic Vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 loaf crusty Calabrese Italian baguette, sliced into 1-inch thick rounds, about 20 slices

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

 

Fire up your grill to medium high (400-550 F).

Grill the onions for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until lightly charred and tender. Set aside, keeping warm while you char the tomatoes.

Grill tomatoes until skin is lightly charred, just a few minutes. You don’t want cook the tomatoes; this will make them mushy just a little char to add some grill flavor. Remove tomatoes and onions from grill and set aside to cool.

Coarsely chop the charred tomatoes and onions and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add garlic, green onion and Parmesan. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, mix and set aside.

Grill the bread to toast. Nice and easy – you don’t want to burn the bread. Remove from grill and set aside.

Add basil to tomato mixture. Do this right before serving so that the basil is fresh and doesn’t turn black.

Spoon bruschetta mixture onto the grilled bread, drizzle with a little oil and vinegar and serve immediately.

Serves 8.

 Next: Grilled Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cheese

Grilled Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cheese

2 lb. mini potatoes, red or white or both

1 tbsp. salt

2 cups cremini mushrooms, halved

1 sweet onion, sliced into ½-inch thick rings

2 tbsp. Mastro Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp. Mastro Balsamic Vinegar

4 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch red chili flakes

½ cup crumbled Igor gorgonzola cheese

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

In large pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, add salt and continue to cook until potatoes are just tender but still firm in the

center, 20 to30 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium heat (400-500 F).

Add mushrooms and onion to cooked potatoes. Toss with oil, vinegar, garlic and red chili flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour potato mixture into

a grill basket and grill for 8 to10 minutes per side or until lightly charred, tender

and heated through. Carefully transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Add gorgonzola, Parmesan, parsley and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately

Serve with Mastro Cucina Italiana Italian Style Ribs    Serves 6 to 8.