Category: barbecue

Grilled pickles, a.k.a. barbecue-in-a-jar.

Joy comes to you in many ways. I find joy in lots of things- my family, spending time with Jay, cooking, baking, gardening, my pets (especially when they’re all cuddly & sleepy), fashion magazines, a nice cup of high quality coffee with cream & sugar, the color of the leaves in the fall, the smell of fresh herbs being chopped, walking through a museum, a summer rain, the J. Crew catalog coming in the mail, drinking a good bottle of wine, the smell of fresh oranges being sliced, Lola, anything Le Creuset, my new ‘as-yet-unnamed’ digital KitchenAid hand mixer, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, beautiful well-done tattoos, watching movies, a delicious dark chocolaty stout, sleeping late in freshly laundered sheets, eating a good meal of greasy pub food, a new pair of menswear-style pajamas, Central Park in the spring, shopping for handbags & shoes & lingerie & kitchen gadgets… and lots more. I find joy in writing about things I find joy in, apparently. I even find joy in buying produce. Probably because I buy most things with a specific idea of what I’m using it for, so I’m already excited & looking forward to it. But more so than that, I just like the colors of the fruits & vegetables, the shiny finish or rough textures, the irregularities, the perfection. It’s always an exciting trip, that trip to the fruit market or farmer’s market. And now that cucumber season is here, that means pickling, which also excites me & brings me joy. Mainly because my pickles are the most requested item I make next to cupcakes. And people are always asking for more, more, more; whether it’s more of new & different kinds or just more of the regular old kind. I don’t like pickles, myself, but it’s a perfect example of creating things just because people I love enjoy them.

Another thing that brings me joy? The smell of a charcoal grill.

There’s nothing like that smell. Gas grills may be great and all, but my heart will always belong to charcoal. You can’t get the same flavor on a gas grill, carcinogens be damned. Now… you’ve heard of fried pickles, surely. I even posted a recipe for them myself. Those are a slightly fattier & more decadent delight than these. These, they’re different. These pickles are pickles that are grilled, not fried, but they aren’t grilled after they’re pickled. They’re grilled before.

Basically, you wash & slice your cukes & onions, then grill them. Let them cool, then jar ’em up. What you end up with is an amazingly different pickle. The charbroiled pickle… sorta. I got the idea & basic recipe from an article over at Serious Eats. What I did, though, was I grilled a jalapeno & added it in to two of the jars as well. I thought maybe that would add a totally different flavor profile to it than just the crushed red pepper. For the other jar, I just left it at about a ¼ teaspoon-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

The coolest thing though is that they don’t have to be processed. You can make these into refrigerator pickles, too! So don’t be scared to try them. And unlike me, don’t be scared to leave them on long enough to get really good grill marks. I was so worried they’d burn, my marks were a little weak. Eh. Whatever.

GRILLED PICKLES (adapted from a recipe created by Chris Lilly posted on Serious Eats)

Makes about 3 one-pint jars


  • 1 ¼ cups distilled white vinegar, 5%
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 small jalapeno peppers (or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, as called for in the original recipe)
  • 5 large cucumbers, cut into 4 to 5-inch spears
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into ½-inch disks and skewered horizontally
  • 6 sprigs dill
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic


  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt (and red pepper if using), whisking until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.
  3. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cucumbers, onions & peppers on grill. Cook cucumbers until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred on both sides and slightly softened, about 4 minutes per side. Cook jalapenos just until they “blister” a little. Remove to tray. Allow to cool. Quarter onions.
  4. Place 2 sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of garlic in each jar. Divide cucumbers and onions equally between each jar. Pour in pickling liquid, leaving ½”-inch of headroom between liquid and top of jar. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating for quick pickles, or process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal lids, then store in a cool, dark place.

When you open the jar, you’re hit with a smell of smoke. You really wouldn’t believe it, but the smokiness overpowers the dill and the vinegar! It smells like a charcoal grill in a jar. On that note let me say that if you have a gas grill, I don’t think the flavor or odor will be anything like this. You might get great grill-marks, but I don’t think you’ll get the smokiness you get with a charcoal grill. And if you’re one of those expert smoker people, then maybe using different kinds of wood as well can get you different flavors & smells. Same goes for using different peppers. Try a Serrano, or if you’re daring, try a Habanero for a crazy-hot smokiness.

I’d like to try these in different ways- maybe made with apple cider vinegar or maybe some booze. I’d even like to try a grilled Giardiniera, or grilled zucchini pickles. I really think this idea is kinda genius for summertime. A jar of these & a jar of that Guinness barbecue sauce would make any dad happy on Father’s Day, don’t you think?

Beers & barbecues.

It’s that time of year again. When everyone starts to grill their meats, when the sun sets later and when corn on the cob becomes the staple side dish. It’s been an unusually warm winter and an early spring, despite the temperatures dropping quite low at night lately (which has threatened crops that started to grow far too early when it was 80° degrees in March), it is indeed only a few weeks from the unofficial start of summer: Memorial Day.

I saw this recipe at The Black Peppercorn and I knew I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made Guinness cupcakes, Guinness jelly, even put Guinness in macaroni & cheese. Why not Guinness barbecue sauce? Beer & barbecues go together like… rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Or peanut butter & jelly. I love me a good beer. Don’t you?

This was my first attempt at a barbecue sauce. I was a bit nervous, actually, but I think it all worked out just fine in the end.

GUINNESS BARBECUE SAUCE (adapted slightly from The Black Peppercorn)


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, minced (I used one very large white onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness beer
  • ½ cup white distilled 5% vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 “shakes” Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 18-oz. can tomato paste


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and garlic to the saucepan and saute until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the molasses, beer, brown sugar, both vinegars, salt, pepper and cayenne . Bring to a boil. Let it cook with a low rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste & Tabasco and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Puree, I did so right in the pot using an immersion blender.
  5. For shelf-stable sauce: pour into hot sterilized jars to within ½” from the top. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 15 for half-pints. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals. As always, if the top pops up and down, the seal is damaged and you have to put it in your refrigerator and use right away. If you’re using the sauce immediately or don’t want to make it shelf-stable, you can pour into any container and either use right away or put it in the fridge.

There’s no end to the possibilities for this sauce. You can make it hotter, make it sweeter, do whatever you want. You could even totally alter it and use some Jack Daniel’s or Jameson, or a lighter beer. Play with it, tinker with it. Come up with your own sauce! And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a “canned” recipe. You can use it right away or put half in the fridge in a Tupperware. But if you do decide to jar it up, just know I got 5 half-pint jars and I would’ve had enough for a 4 oz. jar as well. And also know that in order to “can” it, the acidity has to be of a certain percent, so do your research before you tinker with it!

So how did it taste?

Right before I put it on the grill!


Delicious. I had it on a steak and it was just great. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too overpowering. It’s a subtle taste, and you could taste the actual steak, not just the sauce like can happen with some sauces. And it actually mellowed more in the jar, after processing. Initially it was a bit tangier, after a day or two it was much mellower. I can’t wait to try it on chicken next. Actually, I can’t wait to try my hand at making more barbecue sauces & dipping sauces in the future. Thai hot & sweet dipping sauce, anyone!?

Onion rings, pico de gallo & chili-rubbed steaks.

I was going through some old magazines in the drawer of my mom’s coffee table and happened upon 3 old Bon Appétit‘s, two from 2000 (July and September) and one from 2001 (March). In addition to how different the magazine was then compared to now (it was much thicker then, but I think it had a lot more advertisements, also, the photography is beautiful but not as artsy as it is now) it got me contemplating how different the world was since then. First off, 9/11 happened. We’re in two wars, George Bush isn’t President anymore (I thought that would never end), the economy has tanked, a lot of the restaurants mentioned in the older magazines probably don’t exist anymore thanks to the tanked economy, and we made history by electing a black President. Fashion has changed considerably since then, also. I know my style has certainly changed. But food- food remains the same. Particularly barbecue. Sure there are variations on a theme, but a good recipe never goes out of style!

The three old Bon Appétit‘s, Sept. 2000, March 2001 and July 2000
July 2000 (left) and July 2009 (right)

The July 2000 issue was the annual Barbecue Issue. Now, 9 years ago I was 19 so I wasn’t really interested in cooking or barbecuing anything myself, nor was I really interested in Bon Appétit magazine (plus that was the year I met Jay so I was a bit preoccupied I suppose)… but I missed out on a lot looking back. This issue is chock full (did I just say ‘chock full’? I must be 90 years old) of amazing recipes and meal ideas.

The recipes I’m sharing today are from that very issue (and are also coincedentally the cover recipes for that issue): chili-rubbed steaks, pico de gallo and red chili onion rings. I didn’t use rib-eyes, which is what the recipe calls for, I used sirloins, but it doesn’t matter. You can use any steak you like with this rub. You could even use chicken or shrimp too. The steak rub was off the hook (wow, isn’t that a blast from 1999!). The homemade onion rings are AWESOME. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. And the pico de gallo? Amazing. But then again, I could live on pico de gallo, guacamole and tortilla chips for the rest of my life and be happy. I omitted the jalapenos because my 91 year old grandmother was eating this with us and probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that surprise.

Needless to say, it was another score for me in the cooking department. Thanks to chef Stephan Pyles who contributed these recipes to the magazine.



  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 4 14-16 ounce bone-in ribe-eye steaks, about 1 ½ inches thick (You can use any steaks you want, this is just what the original recipe was for, like I said I used sirloin)


  1. Mix first 4 ingredients in pie dish. Coat steaks with spice mixture and transfer to another dish. Cover; chill at least 8 hours.
  2. Spray grill racks with nonstick spray; prepare barbecue (medium heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, moving and turning occasionally to prevent chili rub from burnin, about 20 minutes for medium-rare.
  3. Serve with pico de gallo and onion rings.



  • 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno chilies (about 2 medium)*
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


  1. Mix ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.



  • 2 large onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Place onions in a bowl. Pour milk over; let stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Whisk flour, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large pot to reach depth of 3 inches. Heat to 350 F.
  4. Working with a few onion rings at a time, shake off excess milk. Dip into flour mixture, coating lightly.
  5. Add onion rings to pot; deep fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Drain and serve.

I plan on going through and making things from these old magazines all summer. So stay tuned!