- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Whether or not the dad in your life enjoys cooking, chances are good that he enjoys eating. That almost guarantees that a food-centered celebration will make him smile. This Father’s Day, why not say goodbye to after-shave, neckties and paperweights and hello to something most dads love: food. You can find father-friendly food gifts close to home, from the grocery store and hardware store to bookstores and cookware shops. If you expand your search to include Internet-based merchants and mail-order companies, you’ll find enough food-and-cooking gift ideas to keep dad happy for a whole year. Prices range from minuscule to major-league, with gifts for dads who cook brilliantly, decently, occasionally or not quite yet. While you and the children ponder gifts for dad, consider choosing food-focused gifts that please mom as well. For the outdoor cooking aficionado, make up a basket of grilling goodies. Tuck in wood chips; spice rubs; a Precision Grill Tools grill mat available at Bed, Bath & Beyond; curved kebab skewers from Sur La Table and other cookware stores, which fit handsomely on a dinner plate; or perhaps a pair of OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs (sold at www.amazon.com and other cookware outlets). These are not only good tongs, they store easily in the utensil drawer between cookouts. If the dad on your list is more of an indoor cook, consider treating him to a Camerons Stovetop Smoker, sold at many outlets; a first-rate omelet pan; a juicer of any kind for making freshly squeezed orange juice for the family; or a gift pack of spice blends from Penzeys Spices for making chili, tacos or jerk chicken. Garnish your gift with a three-pack of grooved George Foreman grill sponges, specially designed for cleaning that George Foreman countertop grill. If dad doesn’t cook much, give him a roundup of his favorite snacks or a mail-order treat to enjoy with the family. Smoked oysters, smoked salmon, honey-roasted almonds and country pate are among the treats my husband will find with his Father’s Day presents. All are available at our well-stocked local supermarket. In the 21st-century marketplace, an abundance of dad-pleasing food is just a click or a toll-free phone call away. For meaty treats, check out www.nimanranch.com. Its extensive and hearty offerings include apple-wood-smoked bacon, old-fashioned franks and barbecued ribs. A world of sausages awaits dad at www.gourmetfoodstore.com. There you’ll find home-style Polish kielbasa or Italian bresaola, along with salami and smoked salmon. Or surprise dad with a hearty serving of Cajun flavors from www.comeaux.com. The Comeaux family ships traditional andouille and boudin sausages, smoked sausages and crawfish pie from Lafayette, La., right to your door. If you’d like to get dad cooking, give him a class at a local cooking school or a cookbook such as “The Niman Ranch Cookbook: From Farm to Table With America’s Finest Meat” (Ten Speed). To round out this food-filled celebration, have the family cook up a Father’s Day picnic especially for dad. Plan a simple, portable feast of hearty, hand-held food to be savored in dad’s favorite picnic spot. This could be a park near your home, a lakeside picnic table or a blanket in your own back yard. Because it is dad’s day, you also could consider treating him to a tailgate picnic, complete with tickets to an afternoon baseball game. This menu of hearty make-ahead eats is sure to please the dad in your life, and it’s simple enough to be cooked up by mom and children. Oven-roasted honey-glazed ribs; new potatoes with bacon, sour cream and scallions; and chocolate peanut butter surprise cupcakes are all finger food, but not the least bit fussy. Fill out the meal with a jumbo bag of dad’s favorite chips, some spicy salsa and a jar of dill pickles or olives. Don’t forget the Frisbee, softball and catcher’s mitt, soccer ball or deck of cards, and wear comfy shoes for an easy, meandering hike. Dad’s favorite item on the menu may be the ribs or the cupcakes, but his favorite memory of the day most likely will be something even more delicious: a long, lazy afternoon spent with his biggest fans. Oven-roasted honey-glazed spareribs You can use regular or baby back ribs with this simple and tasty marinade recipe, or use dad’s favorite barbecue sauce instead. I cut the rack into individual ribs before marinating and cooking so they cook more quickly and brown more evenly. Call ahead to make sure the butcher at your supermarket has what you need on hand. Let the ribs marinate in the sauce for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate them to marinate as long as overnight. ½ cup soy sauce ½ cup honey, plus 4 to 5 tablespoons for glazing, divided 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar or vinegar of choice 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper About 3 pounds pork spareribs or other ribs, cut into individual ribs Chopped scallion for garnish, optional In a large mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, ½ cup honey, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to dissolve sugar and make a smooth marinade. Add ribs to bowl containing marinade and turn to coat them evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Turn ribs once or twice so that seasoning is distributed evenly. To cook, line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan well with aluminum foil. Distribute ribs evenly in the pan. Place pan in preheated 350-degree oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove pan, turn ribs over and continue roasting for 15 to 20 minutes more, until ribs are evenly browned and cooked through. Increase heat to 400 degrees and cook another 5 minutes. Remove ribs from oven and pour remaining honey over them, turning to coat evenly. Garnish with chopped scallion, if desired. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Makes about 24 ribs; 4 servings. New potatoes with bacon, sour cream and scallions This is potato salad for people on the move, which would include a family taking dad out for a picnic feast. You can fill the potato halves at home and then transport them carefully to your picnic spot, as you would deviled eggs. If you are hiking up a rustic trail to dad’s favorite spot, carry the potatoes and sour cream in separate containers and spoon the sour cream into the potatoes right before you’re ready to eat. Keep the filling chilled if you’ll be traveling or playing for an hour or more before eating. 1½ pounds new potatoes or very small red potatoes Water ½ cup sour cream 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cooked bacon, divided About 4 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, divided Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down heat to maintain a gentle boil. Cook until largest potatoes are done, 10 to 15 minutes. (Cut a potato in half crosswise to test and return halves to the pot if they need a little more cooking time.) Drain potatoes, add cold water to cover and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes. While potatoes are cooling, make the filling. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup bacon and half the scallion. Stir well to combine everything evenly into a chunky filling. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each in half crosswise. (Cut them so that you have tall, peaked potato halves when you place them cut-side down.) Scoop out the top of each potato, using a melon-baller, a metal measuring teaspoon or the tip of a sharp paring knife. (Reserve scooped out potato for a single-serving portion of potato salad or save it for soup or omelets.) Spoon about 1 teaspoon filling into top of each potato half. Top each filled potato half with a little of the reserved bacon and scallion and place on a serving platter or in a container that will hold them snugly while you head for your picnic. Place a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper gently but directly on top of the filled potatoes, and lift it off carefully once you are ready to serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Chocolate peanut butter surprise cupcakes This recipe is from “Holiday Baking: New and Traditional Recipes for Wintertime Holidays” by Sara Perry (Chronicle). Muffin tins CUPCAKES: 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter 2 tablespoons honey 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon heavy (whipping) cream 1 cup flour 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 2 eggs, room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ cup buttermilk (see note) FROSTING: 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter 11/4 teaspoons vanilla 2 cups confectioners’ sugar 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream Line 12 standard muffin cups with liners and set aside. In a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer or by hand, beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, honey, confectioners’ sugar and cream until smooth. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Lightly whisk and set aside. With a mixer set on low, beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. On medium speed, beat in brown sugar until light and lump-free. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla until blended. Add flour mixture in two portions, alternating with buttermilk in one addition until smooth and just blended. Fill each muffin cup one-third full of batter. Drop a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese and peanut butter mixture into center of each cupcake, gently nudging it into batter. Continue to fill each cup with more batter until each is nearly full. Bake in center of preheated 350-degree oven until tops spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, about 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool cupcakes in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting. To make the frosting, with a mixer on medium-low speed beat together butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. On the lowest speed, add confectioners’ sugar alternately with the cream and beat until smooth. Liberally spread frosting onto each cupcake. Makes 12 cupcakes. Note: If you don’t have buttermilk, stir 1 tablespoon vinegar into 1 cup of milk and let stand 10 minutes before using in the recipe in place of buttermilk.

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