Ruby’s Back Porch

Guest Post by Ruby Dee

Welcome to my back porch. It’s been hot here this year. I mean HOT as in somebody turn down the heat on the big ol’ BBQ that is Texas right now. When it gets this hot here in Central Texas, there’s absolutely no way you will catch me in the kitchen, if I can avoid it. I mean, I do all the cooking at home, just not inside and over a hot stove. So I marinate everything I can lay my hands on, and then throw it on the grill.

Just this week, I marinated a whole chicken in citrus, olive oil and herbs, opened up a can of Dublin Dr. Pepper (real sugar!), emptied half of that out and filled the can up again with the remaining marinade, shoved that into the chicken cavity and threw it, standing up, into the grill on medium-low for an hour or so. The chicken falls off the bone just by looking at it when you cook it like this!

Earlier this week, I also marinated some wild-caught Alaskan Coho salmon in soy, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and chilis, grilled that and served it on a bed of cold rice noodle salad that I’d tossed with sesame oil, lemon, brown sugar, rice vinegar, snow peas, red pepper, green onions, and sprouts. So satisfying in this heat.

Some of my other fave summer time grilling dinners are: lamb burgers made with cinnamon, lemon zest, pinenuts and raisins; steaks marinated in coke, catsup, maple syrup, and chipotles; chicken breasts marinated in lemon and egg overnight… the list goes on. Just so long as I don’t have to sweat in the kitchen over a hot stove, I’m happy. And therefore so is my husband!

So with keeping cool in mind, go ahead and find yourself a comfy seat, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade (or something a little stronger), and let’s get down to cookin’ up some real Americana food for real Americana folks.

Many of these recipes spring from my own imagination and what’s in my cupboards. I’ve spent years making the same down-home dishes for my family and friends- much to their delight- perfecting and tweaking old recipes as I go along. The rest, I’ve culled over time from road trips I’ve taken around this here gorgeous country of ours- whether out for a weekend or two with friends, or on the road with my band. From the vast array of roadside diners, back roads rest stops, and small town eateries, the very best of what’s available locally, and yes, even seasonally, comprises the bulk of my old-style recipe tin at home. I’ve compiled my favorites from that tin here for you to enjoy with your family and friends on your own back porch, kitchen table, and front gallery alike.

What Is Americana Cuisine?

Well, I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not tall, for one thing. And you won’t find any squiggly little lines across your plate. What I call Americana cuisine comes from a mish-mash of all different types of cultures and kitchens, brought together in one place or another all around this vast country of ours, and given one simple way to describe the flavors you’ll find there- Americana. From Northeast chowders to Southwest chilis, Northwest smoked salmon to Southern BBQ, the dishes and ingredients that go into them are all familiar, All-American, and certainly feel like home.

Some years ago, I started traveling around this beautiful country of ours, taking road trips with friends, and touring with my band. I’d buy up local ingredients wherever we went and throw them into the Dutch ovens I made sure to carry with us. The recipes I developed over that time started a love affair back home in my kitchen- between the flavors I could conjure up, and my friends and family who were able to help me recall and relive the memories those dishes brought to the table. Over time, I added old family recipes in to the mix, reshaping them and making sure everyone approved.

I also write songs about the places I’ve been and the adventures I’ve lived. And just like the recipes you’ll find in my cookbook “Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook”, my songs are amalgams of all my experiences, distilled down to familiar sounds. Folks call that type of music Americana- music that is comprised of many different places and cultural styles from all over this great big country, all come together under the one general description, if you will, of Americana music. That’s how I describe my songs, and that’s how I think of my cooking. Try a dish or two, and see if you agree. Well, and even if you don’t, that’s Americana too!

Hot Time in the City

Which brings us back to my back porch: any meal that takes me out of the kitchen and onto the back porch is at the top of my list these days. To start, I like to pour out a pitcher of drinks. This brings us together, gathered around the patio table, gabbing and working up a hunger for what’s on the grill. Here’s my Texas Martini recipe you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoy!

Texas Martini

The first time we toured through Austin, we played at the Continental Club on South Congress. After loading in and sound checking, we headed across the street to Guero’s Taco Bar, where we ate some of the best tacos al pastor any of us had had in some time. We washed our tacos down with Guero’s tasty Mexican Martinis, and once we got home, I made up a version of my own. Now that we live in Austin, we make this any time guests stop by. It’s a real Texas thirst quencher!

3 oz limeade (or 1 &1/2 oz lime juice with 1 1/2 oz simple syrup)

3-4 cubes ice

1 1/2 oz tequila

1/2 oz dry vermouth

3/4 oz triple sec (or Cointreau or any orange liqueur)

1 stuffed olive of some kind (jalapeno stuffed olives are yummy)

1/4 lime

a dash of the olive juice from the jar

  • Place the ice cubes in a glass. Add your limeade or lime juice and simple syrup. Add tequila, vermouth, triple sec, and a dash of olive juice. Stir to coat ice cubes. Add olive and squeeze in the 1/4 lime. Sit on the back porch and enjoy.

If you like down-home cooking and relaxed entertaining on your own back porch, then you should enjoy this recipe for a long time to come. My whole goal in writing about food is to give you a little push: to kick-start your own imagination and taste buds- and encourage you to head down to your local Farmer’s Market and set you on the road to filling your personal recipe tin with your own tried and true well-loved dishes. Now, let’s quit jawin’ and get down to cookin’!

Ruby Dee, from Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers, brings many years various life experiences along for the ride. Ruby grew up traveling back and forth from Northern California foothill ranches to the cotton and oil fields of the Texas panhandle. She enrolled in college at 15, and dropped out to hit the streets as a punk. Later, she spent years fishing in Alaska, driving big rigs, and owning restaurants in Seattle, Washington, until she finally gave all that up to settle down back in Texas, where she is at long last furthering her career as a writer and singer/songwriter. These experiences are reflected in Ruby’s writing style, and in the band’s hopped up high-octane successes on stage and on the road.

Ruby’s latest release, “Live From Austin Texas”, out on Dionysus Records, is currently rising on the AMA and Texas Third Coast Music charts. And her cookbook, “Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook”, will be out in stores on November 1st, and includes a CD of music to cook by, including original songs by Marti Brom, Two Hoots and a Holler, Lloyd Tripp, Teri Joyce, Earl Poole Ball, and others (and Ruby, of course!).

For more information on Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook, or to contact the author, go to www.rubysjukejoint.com. Also, of course, all the usual suspect places: Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Rubys-Juke-Joint-Americana-Cookbook/183336818364780 and Twitter at @rubysjukejoint. Catch ya in the kitchen!

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Posted on September 10, 2011, in Cooking & Food. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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