Charles Siskin: Balsamic BBQ Sauce Perfect For 4th Of July Cookout

Monday, July 2, 2012 - by Charles Siskin
- photo by Charles Siskin

Normally at this time of the year we would be receiving our annual phone call from our “adopted” son, Eddie.  He lives over in Dayton, just above Chattanooga, and has been part of our family for over two decades. 

 He traditionally visits us here at the beach just before 4th of July ever year.  His arrival is met with much anticipation by my wife who always has an “Eddie to-do-list”.

Eddie is a genius when it comes to little things like (drum roll please) replacing the sink in our kitchen. So who wouldn’t welcome him as a guest in their home?

Eddie is a big strong guy. A fanatical workout person you might call the ultimate gym rat. It might not be fair to single him out except to say he is totally serious about his weights and his supplements. He must be by the looks of him.

He is also serious about food.  Good food and healthy food. What I really like is his willingness to be adventuresome whenever he dines with us as well.  I try to slip in new grains like quinoa which is fast becoming the new rice for foodies.

But hold onto your bottle of Spring Water because the UN, when not resolving an international crisis –really? - has just announced 2013 will be the Year of the Quinoa.  Are you kidding me?  No really in Central and South America.  Is that not a better reason to visit than the upcoming Olympics in Brazil?

Unfortunately, this year Eddie won’t be coming after all. He has family issues that sadly prevent him from being here. We’ll still have our pre- 4th of July Food Celebration and he will be with us in spirit and I will be cooking on my new infrared natural gas grill.

We had an inaugural cookout several weeks ago or what might be billed as a Baptismal by Fire.  My bride, who bought the grill for me for my birthday, is as protective of it as she is of her grandchildren.  I try to explain that the meaning of grilling is to put the food directly on the grill rather than on top of several sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil inside a large stainless steel baking pan. That is more fortification than at Alcatraz.

Just removing the protective cover is as dramatic an event as was watching Lilly St. Cyr from my school days visiting New Orleans French Quarters. Once in all its naked glory my little honey-bunny grill is a rocking piece of hot metal.  Understandably that happens when all three burners are going.

This year my menu will be graced with a non-traditional balsamic glaze for my baby backs as well as a dressing of honey mustard for my Cole slaw.

 Also appearing on my table will be potato salad made with those miniature yellow gold potatoes that I like to split in half toss in olive oil then grill with onions and peppers then cool off the fire and  add a dice of fresh rosemary and parsley when serving at room temperature.

Don’t forget the beans either. I particularly like a red kidney and white cannoli bean salad. I guess I could throw in some of those blue potatoes that are terribly overpriced at the food market, if I wanted to be super patriotic.  Better yet just plant a small red, white and blue flag in the center of the serving bowl.

As I have noted in the past, we take our folding chairs to the beach just before sunset and wait for the fireworks which from our particular vantage point we can see all the way into Destin.

Sometimes, when we’ve had enough cold beer or wine, we swear we can see over on Panama City Beach to the east of us. Not really, but for tourists who have gathered on the beach it makes a heck of a Fourth of July story to share with the folks back in Indiana or Michigan or Mississippi for that matter.

Happy Holiday. It’s great to have our Independence and be able to celebrate it. Maybe we’ll have our own Year of the Quinoa soon as well.


Barbeque Spare Ribs


You will need enough baby back ribs so that each guest may have 4-6 bones

Salt and pepper or barbeque seasoning to rub down the meat 

2 cups Balsamic Vinegar

1 cup honey

½ cup brown sugar (optional)

1 or more teaspoons Cayenne pepper (how spicy you make your sauce is up to you)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

¼ cup soy sauce



I like to rub seasoning into the ribs then place in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for several hours at low temperature -250-275 degrees. The ribs will be tender and go on the grill for a shorter more productive time.

Sometimes I have parboiled the ribs to tenderize them but I think that the slow roasting method is the perfect way to prepare the ribs for the grill.

Prepare your sauce by putting the vinegar in a saucepan and adding the honey, pepper, soy sauce and garlic and since I have a side burner on my new grill I heat my sauce there.

You will need to reduce your sauce by 1/3 or until it has thickened into a nice glaze. Also by having your sauce on a burner alongside the grill it makes applying the glaze to the ribs a true no-brainer.

Remember you don’t want to over cook the ribs; you are just applying the sauce to give the ribs a nice glaze.  If you have any sauce left over bring it to the table.


Honey Mustard Cole Slaw (serves 6)

1 package prepared slaw

1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard or a prepared honey mustard

¼ cup Honey

White balsamic vinegar to taste


Put liquid ingredients in mixing bowl, glass preferably, and whisk together until blended then toss with slaw. Let stand at least a half hour before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. If you think the slaw is dry then you can add more of the ingredients but wait until just before serving because the dressing will cause the cabbage to loose liquid which you might want to drain off as well.

Can be made one day ahead which is even better.



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