The Fourth of July brings out the best in our community. We celebrate Independence Day by getting together with our neighbors, family and friends. The celebrations begin in the morning with a 5k/10k run. Then there’s a parade down Sunset at midday and an early evening picnic, and the day concludes with nighttime fireworks at the high school.

To prepare for the picnic, we shop at the local farmers market, buying as many fresh vegetables and fruits as we can carry and get the ribs ready the day before. On the 4th we spend the day cooking for the potluck picnic we organize with a dozen of our friends. So we’ll have a good spot to watch the fireworks, we meet at 6:30 p.m. at the park opposite the high school. We look forward to the picnic because we can catch up with our friends. Even though the picnic is potluck, we make extra just in case.

By 9 p.m., cars are double-parked on both sides of the street and people have crowded into the park, taking up every square inch of space. Everyone is ready for the fireworks to begin. In the cool night air, we bundle up and pull closer together. Only when all traces of the departing sun have been drained from the sky will the fireworks begin.

And when they do, they are a treat. From the first high-streaking skyrocket that bursts into a hundred points of light to the last crescendo of a dozen overlapping explosions, the crowd oohs and aahs. With the last firework dying in the sky, we get up slowly, feeling the dampness of the ground, hug and kiss our friends goodbye, and make our way back to our cars through the haze of smoke still hanging in the air. However, the day would not be complete without these deliciously fatty, sweet pork ribs.

Brown Sugar Pork Ribs

1 rack of pork ribs

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 pound brown sugar

1/8 cup kosher salt

1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped

Olive oil


6 ounces Italian tomato paste

Trim excess fat, the membrane, and flap from the ribs. You can reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos.

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter, 5 inches longer than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cayenne. Mix together the brown sugar and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then cover with the rest of the dry mix. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, seal, fold in half and place into a Ziploc or plastic bag. Refrigerate in a pan overnight.

In the morning remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry, a semiliquid mixture. In a sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned, season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Use a rubber spatula to remove most of the liquid from the ribs and plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. Add the tomato paste and simmer the sauce on a low flame for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor, if necessary.

Line a large baking tray with tin foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray, then lay the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350-degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high. Cook the ribs 30 minutes on each side, then baste the ribs with the sauce another 30 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve. Serves 4.

Per serving: 570 calories; 25 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 66 g carbohydrates; 61 g sugar; 85 mg cholesterol; 3,370 mg sodium; 23 g protein; 2 g fiber.

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