Barbecued “Ribs”

I don’t ordinarily think of myself as having any “signature” dishes because I like to try new things so often; in fact, I’m the type of person who will host a dinner party and serve all-new, completely untested or totally made-up recipes. I’m daring like that. But I guess if I were forced to pick a recipe that I’m known for, UnRibs would be one of the top dishes. (Spicy Tofu is another.) But just because the UnRibs are everyone’s favorite (including mine and Mark’s), that doesn’t mean I don’t try other “rib” recipes from time to time, so when I was flipping through some of my “neglected” cookbooks today, it’s not surprising that I decided to make the Barbecued “Ribs” from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook. And although I usually improvise barbecue sauce, I made her smoky chipolte barbecue sauce as well, because Bryanna said it was good and Bryanna is almost always right.

Barbecued “Ribs”
From Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook

Baked Gluten Balls

2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten (I just used one box, which is just about 2 1/2 cups)
2 cups cold water

Smoky Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
(I cut this recipe in half from the original and it made plenty; follows are the halved measurements.)

1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlrc, minced or pressed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you’ve crushed in a blender or food processor)
1/2 cup brown sugar or Sucanat (or turbinado sugar with 2 Tbsp molasses)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chipolte chiles in adobado sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

I got the barbecue sauce cooking first. As it’s an almost-fat-free cookbook, Bryanna suggests “steam frying” the onions and garlic, but I just put a little olive oil in the pot and sauted as usual.

While the onions were cooking, I measured all of the other ingredients into my new Fire King batter bowl: another cheap find due to a chip in the rim.

When the onions are soft …

… add the remaining ingredients to the pot, bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for half an hour.

While the sauce is cooking, place the vital wheat gluten and water in a medium bowl.

Mix until the vital wheat gluten is entirely incorporated and it looks like a brain.

Bryanna says to cut the gluten into eight dozen pieces, so using a bench knife I cut it into four pieces …

… then eight …

… then each eighth into eight to twelve pieces, not worrying too much about ending up with exactly 96 pieces, but rather mostly same-size pieces.

I placed them on two half-sheet pans.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. I put mine much closer together than the “couple of inches” apart Bryanna recommended, so I just used kitchen shears to snip them apart where they had merged.

Most of the puffs will deflate almost immediately after removing from the oven.

When the barbecue sauce has cooked down a bit …

… puree it with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.

Because I have my oven set up in such a way for bread baking that unless I start moving a lot of very heavy (and very hot if I’ve preheated it) items (a huge baking stone and a large cast iron pan I use for steaming), I essentially only have one baking shelf, I moved half of my gluten balls to a smaller, glass baking dish so I could stick it in side-by-side on the same shelf as my brussels sprouts:

I don’t recommend doing this though. Leave ’em on the baking sheet so they are spread out and can get a little crispy when you bake them again. Cover with some of the sauce, but not this much:

They were sort of drowning. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

I couldn’t resist taking photos of the balsamic-roasted brussels sprouts I made to accompany the ribs:

Serve! In addition to the brussels sprouts, I also made the Potato and Green Bean Salad that was on the page right after the Barbecued “Ribs” (although it was for a different holiday).

As Bryanna suggested, I decided to freeze half of the gluten balls for another day. I also froze the rest of the barbecue sauce, so now I have a super easy, super fast dinner waiting for me after some future long day at work.

I got some comments that people were missing the cats lately. They’ve been extra lazy lately and have been sleeping through dinner preparations, so I went hunting for them before downloading the pictures from my camera. I found Tigger on my reading chair; he was startled by my appearance.

But he quickly went back to sleep.

The Toonse was hangin’ out by the “water cooler”, one of her favorite spots.

By the way, if your cats are as demanding of fresh water as mine are, they and I both really like the Catit Cat Waterer. I’ve tried a couple other brands of cat fountains and they have all broken after a year or so, and also got clogged up with Brachtune’s long fur very quickly. I’m not entirely sure why Toonsey’s fur doesn’t get in the Catit fountain, but this thing stays amazingly clean, and Brachtune is ALWAYS hanging around it. She never paid much attention the previous fountains, but she loves this one; I think perhaps because she gets to lick plastic without me yelling at her. (They can either lick the dome, which has a thin film of water running down all over it, or drink out of the basin it flows into.) Tigger still demands that we turn the kitchen or bathroom faucet on for him (RIGHT NOW! I DON’T CARE IF IT’S 4 A.M.! WAKE UP AND TURN THE FAUCET ON, STUPID HUMANS!), but I guess he’s always going to be a special needs cat.

Here’s a more complete view of the fountain:

And that’s it for tonight! I’m going to be attempting to make homemade sauerkraut this week – too late to have it ready by Thanksgiving, unfortunately, but I’ve been wanting to try it for a while. I made pretzels for the first time yesterday and they turned out well; I’ll do a tutorial next time I make them. (This paragraph brought to you by the German part of my heritage.)


  1. Jes Said,

    November 24, 2008 @ 10:15 am

    Mmm unribs! I made something like that a week ago and was in heaven–I’ll have to try your recipe!

  2. Cindy Said,

    November 24, 2008 @ 10:36 am

    I love Susan V’s Ribz and make them practically on a weekly basis, but perhaps it’s time to branch out.

    Thanks for the info about the cat fountain, I’ve never seen one before. I learn something new here everytime!

    Also, I was at MOM’s yesterday and they dont have Cheezly, only Sheese. Sorry for the false report.

  3. renae Said,

    November 24, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    I actually like SusanV’s recipe more than this one, but this one wins points for being extraordinarily quick and easy to make.

    Cindy, thanks for the MOM’s Cheezly status. At least I know Sheese is a half-hour drive away if I’m ever desperate!

  4. Barbara Said,

    November 25, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

    I made these tonight with garliky pasta and broccoli and freak’n loved them. I am not a fan of Susan V’s ribs so I was a bit worried about these but they are delicious. Thanks for posting the recipe!!!

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