PA Eating: All-American Grill-Out

We’re sneaking up on the next big summer holiday (hello, fireworks!), and I’ll be returning to Pennsylvania once again for a swimming-and-cooking extravaganza with my family. I just realized I neglected to share the final installment of our kitchen adventures from my last visit, and you don’t want to miss any of these recipes. They’re delicious and easy, perfect for summery cave people. You can find my other Pennsylvania recipe recaps here and here.

Speaking of… here are two of my favorite grok-ians now, posing with our feast. That’s my dad (a.k.a., Sky Guy) and my niece Pepper… with cucumber salad, fennel slaw with mint, cabbage and bacon sauté, and slow-grilled baby back ribs.

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Easiest EVER Baby Back Ribs

No sauce, no fuss… just delicious, tender, meaty flavor.

  • rack of baby back ribs

  • salt

  • pepper

  • garlic powder

  • whatever other spices you want to throw in there


Heat gas grill on high heat until very hot. approximately 10-15 minutes.


Sprinkle ribs generously with the seasonings, patting the spices into the meat with your hands. Make sure the ribs feel loved; this will make them tender. (You know, I generally like tons of spices on just about everything, but my dad seasoned the ribs with the three basics (salt-pepper-garlic) and they were excellent just like that. You do what you like.)


Place the foil-wrapped ribs on the grill and close the lid. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and forget about the ribs for roughly two hours. Seriously. Don’t lift the lid of the grill. Don’t disturb the foil packets. Just let those little piggies roast.


When the time is up, let the ribs rest in the foil for about 15 minutes, then unwrap and cut. Pick up with greedy fingers and gnaw.

dotted lineRoni’s Cucumber Salad

My mom’s been making this cucumber salad FOREVER, and because of that, it tastes like summer to me. There’s no real recipe – just a list of ingredients and your taste buds. Be bold! You can do it.

  • cucumbers, sliced thin (half moons!)

  • white onion, sliced thin (again with the half moons)

  • fresh parsley, chopped

  • homemade mayo

  • salt, pepper, garlic powder

  • splash of vinegar (not technically paleo, may be replaced with lemon juice)


Place cucumber, onion, and parsley in a bowl.


Add mayo. Begin conservatively – I put in about a 1/3 cup to start. Stir gently and add more mayo gradually until the cucumber slices are lightly coated.


Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir and taste. Trust yourself – this is the art part. You can do it! 

This is another of my mom’s creations, so no defined recipe. But easy ingredients and technique.

If it’s too acidic, add a little more mayo.
If it tastes flat, add a little more salt.
Consider more parsley.

This salad doesn’t hold up super great; the dressing gets too thin after about 24 hours. If I make this for dinner one night, I try to eat the remainder for lunch or dinner the next day. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it’s so easy to make a one-person serving: one cucumber, a little piece of onion, a spoonful of mayo, and you’re in business.

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Smokey Cabbage Sauté

  • head of green cabbage, sliced thin-ish

  • one white onion, sliced into thin half moons

  • a few strips of sugar-free bacon

  • coconut oil

  • salt, pepper, garlic powder


Cook the bacon: Cook in a pre-heated pan, then drain most of the fat from the pan and use the remaining drippings to cook the onions. When the bacon is the way you like it, set it aside and move onto the onions.


Sauté the onions: Cook the onions in the hot pan until very soft and beginning to get nice brown spots.


Chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces and return to the pan.


Add the cabbage: Put the sliced cabbage into the pan, put a lid on it (PUT A LID ON IT!), and let the cabbage steam for a few minutes… like, maybe 3-4. Remove the lid, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir-fry vigorously.


Check for shininess: This dish tastes best when there’s a reasonable amount of fat in it. If there’s not enough, the cabbage will steam, not fry. Find your personal balance between way-too-greasy and way-too-bland but checking for shininess. There should be a slight sheen on the veggies and they should be getting caramelized. If they’re not a little shimmery, add another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Against, trust yourself and your tastebuds.


Check the seasonings again: Give it a taste test to see if it needs more salt, pepper, or garlic powder. Salt content should always be checked mid-way through cooking and close to the end to get seasoning balance right.

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  • girlblake says:

    Those baby backs look delish! As does everything else, of course. I can actually make these ribs for W because they're nightshade-free! I smell some grilling in my future…

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Awesome! Be sure to let me know if you try them!

  • Melissa says:

    Holy Yumness! I've been trying to get more veggies in and you know this is the place I come for recipes.

  • Lydia says:

    That fennel salad looks amazing. Yay for cool summer vegetable options!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hi, Melissa! Now is such a great time for veggies. The cabbage is SO yummy.

    Lydia, try the fennel salad and lemme know what you think. I liked it, but I wanted a touch my zing. Maybe I should've added more salt or something. Anyway… send thoughts if you've got 'em.

  • AllieNic says:

    The cabbage saute looks SO tasty! I have a weakness for all things bacon…

  • Lydia says:


    I'm going to see if there's fennel at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. If there is, I'll report back!

  • Erin says:

    Wow, these all look AMAZING – I look forward to trying each of these!

    Quick question – how many days do you think homemade mayo would last in the fridge?

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Homemade mayo will last 1-2 weeks after the expiration date on the egg you used to make it. I either write on the container with a Sharpie or put a note on my calendar when it's time to toss it. You'll be able to tell from the smell and a tiny taste if it's still good.

  • shopannies says:

    sounds delicious

  • Diana says:

    This looks awesome. Do you have any directions to cook the ribs in the oven….we only have a charcoal grill and I don't think I can keep the grill hot that long. Hope you have had a lovely weekend!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Diana! I think you can totally do the ribs in the oven. I'm making this up, but I think it will work. Brown the rack of ribs on your charcoal grill, then wrap in foil and roast in a 325F oven for 2-3 hours. If you try it, write back and let me know how they come out. I've used this grill-oven technique for pork shoulder, and it works great, so I'm pretty confident it will work for the ribs.

  • Brooke says:

    Do you spray the foil with cooking spray?

    • Mel says:

      No cooking spray necessary — ribs are generally fatty enough to avoid sticking issues. And most cooking spray includes non-natural ingredients that make me shy away from it.

  • PambelaB says:

    I agree that the fennel slaw could use some zing. It looked oily so I added chopped celery to bulk it up. Maybe next time I’ll add more fresh mint, garlic, lemon zest (I can see a lot more zesting now that I have a microplaner!) and maybe paleo mayo instead of oil? I made the cucumber salad using fresh dill rather than parsley. LOVED.

  • Heather says:

    I made the smoke cabbage saute tonight and it is SO GOOD! I am happy to have leftovers to bring this week to work. I love how I feel when I eat paleo and I love that the recipes you share are delicious. Thanks!