San Francisco | May 7, 2021 3:08 pm

A Very Delicious, Very California Take on Ribs for Your Next Cookout

Valerie Rice delivers a decidedly upscale take on a comfort food classic

Ribs with nasturtium gremolata
Ribs with nasturtium gremolata
Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden

Sometimes you want that kind of hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare — possibly by eating actual ribs. 

We come from a family of men who preferred their ribs slathered in sauce and purchased in establishments best described as holes-in-the-wall. (If the ribs are only available on Thursdays and Fridays, and only with a secret knock at a grocery store’s side door, even better.) 

There are, however, different ways of eating ribs — ways that might involve the citrusy stylings supplied by grated orange and lemon zest. For an updated take on the comfort-food classic, we reached out to Santa Barbara-based chef Valerie Rice, author of the new seasonal California cookbook/Bible Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden (Prospect Park Books).

For that fancy-factor, you’ll want to corral edible nasturtiums: “I take any opportunity to use nasturtiums when they hit the scene in spring,” Rice says. “They are delicious in the gremolata, but if you don’t have them on hand, substitute with arugula. Or skip the gremolata altogether and just serve the ribs with a side of barbecue sauce.” 

Below, Rice’s recipe in full for one of the most decadent racks of ribs you’ll ever lay on the table.

Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden
Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden
Prospect Park Books

Nasturtium Gremolata

  • ½ cup (packed) nasturtium leaves and flowers, finely chopped 
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (from 1 small orange)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 small lemon)
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


  • 2 racks pork baby back ribs
  • 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon dried Aleppo pepper or chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon sumac 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pat the ribs dry with clean towels (paper or cloth) and season both sides of the meat with 1 tablespoon salt. Mix cumin, Aleppo, sumac, pepper, and paprika in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs. Cook the hell out of them for 45 minutes. The result will be tender meat and crispy skin. 

Sprinkle ribs with gremolata. Serve with barbecue sauce, if desired.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

  • Makes about 1 ½ cups
  • ¼ cup ketchup 
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
  • 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix ketchup, honey, mustard, Sriracha, soy sauce, molasses, vinegar, and paprika in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Serves 4-6.