Tag Archives: meatballs

Best Ever Italian Wedding Soup

10 Dec

You don’t need a wedding invitation to tuck into this soup, quite possibly the best Marianne and I have ever made on our Sunday night cooking projects. And that’s saying something, as we have made some kicking soups (escarole and lentil in particular). Regular readers know that my friend Marianne and I like to cook big on Sundays, not to eat at the moment, but to pack up for weekday work lunches. We couldn’t agree on what to make — she wanted white chili and I wanted minestrone — but the fact that I had a bunch of chopped meat and both I and her husband, Ted, had rich turkey stock from our respective Thanksgiving roasts decided it for us.

Tiny little meatballs packed with cheesy-herby flavor....

Tiny little meatballs packed with cheesy-herby flavor….

The stock is everything in a good soup, which is why I try to always have some homemade stuff on hand. Please, please, please…next time you roast a bird (or get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket), simmer those bones with some onion, garlic (unpeeled), herbs, maybe a carrot or a stalk of celery, and a few peppercorns for a couple of hours and strain yourself some stock (freezes well). The commercial stuff is too salty and just can’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Italian wedding soup , as far as I can determine, is an Italian-American favorite, based perhaps on a minestra maritata that dates back to Spanish-controlled parts of Italy (Lazio and Campania) and Toledo. The maritata part refers to how well the flavors marry together, not how the soup will fortify newlyweds for the tasks at hand.

Simmering away merrily on a Sunday night

Simmering away merrily on a Sunday night

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Cocktail Meatballs (Fry for Now or Bake for Later)

8 Sep

The school year has started for me (for those who don’t know, in my other life I am a college professor of English as a Second Language) and will start for my FIRST-GRADER (!?!) on Monday.

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I like to start the semester with the first two weeks of my lesson plans prepped, photocopies made and ready-to-go, and….my freezer full of home-made dishes that I can pull out in a heartbeat and serve with an easy starch and a steamed vegetable. The older my son gets, the more activities we have outside school, and the harder it gets for me to get to the gym. When dinner’s already ready, I am more relaxed and have fewer excuses to keep me from the treadmill.

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things...

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things…

Meatballs are one of our favorites. If you bake them, you can freeze them. Then, you have loads of options, Drop them in tomato sauce to defrost and make delicious pasta gravy. Just heat them up and serve with rice or buttered noodles or pesto. Make a meatball hero. Serve to unexpected guests with toothpicks as an attractive appetizer. Yes, meatballs in the freezer make life much easier. So here they are, simple to make (the little guy helps with the smashing and meatball making) and yet very, very tasty.

Fry-babies

Fry-babies

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Albóndigas Variation (Meatballs: Eat some now, freeze some for later)

28 Jun

You would think that I came from hunger.

I stockpile like a squirrel in autumn. (And like squirrels, I sometimes forget where the hell I stockpiled my treasures, but that is another matter for a day when we are discussing organization. Today, we are not). I don’t feel safe unless there are plenty of foodstuffs laid by, whether for unexpected guests, an emergency supper,  the coming of The Apocalypse, or the nuclear winter. I’m a Cold War baby and that’s how I roll.

Sauté onion and garlic in a saucepan, drop in frozen meatballs and a tin of crushed tomatoes with your preferred herbs and spices and in 20 minutes of lively simmer – gorgeous sauce for spaghetti and meatballs!

There’s nothing I like more than a pantry full of stuff with which to make meals, except a freezer full of stuff that is already made (by me, of course, because the supermarket has freezers full of simulated-food garbage I won’t pay for, cause it’s  simulated food garbage I won’t eat).

To freeze, place cooled meatballs in a freezer bag. Lay the bag flat on a plate and stick in freezer so the meatballs don’t freeze stuck together. When completely frozen through, remove plate, shake the bag to unstick meatballs, squeeze air out, and leave bag in freezer. Use within three months (or before freezer burn sets in!)

Thus, this meatball recipe – a variation on my dad’s excellent meatballs. We call them albóndigas and like to make them neutrally flavored for freezing, so that whatever the occasion you can drop them in an Italian-style tomato sauce, serve them with buttered noodles, make a meatball sandwich, stick them with toothpicks and call them hors d’oeuvres, do whatever, adding your favorite seasonings later.

Cheese, please!

Use some hot off the stove, and freeze the rest. You never know when they will save your life….

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

Albóndigas (Variation on Pedro’s Albóndigas)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 generous Cup onion, chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Cup mixed fresh herbs (or 4 Tbs dry), such as basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, parsley

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp salt

3 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1lb of pork for 1lb of beef)

2 whole eggs (optional)

1 cup breadcrumbs (plain, or seasoned with similar herbs to those you chose above)

Whir garlic, onions, olive oil and parsley in a blender or food processor until minced fine. Add herbs, Old Bay, and salt and pulse a few times until it forms a paste.

In a large bowl place meat, seasoning paste, optional eggs, roasted red pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well so that breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Using your hands, roll into balls about 1.5 inches across. You can dip your hands in water to keep from sticking.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in heavy skillet at medium heat until the oil flows like water and a meatball dipped in it sizzles softly. Fry several at a time (use tongs to turn quickly) browning on all sides, then lower to medium low and cook for about six minutes, shaking the pan and turning meatballs occasionally. When they are cooked through, cool on paper towels. Can be frozen for three months in an airtight container.

Buying a New Car and Cheesy Savoury Meatballs: a tenuous relationship

10 Mar

I bought a car today. Apparently people think congratulations are in order, but I feel a bit more like puking than celebrating.

I find these big purchases that require loans from the bank are among the most stressful of stressful things, right up there with realizing, as you are halfway down the aisle with your ivory Nicole Miller silk shantung dress, white knuckling your dad’s forearm under a beachfront palapa in the Dominican Republic, that you really shouldn’t marry this person; or signing a mortgage in a fancy San Juan neighborhood that you are terrified of not being able to keep up with; leaning over for your epidural as you are about to become a single mother by choice and realizing you’ve never even changed a diaper…you know, life-changing, oh shit, what have I got myself into moments, irreversible, irrevocable, the type that you can’t later walk away from with a shrug and an “Oh well, that didn’t quite work out as I’d planned, let’s go out for a cocktail.”

That’s how I feel about buying a car. It’s worse now that I have that baby (I am a diaper-changing expert now, but don’t ask me to do it because we are DONE with that).  He is almost five now and barely lets me complete a thought, much less a major financial transaction. But, I did what I could, and picked out the make and model I wanted, and went through the no-haggle credit union thing, and found the right vehicle and test drove it, and decided it was the one. Then I filled out the papers, had my sticker shock and signed anyway, with my heart and breath stuck high in my throat.

I was almost done.

It must be five o'clock somewhere (Lorraine's pina coladas would be very handy right now)

Then the saleswoman just wouldn’t quit trying to sell me other stupid insurance-type shit to protect me from all sorts of dire consequences of all the things that could happen to my car that I wouldn’t be able to afford to fix if I didn’t have the insurance (didn’t I just buy the damn thing because it was supposed to be reliable?) and I asked her to please stop, but of course she didn’t. So didn’t I just turn into a puddle right in that stupid office?

Yes I cried, much to the astonishment of the saleswoman (not to me; I felt it coming a mile off), but at least she sort of stopped with the sales pitch in her frantic search for a tissue and I was able to collect myself, get out of there and go pick up Leandro at his friend’s house where I was fortunate enough to be able to leave him for a couple of hours.

All of this is apropos of nothing, except that when we got home Leandro suddenly began to feel a cold coming on, so instead of going to our single mom’s meet-up which we were both really looking forward to and where I was going to tell my tale of woe to a sympathetic audience and then have a nice dinner with Pam and her kids, we stayed home and so now I am telling my tale of woe to you.

That feels much better, thank you.

If you have gotten this far, it is actually a beautiful 2008 Honda CRV in a Royal Blue Pearl, with a gray interior, with about 26,000 miles on it, perfect for our active, outdoor lives, so the car is exactly what I wanted. Now I just need some help to pick it up on Monday…

As far as the food tie-in, well this is going to be  the lamest transition I will ever write in my life. It is bad, really bad, but hopefully I will never ever ever write another one as awful. So, with my apologies, here goes….

Since I am limp from the emotional wringer of car buying and loan-signing, I don’t feel like making dinner. In the freezer I have these delicious meatballs, which I made with my cousin, Lorraine, a couple of weeks ago (to be honest, she did most of the making while I sorted out my son for bed) and I am very likely going to throw them in tomato sauce over spaghetti for a hearty, comforting dish. And then, from here on in, it will be beans, beans, beans, until I can reasonably fit a new car payment into my sad little budget.

I hope you love them!

Cheesy and Savory Meatballs

2 ¼ Cup plain breadcrumbs

1.5 Cup buttermilk

1.5 tsp unflavored gelatin

3 Tbs water

2.5 lbs lean ground beef and 1 lb ground veal or pork (or a 3-3.5 lb meatloaf mix)

1 Cup very finely minced cooked ham

1 oz (about ½ Cup) Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano

3 large eggs

6 Tbs minced parsley

6 cloves garlic, minced fine

1.5 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Put oven racks to lower-middle and upper middle racks and pre-heat to 450°F. Set wire racks or slotted oven rack on 2 rimmed baking sheets covered in foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.

Mix buttermilk and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and let sit until a smooth paste forms (about 10 minutes. You can stir and mash occasionally during the ten minutes. Meanwhile, put water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow to soften for five minutes.

Mix meat, ham, eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and gelatin into breadcrumb mixture using hands. Pinch off and roll mixture into 2-inch meatballs (makes 48 or more) and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Bake until well-browned, about 30 (if you plan on cooking them further in a sauce)  or 40 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Manning Up to Meatballs

24 Jan

I have been very sneaky about meatballs lately.

I have a secret (until now) fear of attempting meatballs and having them fall apart when I fry them. I love fried foods, but hate frying. I never get it right!

But my son loves meatballs (we call them albóndigas), they reheat well, are convenient for lunches, and keep frozen for ages. And then of course, I prefer him (and me) to eat homemade everything. So I resort to manipulation.

I get the meat (3lbs organic ground beef) and then tell my dad I need his help to do meatballs because I want to learn his recipes and techniques (which is true), because he makes the best meatballs in the world (also true), and because with my son vying for my attention all the time, it is hard for me to get such a project done all by myself (also true).

Then, my dad – who has always been the kind of father who would start helping with your science project and end up constructing a windmill of Frank Lloyd Wright-worthy grace, proportion and utility while you sat idly watching over his shoulder, without getting a chance even to drive a nail – well, he takes over the meatball-making process, so by the time he is heating the oil, I am either making a salad, doing dishes or otherwise safe from the dreaded frying process.

This time, however, there was thawed meat that needed cooking, no dad to call on for assistance and too much seasoned ground beef already stocked in the freezer to make switching gears a viable escape route. It was a snow day and Leandro was occupied with visiting friends. So, I had to face my fear and man up. It was time to make some meatballs.

And meatballs I made using the recipe I have been writing down and editing everytime I watch my dad make them. He is getting used to using measuring instruments instead of just eyeballing the ingredients so I get an accurate measure.

The frying went fine, once I traded in the spatula and began using my beloved tongs to turn the meatballs frequently while browning. Are they as good as my dad’s? Well no, not yet. Next time I think I will leave out the oil in the seasoning paste and I still have to work on my rolling and frying for a firmer, more evenly cooked result. But I have busted through the fear that was preventing me from trying and flavorwise they are outstanding. Really, really good. As Leandro said when he ate them (reheated) for dinner tonight, “These meatballs rock in my tummy, Mommy!”

Pedro’s Albóndigas

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 Cup onion, chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Cup flat fresh parsley (stems removed) or 1 Tbs dry

¼ 1 tsp chile powder

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp salt

3 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1lb of pork for 1lb of beef)

2 whole eggs (optional)

1 cup breadcrumbs (plain or seasoned)

Whir garlic, onions, olive oil and parsley in a blender or food processor until minced fine. Add chile powder, Old Bay and salt and pulse a few times until it forms a paste.

In a large bowl place meat, seasoning paste, optional eggs, and bread crumbs. Mix well so that breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Using your hands, roll into balls about 1.5 inches across. You can dip your hands in water to keep from sticking.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in heavy skillet at medium heat until the oil flows like water and a meatball dipped in it sizzles softly. Fry several at a time (use tongs to turn quickly) browning on all sides, then lower to medium low and cook for about six minutes, shaking the pan and turning meatballs occasionally. When they are cooked through, cool on paper towels. Can be frozen for three months in an airtight container.

 

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