Monday, December 20, 2010

Meatballs!

First, I would like to say a big Thank You to all of the people following me on this blog. There are only 16 followers on the actual blog (feel free to add your name to the followers list if you like), but there are others following from other sites such as Twitter, Facebook, 12 Tomatoes and so on from various countries all over the world. It's nice to know there are people following and I hope I am offering good advice and ideas. I welcome any and all feedback (good, bad or indifferent) from anybody out there. I do get feed back, but not a lot. My good friend K in Toronto sends me emails with interesting little tidbits and I am grateful for that. Keep them coming in K!

Second, for all you trivia buffs and to all who hate winter, December 21st is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, meaning it only gets better from here. The days will start to get longer now as the sun will be at it's lowest point in the sky. I love winter as there are a lot of good things coming from snowy weather: Skiing, Christmas, The movies 'Uncle Buck' and 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles" amongst other great movies being played on every second channel for a few days over the holidays, and my most favorite day ever: Little O's first birthday on New Years Day! This Christmas will be our first together as a family. It'll be so much fun.

There will be a lunar eclipse tonight, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it will be the only one on this day for the next 80 years. Take a peek into the sky tonight if you can. I decided to make something round, meatballs, to celebrate the occasion.

Meatballs are something I make once in a while. That's why I try to make them so full of flavour they will be too good to eat all of the time. Every Italians mother or grandmother has some kind of meatball recipe they have passed on to someone in their family for generations. This is one I will pass on to little O when I force her to start cooking on her own.

I have tried about 20 different types of meatball recipes, and I believe this one is the best one I have made. I'm still tweaking it a little, but not a lot as it's pretty tasty right now.

Ingredients

- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1 lb (.45 kg) lean or extra lean ground beef
- 1 lb (.45 kg) ground pork
- 1/2 lb (.23 kg) veal. If you can't find veal (or don't want to afford it), just use 1 1/4 lb (.57 kg) of both beef and pork instead. 
- 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs. Use fresh bread and chop it up in a mini chopper if you can. 
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Use as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. 
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper
- EVOO
- Tomato sauce, enough to cover all or at least up to half of the meatballs when cooking them in a pot or saute pan.

Directions

1. Place the stock, onion, garlic, and parsley in a blender or food processor and puree.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pureed stock mix, meat, bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and salt.
3. Combine with hands until mixture is uniform, do not overmix.


4. Put a little olive oil on your hands and form mixture into balls a little bit larger than the size of golf balls. If you want bigger ones to use as a meal on their own, make them double the size.
5. Preheat oven to 425F (220C) and place baking sheet(s) in the oven to preheat as well.
6. When oven is ready, take the sheet out and place the meatballs on it. You should hear a sizzling sound at this point. Put back in oven to cook for 30-35 minutes or until the temperature in the middle of the meatballs reach 140F. You can grease the pan if you like, but this only adds more fat and the balls should have enough already to aid in them not sticking. Using a Silpat is a good idea as well and so is using a good quality baking sheet. If the sheet is hot enough, they shouldn't stick anyways.


7. While meatballs are in the oven, heat the tomato sauce in a large pot or saute pan.
8. Transfer the meatballs to the pot with the tomato sauce and simmer for one hour.


9. Serve alone or over pasta.



Yield: About 18-20 meatballs

By the way, I made a bigger batch than what this recipe says, so that is why there are so many in the pictures. I almost always serve this with spaghetti, but also like to eat them alone with sauce over top.
I have also cooked these by frying them in olive oil to and it takes about 15 minutes to brown them. Just make sure to move them around to brown on two sides. If you're going to try it this way, you will need enough oil to come up about an inch from the bottom of the pan. This is a very good way to do it, but I'm trying to keep the fat down here, so in the oven they go. If you like them to be browned before going in the sauce, doing it in the pan is best. They will brown a little in the oven, but not a lot.

One little hint is to use a bigger bowl than you need as to accommodate the meat moving around. When rolling the meat into balls, try to use one hand to roll them and the other to do anything you need to do with a clean hand. It's not always easy, but it works. It's nice to make meatballs and not kill anybody with ecoli or any other food-borne illness. Also, don't be worried when making these meatballs if it seems there is too much liquid to hold them together. It works fine and the meatballs stay together, just be careful with them and handle them gently. You can try to add 3/4 of the stock mixture first to see if the meat isn't too wet, but you may overmix the meat. Just be careful and do what you are comfortable with. If they are too wet, add a little more breadcrumbs.

Little O's Menu

This week, we had O eating whole organic raspberries. She really gets into these. At first she makes a funny face as they can be a little tart, but she keeps on chewing. I baked off 6 organic sweet potatoes this week for her as well. These are a big hit and never fail to please. We mix the pieces up with some green beans from Grandma's garden and maybe a few little chunks of steamed broccoli or asparagus along with a little EVOO, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. She now likes to eat them all by hand and it gets a little messy, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, or in this case that's how the sweet potato gets mushed all over the place.

For breakfast or a little snack, for the past month she has been eating mini croissants we get from Costco. She loves these and they are helping her keep up the fat content in her diet. Just have to be careful. As we all know they are full of butter. This is good to help fatten her up, but too much butter means she may have to have angioplasty by the time she is 6. Keeping our eyes on that one.

Mrs. Urban Eater and I have gone back to eating the yogurt, organic granola and berry thing for breakfast again. I usually pour a little flax oil over top as well. You have to be careful about flax oil as it is a natural laxative, so wade into those waters very carefully! We are still working towards the smoothie again as well, but at least we are ingesting lots of berries this way instead for now. Loaded with antioxidants, berries are healthy anyway you can get them in your stomach, liquefied or whole.


For snacks, I made a baking sheet full of 70% dark chocolate and roasted almonds. The Greeks call this Anomala. Usually, you make them into individual pieces, but I made it into bark instead, meaning pour everything onto a baking sheet, let it cool and break it up into pieces.

Here's the directions:

Roast whole almonds in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 350F. Take out when done and let cool. Remember they will keep cooking as they sit, so stir them around a little to help cool them off. Break up the chocolate into small pieces so they will melt faster. You can temper the chocolate if you like to keep it from turning white in places, but I chose not to. Put the chocolate into a double boiler set-up. I used a glass bowl over top of a sauce pot. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl directly as the chocolate will melt easily by residual heat from the steam. Stir until chocolate is melted and add the almonds. Stir again and pour over a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Let cool and break into pieces. Almonds are a very healthy addition to everyones diet as they are high in manganese, vitamin E and magnesium, just to name a few of the good things in them (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20). Dark chocolate is also good for you as it is full of antioxidants, which is what you want to in your diet (http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm). All around, it's a good, healthy way to have a snack.


My camera ran out of juice as I was making this so my apologies for not having more. Here is the finished product as it sits in a Tupperware container just out of the fridge. A real Hallmark moment, but it tastes soooo good no matter how the picture looks.

 I went with Lindt 70% cacao this time. Be careful as to not buy cheap chocolate. Buying a good quality chocolate is important, especially when it is one of the key ingredients. On the other hand, you don't want it costing you $5.00/100g to make either. Also, try to use equal amounts of each when making this. 500g of one ingredient equals 500g of the other.

Today's quote:

"Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti."
- Jim Davis, American actor, 1915-1981.

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

No comments: