spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Spagetti and meatballs, familystyle

I experience New Year’s Day with mixed emotion. As much as I love holding a new calendar fresh with possibilities for the year ahead, at the same time my head is spinning trying to process the one that just sped by, seemingly faster every time. What’s up with that?

I can only think it’s what happens when we’re living a full life – each day a series of events that unfolds onto the next. But in the middle of the daily process of work and school; relationships with family, friends, dog…it becomes like a monotonous ride. Some mornings I feel like a character in Groundhog Day.

Italian parsley and Parmigiano cheese

spaghetti

Which is why I’m grateful for the few weeks in December when I can make a plan to unplug; to spend time to nourish myself and my family, with things like mornings without an alarm clock and a schedule with absolutely nothing on it.

And food, of course. There aren’t many things that connect us like time shared around the table, especially when a large platter of spaghetti and meatballs is sitting on top of it.

I’ve shared my personal attempt at my mother’s meatball recipe on this blog before, but this latest version has become all my own. If my mom were here to sit at my table, I think she’d approve.

spaghetti and meatballs familystyle

Spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Ingredients

Meatballs:

1 ½ pounds ground beef

1 ½ pounds ground pork

1 onion

3 garlic cloves, crushed

½ cup fresh bread crumbs *

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano, Romano or Asiago cheese

2 eggs

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Large pinch crushed red pepper

Olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

Salt

2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 container Pomi strained tomatoes

Pinch sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. To make the meatballs, put the ground meats into a large bowl. Grate the onion over the bowl on the side of a large box grater. Add the remaining ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix together with your hands or a large fork until thoroughly combined. Form into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange on a large baking sheet.
  2. Heat a large, deep sauté pan (12 – 14-inches in diameter) over moderate heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan completely and heat for a minute or two before adding the meatballs. Cook until nicely browned on one side; carefully turn the meatballs with tongs or a spatula to brown the other side. Transfer the meatballs to a platter.
  3. Drain the fat from the pan. (Note – if you don’t have a large sauté pan with at least 3 inch sides, fry the meatballs in a sauté pan, in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Make the sauce in a separate wide saucepan or soup pot.)
  4. To make the gravy, place the pan back over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook the onions until they become very soft. If they begin to brown, add a few tablespoons of water, lower the heat and cover the pan until they’re ready.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  6. Put the meatballs into the pan, cover and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or so.
  7. Serve the sauce and meatballs over hot spaghetti or pasta, with plenty of cheese grated over.

Notes

*To make fresh bread crumbs, trim the crust from a large hunk of crusty peasant bread. Cut the bread into large pieces and toast 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Grind in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Keep extra crumbs in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/spaghetti-and-meatballs-familystyle/

Heirloom Tomato Salsa

 

Heirloom Tomato Salsa

Last week, Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy was in town and I had the good fortune to meet her and be her student for a few hours during a class at Kitchen Conservatory.

Diana is well into her advanced 80′s and still as zesty as a pickled jalapeno (there was that time she kicked Rick Bayless out of her car). But more, she possesses the air of a person who deeply, thoroughly lives her calling. She’s a missionary, all about preserving and passing on the diverse regional cooking styles of Mexico, with an almost fierce respect for its rich tradition and history.

Partly due to the presence of age and a distinguished British accent, you can’t help feeling an aura of wisdom around her. It makes you pay attention. I took notes, and the few things that stuck with me are surprisingly simple and almost Zen-like:

Good cooking needs salt

Go easy on the garlic

And always use white onions in Mexican cooking.

 

It was good timing, since I recently received a sample box of carefully packed, hefty heirloom tomatoes from Frieda’s, the specialty produce company.

I was skeptical of these tomatoes grown in a climate somewhere where it’s already summer time, but I let them ripen for a few days before slicing into them for this Diana Kennedy-inspired salsa.  They were absolutely delicious – juicy, sweet and textured as perfectly as if they’d been pulled off the vine in my backyard. It made me realize once again the beauty in simplicity when it comes to cooking – all it took was a few raw ingredients. And a little salt…

Heirloom Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

2 heirloom tomatoes, preferably different colors

1 small green chile pepper, such as jalapeno or serrano (my fave and bit hotter)

1/4 cup very finely chopped white onion

Salt to taste - start with 1/4 teaspoon

Pinch of cumin

Juice of 1 lime

Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Slice the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Put them into a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients and gently stir together, tasting for salt or acidity from the lime juice.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/04/heirloom-tomato-salsa/

Cherry Mostarda

Cherry mostarda

Cherries are the It fruit right now, and I know you could easily just kick back on a hammock and eat a bowlful of them on a summer’s day, but why not jazz up your life a little and make a mostarda?

Making condiment sauces with seasonal, ripe fruit can a creative way to use up what doesn’t get eaten straight out of the fridge. Fresh fruit mustards taste so much better than the usual mustard or ketchup you can buy and squeeze out of a plastic bottle.

This recipe is a riff on a traditional Italian condiment, mostarda di frutta, a sweet-hot-tangy preserve. Most versions of a mostarda, like Mostarda di Cremona, tend to consist of whole pieces of fruit in a mustard and vinegar-laced sugar syrup, served with meats in northern regions of Italy like Tuscany and Piedmont.

cherry mostarda

My recipe is very much inspired by Madeleine Kamman, the amazing French cooking teacher and food scholar. Her book In Madeleine’s Kitchen includes some recipes for “Italian-style fruit puree mustards”.

Here are some ideas for what to do with your Cherry Mostarda (because believe me, after pitting a few pounds of cherries you will not want to waste a bit!) :

  • Use cherry mostarda in place of Dijon mustard in a salad dressing to make a cherry vinaigrette.
  • Spread a charcoal-grilled burger with mostarda – I seasoned chicken burgers with fennel and fresh rosemary and topped them with goat cheese and mostarda. Yum.
  • Glaze a pork tenderloin or some chicken wings with mostarda.
  • Put some on a ham sandwich.

** Thanks to Ruthie from The Twice Bitten for her idea of another way to enjoy this mostarda – on a cheese board. Yes!

Cherry Mostarda

Ingredients

1 pound Bing cherries, pitted

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup full-bodied red wine, such as zinfandel or malbec

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Combine everything except the Dijon in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer then lower heat and cook until reduced to a thick puree with the consistency of ketchup, about 1 hour over low heat. Stir in the Dijon off the heat and season if needed.
  2. Crush the cherries with a potato masher or pulse in a blender or food processor if you prefer a smoother texture.
  3. Keep in a covered jar in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/06/cherry-mostarda/