1213 Meatballs and Polenta

It snowed yesterday for real.  Not the delicate flakes we’ve had so far this month – a dusting that melted away almost every night – a heavy blanket several inches deep, held in place by single digit temperatures.  We both woke up feeling worn down, sore, and just generally unable to face the cold and snow, so we both took a sick day and stayed on the couch under blankets, cats, and laptops.  As is often the case on sick days – or any bonus day at home with no responsibilities – we ended up eating at weird hours, and so weren’t hungry for dinner until OMG we were hungry IMMEDIATELY.  Fortunately, we had a super easy, super delicious dinner on tap: revisiting this summer’s Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate, using leftover meatballs from the ramen we made last month and a container of homemade tomato sauce.

In the waning weeks of the gardening season, I found myself with all of these tomatoes – not enough to can, but too many to eat, especially with all the peppers and potatoes and other things we were bringing home.  I made pot after pot of simple tomato sauce, with dozens of these small tomatoes pressed through the food mill and then simmered down to their sweet essence, then topped off container after container and stashed them away in the freezer for a meal like tonight’s.

With two cups of tomato sauce and a dozen meatballs already thawed, we were able to have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.  I poured the sauce into an oven-safe dish and placed it under the broiler to heat up, then tossed the meatballs in a skillet until they were browned on all sides.  While Shane whisked away at the polenta, I added the meatballs to the warmed sauce, and put the dish back under the broiler for about 10 minutes.  Simple, warm, and filling: a great end to a snow day.

Recipes:
Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate
Quickest Tomato Sauce from Jamie at Home
Basic Polenta Recipe from Giada di Laurentiis – this recipe halved makes enough for four portions for us

1122 Ramen

Like many middle-class middle Americans, I first encountered ramen noodles my freshman year of college. They were cheap, more appetizing than most of the cafeteria food, and could be prepared in one pot or, in a pinch, in a electric teakettle. I was vegetarian at the time, so I stocked up on the mushroom and tomato flavors whenever they went on sale – 10-15 cents per meal seemed about right, especially when I was making around $5/hour at my part-time job.

Maruchan for Days
Photo by C. Strife

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that ramen is meant to be eaten as a soup. See, I’d been boiling the noodles, draining almost all of the liquid, and then tossing the noodles with the sodium – I mean, flavor – packet, just like you do with macaroni and cheese. I didn’t realize that ramen should arrive in a velvety broth, nor that you could – and should – add in meat, vegetables, and basically anything else you like. Thanks to Tampopo and Tomukun, I have seen the error of my ways. I know to concentrate on the three pork slices, and that I should slurp my broth, even if it goes against my dad’s food rules.

Chilli Beef Ramen - Wagamama Filnders Lane
Photo by avlxyz

Tonight was my first attempt at making if not real ramen at home, then at least good ramen. I made a rich broth on Sunday by simmering beef and pork bones with vegetable scraps all day, so that provided the foundation for the soup. Into the warming broth went a handful of homemade pork meatballs, a thinly sliced onion, some ginger, and shaved sunchokes. When the meatballs were just cooked through, I added a packet of ramen noodles – but not the flavor packet.  We both added more seasoning at the table – pickapeppa sauce for me, and sriracha for Shane – to give the soup a bit of heat and funk.

All in all, a simple and delicious dinner, and one that I anticipate we’ll be making again soon – perhaps with different veg? shrimp instead of/with the meatballs? a fried egg?  The options are endless.

0719 Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate

Oh my gosh, you guys. Tonight’s dinner may have redeemed the Spanish cookbook experiment. Now why couldn’t I have just called this dish ‘meatballs in tomato sauce’? Because then I would miss out on a perfectly good excuse to pretend that I can speak, well, any Spanish at all. I mean, I can ask about the location of the bathroom, and I can say that I want more of something, but that’s about it.

Anyway, this was super easy and definitely worth heating up the kitchen on an already hot night. I could walk you through the process, but I actually have photos for once, and the whole recipe is at the bottom of this post. So, albóndigas from start to finish:

Making Albóndigas

Albóndigas in the frying pan

Making Salsa de Tomate

Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate

These were excellent meatballs – sorry, albóndigas – and I loved the bright orange-yellow of the tomato sauce – sorry, the salsa de tomate – over the creamy polenta.  I have a feeling we’ll be making this one again soon.

Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate
Adapted from Spanish

8 ounces minced ground pork
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil, more if necessary
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red or dry white wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the pork, green onions, garlic, cheese, oregano, and plenty of salt and pepper.  Form into 12-14 small firm balls.  Heat the olive oil a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, then add the meatballs and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until evenly browned.  Add the wine and quickly deglaze the pan, then add the remaining ingredients and cover, lowering the heat to medium.  Cook gently for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes are saucy and the meatballs are cooked through.  Excellent served over polenta or with crusty bread.

0211 Farfalle and Meatballs

Shane had a fancy working dinner at The Earle tonight, so I was on my own for the evening.  We bought some ground turkey the other week for burgers, but, like Tuesday’s halibut, it lingered in the freezer.  I pulled it earlier in the week with the thought of making meatloaf, but seized on the idea of spaghetti and meatballs this morning and just couldn’t shake it.  I settled on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, though it is fair to say that I strayed far from the intended cheese-filled result.  Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to pack most of my dinner calories into 3-4 meatballs, you know?

Well, maybe I should have.  The meatballs I made bore little resemblance to those in Giada’s recipe – they were baked rather than fried, and the delicious delicious cheese was omitted.  Tossed together with store-bought sauce, they were just – boring.  So boring.  The kind of boring where I really regretted the effort put into making and then eating the dinner.  I regretted the boring meatballs, and I regretted the boring, watery sauce.  The pasta was acceptable.  If I hadn’t been so hungry, I might’ve tossed the whole thing out and started over.

Recipe:
Mini Turkey Meatballs from Giada DiLaurentiis

Eating and Growing Locally: Week 13

Eating:

  • In an attempt to like cauliflower, I roasted a head of the purple stuff.  It was pretty tasty, but I’m still not convinced.
  • A LOT of blueberry pancakes last weekend when Erin Fae was here.
  • Peach ice cream and peach turnovers to use up the last of the peaches and the last of the puff pastry.
  • Spaghetti and meatballs with both the sauce and the meatballs from scratch.
  • Two all-local frittatas with garlic scapes (local for Erin Fae, who brought them as a gift), zucchini, onion, and tomato.  OMG so good.  I think we’ve mastered the frittata – now we just have to master getting it out of the pan:

Frittata attack!

Growing:

The first of the Amish Paste tomatoes committed tomato suicide, but I’ve been steadily picking little Beam’s Pear tomatoes throughout the week, as well as beans and the basil, which has now stayed alive for THREE months.  We also got our first red chili this week = hooray!

Eating and growing locally: week 12

Eating:

We caved and bought chicken at the store.  We eat a lot of chicken, and while we would love to buy it locally, it’s prohibitively expensive for not much meat.  We’re not perfect.

What we DID do this week was make 1 lb of ground pork into two awesome meatball-filled meals: spaghetti and meatballs on Saturday with a homemade sauce, and meatball sandwiches on chili-cheddar bread from Atwater’s along with leftover cole slaw on Sunday.  We also stretched 1 lb of pork sausage into 4+ meals – crustless quiche with local eggs, sausage, zucchini, and onions Monday night (with leftovers for lunches), sausage, zucchini, and onions tossed with pasta and homemade roasted tomatoes on Tuesday (with leftovers for lunch), and sausage patties with assorted other meals throughout the week.  Without even really trying, we had a couple of totally local meals, and a bunch of mainly local meals.  Hooray!

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the melon as big as my head that I’m still working on:

Literally bigger than my head

Growing:

We’ve hit the heat of mid-summer, and the plants look tired.  I keep hoping that we’ll have a bumper crop of tomatoes, and then I eat all of them whenever any are ripe.  There are beans ready to be picked, and the lettuce and herbs persevere.

Today we’re signing a lease on a new apartment in Alexandria.  We’re excited about the place, but one drawback is that there’s no outside space for our garden.  With a crazy Miss Mina (who is currently running around pouncing and meowing for no ostensible good reason) and a Basil who likes to bite plants, we’re not sure what we’re going to do – I think the bigger things will go to friends, and I hope to rig up something for the herbs in the kitchen window.  (Did I mention that there are windows in every room?!)