A few weeks ago my virtual friend Kayte posted the latest in her Wednesday with Donna Hay cooking group. I knew as soon as I read the post that I'd have to try this. The picture of the meatballs, covered with tomato sauce and oozing melted cheese from within was just that good!
Since Kayte lives a million kilometers away this is as close as I am likely to get to cooking with her anytime soon. Given how wonderful this virtual collaboration was that really is a shame.
When we were in the need of some comfort food (and who isn't in the dark, depths of winter) we had this for dinner. The recipe isn't for spaghetti and meatballs - the American dish that makes Italian cringe - but we through our 'eating Italian rules' out the bloody window and went with delicious comfort. Hay's recipe is how one might find meatballs served in Italy (where they'd be called polpette) - meatballs, cooked in sauce and served on their own or with a slice of warm bread to scarpetta the sauce.
Meatballs should be soft and juicy when you make them. The best results come from barely mixing the meat mixture - don't over do it. The breadcrumbs with milk also give it that tender texture. This gives the meatballs the extra moisture. For added nutrients you can add some carrots, zucchini, onions and bell peppers to the meatballs.
The only change I made to the recipe was with the fennel. It isn't that we do not like fennel - we love it! So much so that I had run out. ACK In order to compensate I added some fennel pollen. The taste is more delicate, and the fennel pollen is about 200 x the price, but there was nothing else to be done. The result was a rich tasting meatball with a delicate hint of fennel and a kick from the chilli peppers.
This was easily one of the yummiest things I have made all year. I know that some of you will say 'Jerry, the year is only 29 days long) . . . trust me when I suggest that this recipe will easily stand the test of time! LOL
Enjoy. . .
Bocconcini-stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon milk 1 slice white bread, crust removed, torn 700g pork mince 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes 4 cloves garlic, crushed sea salt and cracked black pepper 24 baby bocconcini 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes 1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar finely grated parmesan, to serve
Place the milk and bread in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes or until milk is absorbed. Add the pork, fennel, chilli, half the garlic, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Roll the mixture into 24 balls and press a bocconcini into the centre of each meatball.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat and cook the meatballs for 4–5 minutes, turning occasionally, or until cooked through. Add the remaining oil and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar and cook for a further 2–3 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Sprinkle with parmesan to serve. Serves 6.
I saw this over the weekend and was struck by how this vile lesson of history seems to flow through much of modern politics.
It seems as if many political movements of the last 40 years utilize this theory - the changes are small and thus seem palatable; when you stop to look at them all it gets a bit overwhelming.
The Harper government's attacks on charities is a case in point.
In 2012 Harper introduced legislation that curtailed the tax status of some charitable organizations - his point was that charities that engage in too much politicking should be denied tax subsidies.
It was no coincidence that this happened while environmentalists were tying up pipeline projects in the West. The new rules required them to provide a detailed account of their political activities, imposed tough penalties on those that spent more than 10 per cent of their funds on advocacy and gave Canadian Revenue Agency $8 million to conduct a special audit.
The announcement sent a ripple of unease through the non-profit sector, but there was no wholesale panic. Most charities assumed the government would target a handful of prominent environmental organizations and leave the rest alone.
History (if a mere three years can be considered history) has proven this to be an incorrect assumption. Look at the groups which have been caught up in the taxman dragnet: Environmental groups, free-expression advocates and the anti-poverty group Oxfam, which was informed that “preventing poverty” was not an allowable goal for a charity group.
Who hasn't been investigated by the CRA?
Certainly not conservative think tanks like the C.D. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute, which regularly write policy papers directly advocating legislative change.
How about Focus on the Family, whose research arm claims its mission is to “ensure that marriage and family-friendly policy are foremost in the minds of Canada’s decision-makers.” Hot topics on their website include strong endorsements of the Harper government’s new prostitution law and its income-splitting scheme, and condemnations of the federal NDP’s national child-care proposal and the Ontario Liberal government’s full-day kindergarten program. Perhaps their turn will come and their charitable status will be revoked for this blatant attempt to shape public opinion and influence legislation. Or perhaps not. . . .
The result has been that organizations who do work and espouse opinions the government finds uncomfortable are silenced.
Harper and his ministers clearly want to hear from a public that is sheltered from the advocacy of pesky charities. The better to shape, it seems, a government that is free from evidence, reason and the pressures of morality.
On the weekend one of my facebook friends who lives in Alaska posted about how she was overwhelmed with the cold and snow. She was attempting to cope with the vile weather with some Grappa she had bought at an abbey in Tuscany. She posted a picture of the bottle and I knew immediately where she had been . . .
Paul and I have been trying to add some variety to our meals including one meat-free meal each week. This has proven to be a challenge for me because I am basically a big, ol' carnivore. LOL
The other day I was searching for a recipe that would help use up the glut of squash we had from our CSA and this one popped up from the folks at Eating Well. Modeled on North African stews, this aromatic vegetarian main course could be served over brown rice or steamed spinach.
We found it to be very flavorful and the left overs were even better. The cilantro, peanuts & even some extra lime juice are musts - I wouldn't make it without them as they add an additional texture and layers of flavour.
Squash, Chickpea, and Red Lentil Stew
3/4 cup dried chickpeas 2 1/2 pounds kabocha squash or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 large onion, chopped 1 cup red lentils 4 cups vegetable broth 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon saffron 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/4 cup lime juice 1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain when ready to use.
Combine the soaked chickpeas, squash, carrots, onion, lentils, broth, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker.
Put on the lid and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 1/2 hours.
Stir in lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.
Stir-fries are a perfect weeknight dinner solution, as they cook quickly and are versatile.I don't know about you but when I drag myself home after a long day of work that last thing I want to do is to spend hours in the kitchen. I think that this is the reason so many people end up in a drive-through line rather than cook. We have discovered that careful planning avoids this.
For a meal that comes together in minutes, have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go and make sure your pan is very hot before you start cooking. We generally have everything cut, portion, and in small prep bowls on the counter near the wok. Once that is done we heat the wok to the desired temperature (HOT) - to check if your pan is hot enough, toss a drop of water into it; if it sizzles, it’s ready.
We served this dish with steamed rice although you could also serve it with soba or rice noodles.
The recipe is Australian so we had to figure out the equivalent measures and in some cases the North American equivalent of the Aussie terms.
Paul whipped this up one night as I was flying home form a meeting in Ottawa. He put the wok on the heat when the car pulled in the driveway and by the time I was settled dinner was ready - perfect!
Chicken, Broccoli, and Cashew Stir Fry
1 tablespoon peanut oil 750g chicken thigh fillets, excess fat trimmed, thinly sliced (1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicnek thighs) 2 tablespoons sweet sherry 1 1/2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce 1 1/2 tablespoons kecap manis (this is a thick, sweet, soy sauce. We buy it at an Asian market. If you are unable to find it I found a recipe for making your own here.) 1 teaspoon cornflour (we assumed that this was cornstarch) 350g broccoli, trimmed, cut into florets (I bunch of broccoli, trimmed) 6 shallots, ends trimmed, cut into 4cm lengths 55g (1/3 cup) unsalted roasted cashews Steamed white medium grain rice, to serve (we used jasmine rice)
Heat half the oil in a wok over high heat. Add half the chicken. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken, reheating the pan between batches.
Combine the sherry, soy sauce, kecap manis and cornflour in a small bowl.
Heat remaining oil in wok over high heat. Add broccoli. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add shallot. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until broccoli is bright green and tender crisp.
Add chicken, cornflour mixture and cashews. Stir-fry until combined and chicken is heated through. Divide rice and stir-fry among serving bowls. Serve.
I just happened to find this pic while searching for something for this week's hunt - the ceiling fan in the cottage we rented on Cape Cod. It was incredible hot while we were there and the cottage had no air conditioning . . . we used this fan a lot.
I saw a post on facebook that informed me of this anniversary. This year Bluone Cooking Tours in Italy celebrates its 20th Anniversary. If you have dreamed of visiting Italy, come and celebrate with them this year!
I've done a few things with Marcello and his family over the years and can not recommend them enough. If you're passionate about food and drink and Italy you should consider a tour with Marcello.
Here are some shots from a special program they put together for my friends and I while we were in Bologna.
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.