Tag Archives: recipe

Smothered Italian Meatballs Marinara

meatball marinara tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Now that it’s behaving like fall outside, I find myself making a b-line to the meat stalls at the farmers market. Sure, I’ll be stuffing my bags with apples, mushrooms, kale, and persimmons later - but first I want some meat, because when it’s cold and rainy, I crave hearty warming dinners like meaty stews and slow-cooked braises. Last weekend I purchased  a few kilos of ground beef and pork from a local ranch to throw in the freezer for (another) rainy day, but not before setting aside a few pounds to cook for dinner. It was only 8:00 in the morning and I already knew what I would be making that afternoon – comforting meatballs smothered in marinara sauce.

Smothered Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

The key ingredient in this recipe is a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, which melts into the meat and adds rich, salty flavor. A kick of crushed red chile pepper doesn’t hurt either. (You can reduce the red pepper if you prefer a milder version.)

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Marinara Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1 (15-ounce can) Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for pan frying
Finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Prepare the meatballs:
Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Shape the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls, without over working the meat. (Wet your hands with cold water from time to time to prevent sticking.) Place the meatballs on a platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, without over crowding, and brown, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. (The meatballs will not be cooked through at this point. They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add the sauce to the skillet and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan. Add the meatballs to the sauce and turn to coat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve with garnished with chopped parsley and grated cheese.

Tip: Got leftovers? Crumble any leftover meatballs into the sauce and serve over pasta or layer into lasagna.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry and a recipe for Rugelach

practicalpantry

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

I met Cathy Barrow for the first time this weekend, but I’ve know her for many years. That’s the funny thing about virtual communities. We were early members of Food52 contributing recipes and competing together since its inception. When she launched Charcutepalooza with Kim Foster, a year long meat curing blog event in 2011, I gladly rolled up my sleeves, and participated in a year’s worth of charcuterie-making projects. As Cathy’s career segued into writing with a focus on preserving, I followed her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. It came as no surprise to me that she would then tackle the topic of preserving food in a cookbook. And knowing her track record, it was also completely natural that she would approach it in an epic, vastly knowledgeable and entirely approachable format, with plenty of appealing recipes to boot. This weekend, Cathy was in San Francisco promoting her book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It was hard to believe we were meeting for the first time; she felt like an old friend.

rugelach

A rustic interpretation of Cathy’s rugelach

No matter where you stand in the canning and preserving spectrum of experience (I call myself a vicarious sideliner), this is a bible worth owning. Whether you are a preserver at heart with a vast pantry stocked to the gills, or a minimalist who simply wants to extend the ample farmers market bounty in a few jars, this book has something for novices, experts and dabblers alike. It provides clear instruction, helpful tips, and easy to master techniques for preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish, canning beans and soups and making cheese. All of this is provided in a a beautifully compiled tome illustrated with 150 stunning photographs by  Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (of Canal House fame).

As Cathy says, her goal was to provide a vision of what to do with all of your jars of homemade goodness: She didn’t want to simply think about what goes inside of the jar, she wants to inspire us to put the contents of that jar to use. She entices the reader with myriad Bonus Recipes that incorporate all of the great pantry food you create with her book. Examples include a Kale and Potato Galette with Duck Fat Crust, made from home cured duck confit; Grilled Cheese with homemade Fig Marmalade; Beet Salad with Orange and Candied Pecans with home-canned beets. Or how about Hula Skirt Steak with homemade Carmen Miranda Tropical Fruit? I love it when people think outside of the jar.

Raspberry Almond Rugelach
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Dough:
4 ounces homemade or store bought cream cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used almonds), finely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soft fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup preserves (I used raspberry)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1. To make the dough, cut the butter and cream cheese into 1-inch cubes. Place the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a metal bowl and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the chilled ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the dough forms a shaggy ball, about 20 pulses. Alternatively, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry cutter or two table knives to combine. Scrape the moist, sticky dough onto a floured countertop and form into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl mix together the nuts, sugar, and bread crumbs.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the jam across the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the jam.
5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the disk into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide end of the long triangle, roll each segment up and press on the pointy end to seal. Place seam side down on the baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the egg yolk gently on the tops of the cookies. Place another baking sheet under the cookie-filled sheet (this will keep the rugelach from burning on the bottom). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. The nuts and jam will have squished out a little and be a little messy; that’s okay. The bottoms of the rugelach should be caramelized, not burned. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
7. Store between layers of wax paper in a tightly covered container for up to 3 weeks.

Falling for Persimmons and a Teacake Recipe

Persimmons

I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange tomato-like creatures – how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh. Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden, their globe-shaped fruit dangling from the branches, stubbornly holding on long after the leaves have fallen, resembling neglected Christmas ornaments. At this time of the year, while the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. The fruit is continuing to ripen, and their pumpkin orange skin is striated in golds and pale greens, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson.

persimmonsThere are two types of persimmons: the round squat fuyu and the more upright heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, which means incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy an hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. In this stage they hold their shape well and have a gentle sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods – such as in this teacake.

Persimmon cake

Persimmon Olive Oil Teacake

The sweet and mild persimmon adds a gentle honey perfume to this cake.
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated fuyu persimmon, packed, about 2 persimmons
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a loaf pan.
Whisk the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
In large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour ingredients and stir to just combine. Stir in the persimmon and walnuts.
Pour into the baking pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about one hour, depending on the shape of the pan. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

persimmon cake

What’s for dinner: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Sweet Peas

carbonara tastefood

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of pasta carbonara, the Roman answer to comfort food, with an egg-rich creamy cheesy sauce studded with crispy bacon and, in this recipe, sweet peas. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Cranberry Tequila Toddy

Marin Toddy Lynda Balslev tf

Finally - the weather has turned cooler. Most of the year I hear from folks about how much they envy our Northern California climate, but I have to admit that as a New England native, I miss the distinct change of seasons – especially in the fall. At this time of year we’re supposed to be pulling on our fleece and socks, not slipping into sandals and t-shirts. It might still be a too warm for wool right now, but I can at least make this drink. And you should too, especially if you are lucky enough to be enjoying a nippy November.

This Cranberry Tequila Toddy is my latest recipe in the November issue of Marin Magazine. It takes inspiration from the margarita and warms it up with autumnal ingredients such as cranberry and cider. Part cocktail, part toddy, all good.

Cranberry Tequila Toddy
Makes about 6 cups.

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup Cointreau
4 cups apple cider
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup gold tequila
Lime wedges
Dried Cranberries
Orange slices
6 cinnamon sticks

Combine the cranberries and cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the cider, cranberry juice, and orange juice in a saucepan until very hot without letting it come to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the tequila, cranberries, and Cointreau. Serve warm with a squeeze of lime. Garnish with the orange slices and a cinnamon stick for stirring.

Cauliflower Gratin

cauliflower au gratin

Just as we like to wrap ourselves in warming layers in the fall, we can do the same with our vegetables. Cloak your favorite hardy veggies in béchamel and cheese, and your simple summer staples will morph into a warm and comforting side dish. I found yellow cauliflower at the market the other day and mixed it with white cauliflower in this gratin. Don’t just experiment with color. Get creative with other veggies, such as  broccoli florets, chunks of celeriac or diced rutabaga for variety and flavor. As long as there is a blanket of cheese and bechamel, this gratin is a winner.

Cauliflower Gratins
Serves 6 as a side dish

1 large head of cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 ounces Gruyere (or sharp Cheddar) cheese, grated
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)  Butter 6 individual ramekins (or a gratin dish).
Steam the cauliflower until crisp tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook until light golden, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly, the continue to cook, stirring, until the bechamel thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add  the Gruyere cheese, whisking until smooth. Pour the bechamel over the cauliflower and stir to thoroughly coat. Spoon into the ramekins. Combine the Parmesan and panko in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the tops of the gratins. Bake until golden on top and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Chicken and Farro Soup with Carrots and Shiitakes

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This is a Sunday soup, a perfect antidote to a social weekend with big meals and late evenings. Restorative, healthy, and nourishing, it’s a perfect time-out meal to enjoy on a relaxed and peaceful day, with no reservations and no make-up on the agenda. I used leftover chicken from a roast, but you can easily use a rotisserie chicken from your local store or farmer’s market.

Chicken and Farro Soup with Carrots and Shiitakes

Don’t leave out the shiitakes – they impart a luscious umami flavor to the stock. Barley may be substituted for the farro. Serves 4.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, halved if large
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup farro or pearl barley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until it softens without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Sauté until the carrots brighten in color and the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 3  minutes. Add the stock, farro, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the chicken and top off with additional stock if needed. Simmer until the chicken is heated through. Ladle into bowls. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel

pear yogurt crumble tfPosted by Lynda Balslev

Fall on a plate: Burnished Warren pears, toasted streusel and golden honey. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in this case, turn down an offer for a box of pears from Frog Hollow Farm - especially in the fall, when I love to bake fruit crisps, crumbles and tarte tatins. This recipe is a “healthy” version of a crumble, with pear halves roasted in the oven, then topped with yogurt, honey and a streusel topping. Call it a healthy dessert or a decadent breakfast, but just be sure to make it.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel
Serves 4

2 ripe but firm pears, such as Warren or Bartlett
Extra-virgin olive oil
Granulated sugar
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey, plus extra for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and remove the cores. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in a baking pan and roast in the oven, cut side up, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.

Combine the oats, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and mix to coat. Spread on a small rimmed baking pan and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Arrange the pears in bowls. Spoon the yogurt into the centers of the pears. Sprinkle the streusel over the yogurt and pears. Drizzle with additional honey.

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary box of Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farm with no obligation to write about the product. All opinions are my own.  This recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit.

Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup

tortilla soup tastefoodPosted by Lynda Balslev

My inspiration for making soup is often a convergence of too many vegetables in the refrigerator with homemade stock and leftovers from a roast chicken. This recipe is not an authentic tortilla soup, as I managed to empty most of the contents of my veggie drawer into it. It’s chock-a-block full of corn, zucchini and peppers, purchased at the farmers market, along with the requisite garlic and onion. Season and spice the soup to your taste. Ideally it should have a little heat, but since our family is divided on what constitutes “spicy”, I pass a bottle of hot sauce around the table so everyone can fire up the soup to their taste.

Harvest Chicken Tortilla Soup

This soup is meant to be thick. More chicken stock may be added for a soupier consistency. Serves 4 to 6.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 sweet red pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 pound shredded cooked chicken
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup cooked black beans
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Tortilla chips, broken in pieces

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peppers and sauté until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and zucchini and sauté briefly, 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, plum tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken, corn, and beans. Partially cover and simmer until thoroughly heated through. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the cilantro leaves and serve warm, garnished with the tortilla chips.

Veggie Fried Farro

Veggie FarroPosted by Lynda Balslev

Farro stands in for rice in this easy stove top dinner. Cooked farro is added to a sauté of seasonal chopped veggies – in this case cauliflower, peppers and purple kale. It’s a great way to use up your veggies  Almonds are an optional addition, adding extra protein and great crunchy texture to this satisfying dish.

Veggie Fried Farro

I used what I had on hand from the farmers market, including bok choy flowers for garnish (not necessary but very pretty).

Serves 4

1 cup farro
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
Salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 small head cauliflower, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
2 gypsy peppers (or 1 sweet red bell pepper), stemmed and seeded, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 heaping cup coarsely chopped kale leaves
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the farro, stock or water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is tender, about 45 minutes.

Heat the oil and red chili flakes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and carrot and sauté until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, cumin, and paprika  and sauté  until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until the kale wilts, about 1 minute. Stir in the farro, almonds and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm.