Mozzarella Meatballs

ballsLet me just get this out of the way at the outset. It is going to be very difficult for me not to be “punny” in this post. It doesn’t help that the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live just aired, reminding me of this clip. There is also a special guy who has helped me make various versions of this recipe while repeatedly cracking jokes. All that said, my mouth’s watering just thinking about these balls… sorry I couldn’t help myself. Whatever gets me posting more often, right?

tableIn all seriousness, these are pretty amazeballs (you can thank Paris Hilton for that term). I adapted a Todd English recipe that can you find in this cookbook. As soon as I saw the meatballs were stuffed with mozzarella, I was in. I mean, everything is better with cheese. Usually I am happy with just pasta and sauce. These meatballs really steal the show though. Luckily this recipe makes quite a few. They are perfect to make for a dinner party with friends (thanks Ken, Christy, Carey, and David for joining me!). If there are any extra, you can always share with a certain lady or tramp.

mixMozzarella Meatballs, makes 25 meatballs

  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 3 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs (I used a baguette)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 25 1-inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring often, for 7 minutes or until translucent. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely. Add the remaining ingredients, except the mozzarella, to the bowl and mix well.

Shape each meatball around one mozzarella cube. One meatball should be a little bigger than a golf ball. Place stuffed meatballs on a lightly greased rack on top of a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve on top of spaghetti with my favorite tomato sauce.

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Grilled Corn Salad

salad_smSchool has started (without me!) and summer is winding down. But that doesn’t mean that I have stopped learning or that I can’t take advantage of summer’s best fare. Grilled corn always makes me think of summer. While watching the Food Network on the elliptical–counter-intuitive, I know–I saw a recipe for a corn and scallion salad with cilantro, mint dressing. I wanted to make an Italian version of the salad, and a Labor Day BBQ with my new co-workers was the perfect opportunity. Luckily I have a friend who also loves grilled corn and was able to share a few grilling tricks with me. So for the day, Cucina di Carrie becomes Cucina di Carey.

beforethegrillLesson #1: How to clean a dirty grill. I am ashamed to say that I am not sure if I have ever cleaned my little grill prior to this BBQ. Carey took one look at it and suggested it was time. I am sure I gave some lame response like, “I don’t have the tools to clean it.” But to my surprise, I actually did. Carey informed me that all I needed was some aluminum foil. I took a few sheets of foil, crumpled them into a ball, and rubbed it over the grates. Magically, all the baked-on gradoo was gone. Here is a more thorough step-by-step guide, but for a quick clean-up Carey’s method was perfect. After only a few minutes, we were ready to fire up the grill!

grillLesson #2: How to grill corn without tongs. Does anyone else keep the rubber bands that are always around vegetables? I have become somewhat of a hoarder of such rubber bands, and most of them go unused. However, it turns out that they are perfect to bind corn husks together, making a convenient handle for grilling. All you need to do is pull back the husks, remove the silk threads, and wrap a rubber band around the husks. Then the corn is free to season and grill. Just be careful to keep the rubber bands off the grates so they don’t melt.

corn_cutter2Lesson #3: How to easily remove corn from the cob. I know I am not the only person who has struggled cutting corn off the cob with a knife. It is a messy ordeal and it is hard to cut off whole kernels. This handy corn-cutter, or corn zipper, makes this process much easier. The blade is pretty sharp, so keep your fingers out of the way and hold on to the husk. Admission: I may or may not have sliced a finger (that is why there are not pictures of me doing this). Here’s another tip for y’all: make sure the coals aren’t still burning when you toss them in the dumpster. Otherwise your neighbors will have to pour water on the trash to make sure our homes don’t burn down. Not that I know anything about that…

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Grilled Corn Salad, serves 6-8

Salad

  • 6 large ears of corn
  • Canola or sunflower oil for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 7 ounces bocconcini mozzarella, halved
  • 1/2 package baby arugula (approx. 3 ounces)

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Pull the corn husks back and remove the silk threads. Wrap a rubber band around the husks. Lightly brush the corn with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

While the grill is heating, combine the basil, mint, parsley, vinegar, honey, and some salt and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth, slowly adding the olive oil until emulsified. Taste and season as desired. Set aside for later use.

Grill the corn, covered, until charred on all sides and the corn is tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cool slightly and remove the kernels from the cobs. Combine the corn, tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula in a large bowl. Add a spoonful of the vinaigrette at a time and toss to lightly coat. You will have quite a bit of the dressing leftover, but it is delicious on any salad!

Sedano Alle Noci

1Well,  I made it to the other side. I took the California Bar. Now, I am back to work, but thankfully I had a little break. And what better way to decompress from a summer of studying than a girls trip to Napa Valley and San Francisco? Great friends, food, and wine are the perfect remedy for whatever ails you. I came home refreshed and ready to start cooking! Inspiration for the blog was all around during my vacation. We ate at amazing restaurants (Calistoga Inn, Gotts Roadside, Nopalito, Chino) and enjoyed tastings at beautiful vineyards (Hall Wines, Twomey Cellars, T-Vine Cellars, Envy Wines). One of my favorite stops, however, was to a little olive oil shop in downtown Calistoga. I am a sucker for good olive oil, so I bought a bottle knowing I wanted to use it for this recipe.

2I found this recipe, translated as celery and walnut salad, while browsing The Silver Spoon for ideas. It sounded interesting, but after a quick glance, I flipped past it. I mean, come on, the main ingredient is celery. It is not the sexiest vegetable. We all buy it to use a few stalks for tuna salad or to make chicken stock. Then the rest sits sadly unused in the refrigerator until it is inevitably tossed in the trash. Still, something told me not to discount this simple salad. As the saying goes, keep it simple stupid. Let the ingredients shine. With my new olive oil in hand, I was ready to take a chance. The result was awesome – way better than ants on a log.

4The celery is bright and crunchy. Toasted walnuts add a warm earthiness. A diced green apple provides a little sweetness, while Parmesan cheese keeps the salad savory. And the simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil ties everything together. My favorite chicken piccata recipe nicely complimented the salad with a chilled glass of pinot grigio. I think it would also be a great side at your next cookout. The celery loses a bit of its crunch the next day, so I would suggest sharing it or cutting the recipe in half. Or you could just eat it all by yourself. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy doing that.

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Sedano alle Noci, serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch of celery, trimmed
  • 1 green apple, cored and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 lb Parmesan cheese, diced
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts*, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

*To toast the walnuts, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the walnuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently.

Halve the celery stalks lengthwise and cut into thin strips. Reserve the leaves and roughly chop. Place the celery and apple in a salad bowl and stir in half the lemon juice. Add the cheese, parsley, celery leaves, and half the walnuts. Whisk together the olive oil and remaining lemon juice in a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss in the remaining walnuts.

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Pan Bagnat

1I meant to post this recipe last August before school started, but I never got around to it. Eleven months later, it’s a new year and a lot has happened! I have spent time in Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas. I’ve gone to a few weddings (congrats to my cousin Jenny & Bryant, my friends Sara & Shane, my sister Molly & Evan, and my cousin Will & Vanessa!) I sprained my ankle playing softball, dressed up as Cruella de Vil, said goodbye to Pops and two amazing dogs, adopted Java-the-cat, saw Britney Spears, played in the snow with my best friends, argued in front of the Ninth Circuit, and graduated from law school – just to name a few notable events …

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Needless to say, it’s been kind of busy. Things are not going to slow down either. These next couple of months I am studying for the dreaded California Bar, and shortly thereafter I will re-enter the working world. All that said, I could not just leave the blog hanging. So I guess it was meant to be that I post this recipe now and update you all. I will not be posting as I usually do in the summer, but I hope to start back up in the fall. In the meantime, enjoy this delicious sandwich, perfect for a summer picnic on the beach. I will live vicariously through you while I study torts, not tortes, in the library.

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Pan Bagnat, adapted from The New York Times, serves 3-4

Vinaigrette

  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Sandwich

  • 1 medium ciabatta, halved
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium heirloom tomato, sliced
  • 1 can (5-6 ounces) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup mixed pitted olives, sliced
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovies, garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add the sliced cucumber and onion to the vinaigrette and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes before building the sandwich.

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Spread half of the cucumber-onion mixture on the bottom ciabatta slice. Top with tomato, then with tuna, basil, olives, and egg slices. Top egg with remaining cucumber-onion mixture and vinaigrette. Cover with top ciabatta half and firmly press sandwich together.

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Wrap sandwich tightly in multiple layers of plastic wrap. Put sandwich under a weight such as a cast-iron frying pan, brick, or, in my case, the heaviest books around. This step is key and where the sandwich gets its name. Pan bagnat is French for “bathed bread” as the oil and vinegar “bathe” the bread when weighted down. Weight sandwich for 7 to 10 minutes, then flip and weight it for another 7 to 10 minutes. Unwrap, slice and serve immediately, or keep it wrapped for up to 8 hours before serving.

Strawberry Limoncello Popsicles

01I can’t believe summer is coming to an end. It seems like it just began, but everything around me suggests otherwise. Football is starting up, shops are advertising “back to school” deals, and some people are already planning their Halloween costumes (yes, I’m talking about you Michelle). Who really wants to think about buying sweaters during the hottest part of the summer? I say, embrace these last weeks and do something quintessentially summer – make popsicles!

02When I was deciding what flavor to make my popsicles, I thought about my first trip to Europe. I went on D. Smith’s famous senior class trip after graduating high school, and I think I ate gelato every day I was in Italy. During that trip, my long-time best friend Ashley introduced me to the amazing combination of strawberry and lemon gelato. I knew those flavors would be perfect in a popsicle. Then I thought about when I studied abroad in college, and I couldn’t help but think about when my roommates and I went on a limoncello sampling spree up and down the streets of Sorrento. That’s when the light bulb in my head went off – strawberry and limoncello popsicles!

03Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, originating from Southern Italy. It is traditionally served chilled as an after dinner drink, but it is also especially delicious over vanilla ice cream. Thus, I decided to incorporate the limoncello with a creamy Greek yogurt mixture for the popsicles. I also cooked the strawberries in a little limoncello to tie everything together. I bought my limoncello from my favorite Italian grocery store, but it is also available at Trader Joe’s. If you are feeling especially motivated, you can even make it yourself. You won’t regret having a little extra around!

Strawberry Limoncello Popsicles, makes 10 popsicles*

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided in half
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons limoncello

*Special thanks to my friend Shradha for loaning me this nifty popsicle mold.

Place lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar into a small saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat until the sugar begins to dissolve. Gradually whisk in the heavy whipping cream and half & half. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of limoncello. Let the cream mixture cool completely. Meanwhile, combine strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of limoncello in another saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the strawberries are reduced (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Once the cream mixture has cooled, whisk in the Greek yogurt. Alternating between the limoncello cream and the strawberry syrup, add the mixtures to the popsicle mold. In order to achieve a marbled effect, stick a skewer or something similar in the molds, slightly mixing the layers. Freeze for 8-10 hours. To remove the popsicles, carefully run the popsicle mold under warm water.