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.

spaghetti2

Jambalaya

In preparation for Fat Tuesday I decided to take ride on the Cajun side. Well not really a ride, unless you count the trip to the grocery store. But you know what I mean. Since I don’t have the patience for gumbo, or more specifically the roux, I decided to make jambalaya (pronounced “jum” not “jam” – don’t ask me why). What I do know is, if you plan to make this dish you must respect the trinity. No need to do a Hail Mary, just make sure you have celery, a bell pepper, and an onion. If there was a second trinity I think it would be Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves – no Southern kitchen is complete without them.

Oh, and did I mention this recipe is adapted from the ragin’ Cajun himself? BAM! Emeril kindly provided the recipe for his famous “Essence.” I just can’t think of New Orleans food without Emeril coming to mind; similar to how I associate a train wreck with Charlie Sheen (congratulations Mel Gibson, you’re off the hook temporarily). Back to Emeril …

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning, modified only slightly

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

This will make more than you need, but I think it’s worth it just to have around. And by the way, Emeril is not making sound effects just for fun. This stuff is spicy! Just mix together all of the ingredients and you are ready to have a jambalaya jamboree … I’m sorry I’m getting carried away. Let’s just get to the recipe, shall we?

Jambalaya, serves 4-6

  • 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 1 whole¬† chicken breast, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 lb spicy Italian ground sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato , chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

In a medium bowl combine the shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the sausage for 3-5 minutes, breaking the sausage up as it cooks. Add the onion, pepper, and celery and cook until the vegetables are tender. Next add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in the rice and toast for a minute. Slowly add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let sit for 50-60 minutes. During the last 10 minutes add the shrimp and chicken and cook until they meat is done. Depending on how spicy you like it, season to taste with additional Creole seasoning and salt. And in my opinion, no Louisiana meal is complete without a nice cold Abita beer.

Risotto

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in forever and I didn’t write about grapefruit juice. I was excited to put my first drink recipes up, but somewhere along the line I lost my steam. If you were anxiously awaiting instructions on how to make a “salty dog” or a “grapefruit rickey” let me know and I will send them to you. Otherwise, it’s a new year and I’m moving on! Looking back at the past (half) year I have been blogging I noticed that there is a serious lack of Italian food considering it is my inspiration. So for my first post of 2011 I think it is right to start with a recipe I learned in Florence and instantly fell in love with – risotto.

Risotto is a popular Italian rice dish with endless possibilities. I made my favorite variety with prosciutto and peas, but you can add whatever you want: chicken and arugula; radicchio with scallions and carrots; or scallops and saffron. What makes risotto so good is its creaminess, and to make the perfect risotto you need to know the standard procedure and have a little patience. So for my first step-by-step photo guide, let’s go over the process:

Heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add 3 shallots, finely chopped and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. If you have a small onion on hand, that works just as well.

Add 2 cups of Arborio rice (the most popular and readily available regional variety of the rice) and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of room temperature dry white wine and stir occasionally, until just before the liquid is absorbed. Cold wine will shock the rice and its core will remain hard. Always keeping a little liquid in the pan will keep the rice from drying out.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add 1/2 cup of hot low-sodium chicken broth at a time (keep the broth at a simmer in a separate pot). Like with the wine, stir occasionally and wait until just before the liquid is absorbed. Then repeat this process until you have used all the broth or the risotto is al dente. This will take approximately 30 minutes.

Now you’re ready to season with salt and pepper, add some Parmesan and your mixing’s. Risotto is typically served as a primo or first course, but I usually can’t stop with a small serving. Serve it with a light salad and enjoy a truly decadent meal!

Risotto, serves 4-5

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into little pieces

In a small pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Then add the rice to toast and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in the dry white wine and stir occasionally, until just before the liquid is absorbed. Raise the heat to medium-high and add 1/2 cup of hot chicken broth at a time. Like with the wine, stir occasionally and wait until just before the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until you have used all the broth or the risotto is al dente. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Transfer rice to a large bowl and mix in the salt & pepper, Parmesan, and peas. Just before serving top with sliced prosciutto (if you mix it in with everything else the Prosciutto will cook). Serve with salad or just go for a big serving!

Cabbage and Bacon

This post was not planned. It’s the week after Thanksgiving and I am a little over-cooked. I could barely find the motivation to go to the grocery store last night, let alone figure out what I was going to put on here this week. I knew I wanted to make beef bourguignon, a la Julia, but not for the blog since that’s been done. But because of that recipe I came home with a whole package of bacon, only needing two slices of them. I also brought back a wreath, trying to get into the spirit of the fast approaching holiday.

Unfortunately I felt more like the Grinch. Maybe it was just a case of the Mondays or maybe it was because I left the door open when I got home and my dogs ran away (don’t worry, I found them). In any case I tried to rally and decide what to do with my replacement for a Christmas tree. As I was going through my box of decorations I found yards of red and gold ribbons that were my mom’s. I never understood why she kept so much ribbon, but apparently I decided to do exactly the same thing. Then I had a vision and got a little crafty with my wreath. My spirits were starting to lift and I was ready to tackle the kitchen.

Having not planned for my dinner, I searched my refrigerator only to find a lot of cranberry sauce (I think I need to change my last entry to read “serves an army”), 4 kinds of mustard, and a head of cabbage. Suddenly it came to me: cabbage and bacon. The simplest most delicious thing I know how to make. Think of it as Brussels sprouts and pancetta, but more down to earth. And who do you think taught me this delightful dish? My mom of course. When I was little I would cook the bacon while she chopped the cabbage. If I wasn’t looking she would steal the perfectly crisp bacon I had just made before it could reach the cabbage. So now I always steal a few pieces away for myself to make sure I get my fair share.

‘Why am I rambling on so much?’ you may ask. This is a food blog after all, not a diary. I guess I just found happiness in the unplanned, despite my best efforts to have a “blah” day. I love how little things like cooking and wreath decorating bring back memories. Sometimes I get a little type A when I am making this blog, but that really takes all the fun out of it. So every once in a while I may need to detox. In which case you will probably find me making the exact same thing for dinner.

Cabbage and Bacon, just for me

  • 1/2 a head of cabbage, chopped
  • 7 pieces of bacon
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in a large skillet. Remove the bacon and pat dry with a paper towel. Put the cabbage in the skillet with the bacon grease* and cook for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is wilted. Season with salt & pepper. Crumble up the bacon into little pieces and toss with the cabbage. Grab your fork and go!

*Please be careful when handling bacon grease. Some of you will be interested to know this is my first attempt at making bacon after the accident. And no, I did not spill any on my hand again.

Lentil Soup with Sausage

I don’t know if y’all feel the same way, but to me dinner never seems quite complete without my best friend, the carbohydrate. When I see a plate with a delicious piece of fish with some sauteed veggies my first thought is, “Where is the rice?” Especially when the weather is cold I crave the comfort of carbs. Unfortunately some say it isn’t “healthy” to eat pasta, potatoes, and pesto every day (recipe to come soon). So I have been trying to find alternatives that are just as filling. Thus, I come to lentils.

I found an article on Health.com that I think says it best: “Lentils are to India as meatloaf is to America: the quintessential comfort food.” The article also calls lentils one of the “World’s Healthiest Foods.” Score. They are full of protein and cholesterol lowering fiber, but don’t let this nutrition talk scare you off. They are equally as tasty as they are healthy. And come on, this recipe is from the Contessa herself, and who doesn’t love Ina? Nobody. So try it. You won’t regret it.

Lentil Soup with Sausage, serves 5

  • 1/2 lb green lentils
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage links
  • 1 leek, chopped (white & light green parts only)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery (about 5 stalks)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (about 4 carrots)
  • 1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Put the lentils in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let the lentils sit for 15 minutes and drain. In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin. Saute for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent. Add the celery and carrots. Saute for 10 minutes and then add the lentils, chicken broth, and tomato paste. Cover and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour, uncovered. Meanwhile, cook the sausage on a grill or grill pan. Cut the links in half, lengthwise and slice 1/2 inch pieces. Add the sausage and wine to the soup. Check the seasonings – I added more cumin (shocking, I know). Simmer for 10 minutes or until the sausage is reheated. Serve with grated Parmesan.