The Ultimate Meatball and Taking Food to a Friend

meatball and marinara

We’ve been on the receiving end of food donations twice in our life and both times, we were touched by others’ thoughtfulness, great recipes and the comfort that was passed to us through the dishes they made.  It takes a bit of humbling to bring food to someone who can’t cook for themselves, or simply don’t want to or don’t have the time.  You worry if they’ll like what you made.  You worry if they will critique the preparation or that you brought store-bought cookies instead of homemade.  If I could only convince you that anything you bring is wonderful and welcome, I would.  If they can’t eat it right away or they have duplicates, they can freeze what you brought!  To worry too much about what to bring, or to worry the recipient about what you brought, shifts the focus off the deserving and on to you.  Keep the focus where it belongs, ask if they have any requests or food allergies, and get cooking!  Homemade is always nice, but I will admit, I did not turn away store-bought cookies, chocolate or coffee! 🙂

My wonderful, life-long friend, Summer, had her second baby almost two weeks ago.  A beautiful, darling girl!  I immediately began to think of what I would bring for Summer and Phil to eat.  Summer is my food buddy.  I trust her cooking as much as my own.  Her sense of taste is far beyond most people, almost to a fault.  We used to live together in college, and I think one of our first food-bonding moments was throwing chicken patties off the balcony of our apartment because they were just so disgusting.  They were pre-cooked, breaded chicken patties and they tasted like…gray.  Or sweat.  It wasn’t good.  We both were actually offended.  How could you screw up a breaded piece of chicken, and worse, sell it to poor college students?! In our act of defiance against badly cooked food, we became unofficial food critics in our own right.  We were each other’s taste-testers. A favorite game throughout our friendship is Guess the Ingredient! in which we excitedly wait while the other tastes and see if they guess right.  I love that no matter what time of day, I can text Summer a description of something I made or want to make, and she will react with an appropriate amount of shock, enthusiasm and awe.

We joke that Summer always says her FAVORITE thing in the ENTIRE world is whatever I last cooked for her.  True to the accusation, I asked if she had any requests for what I could bring for them, and she requested the last meal I made for her, which was the BEST meatball recipe I’ve ever run across.  It’s tough to get a meatball right.  They can be too dry or too mealy or rubbery from being over cooked, or simply too greasy.  This recipe is perfect.  And even more perfect, it came to me via fashion designer, Michael Kors in his appearance on Martha Stewart Living.  So they’re both delicious AND fashionable.  Win-win.

The secret ingredient to these meatballs is the water.  Smooshing all these ingredients together, especially with the water, is not for the faint of heart.  My mother would die a thousand deaths before making this recipe.  She has a thing with texture.  However, I like playing with my food, so it’s rather enjoyable for me.  The meat mixture is very delicate, so be gentle as you turn them while cooking.  I usually use two spatulas to help me turn them without smashing them apart.  Getting a good crust on each side is key.  Then, there will still be a slight crust, even after they’ve stewed in the sauce for a while.  Oh, and serving this with spaghetti is up to you. It’s not tradition – the Italians eat their meatballs in a bowl with crusty bread.  But, the recipe makes enough sauce that even after we finish up the meatballs, I have plenty of sauce left to toss with noodles the next day.  Olive absolutely adores these.  She ate two, 3 inch meatballs by herself before slowing down.  They are so soft, you could easily smash it up for a little one.  And they get better the next day!

meatball

Frankie’s Meatballs in Rao’s Marinara Sauce

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 cups water, room temperature
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef and pork using your hands. Mince 1/2 clove garlic and add to meat mixture along with the eggs, cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Continue mixing with your hand until well combined. Add bread crumbs and mix well. Add water, 1 cup at a time, and continue mixing until mixture is quite moist.
  2. Shape mixture into 2 1/2-to-3-inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Smash remaining clove of garlic with the back of a knife and add to skillet. Cook until lightly browned and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Working in batches, add meatballs to skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, turning, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
  3. Meanwhile, bring marinara sauce to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and add meatball. Let meatballs cook in sauce about 20 minutes; serve immediately with pasta, if desired.

Rao’s Marinara Sauce
Makes 7 cups

  • Four 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes with basil, preferably San Marzano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 leaves fresh basil, torn (optional)
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  1. Remove tomatoes from can and place in a large bowl, reserving juices. Crush tomatoes using your hands; remove and discard the hard core from stem end, and any skin and tough membrane; set aside. (Wear an apron and keep your hand submerged as you crush.  This is messy business, but kind of therapeutic  .)
  2. Place oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and reserved juices; season with salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 hour.
  3. Stir in basil, if using, oregano, and season with pepper; continue cooking 1 minute more. Remove from heat and serve.

*Recipes taken directly from Martha Stewart Living.  They can not be improved upon.

frankie's meatsauce

Homemade Goat Cheese

pure goat cheese

Good Monday Morning to you all!  I’ve been meaning to blog about homemade goat cheese for several weeks, now.  I stumbled upon this process because I’d bought a quart of goat’s milk when Olive was starting to wean and I read or heard or saw somewhere that goat’s milk digests easier than cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I naturally tasted it before I gave it to her.  It tasted like liquid goat cheese.  I wouldn’t personally want to drink that, but I let her try it in the name of not pushing my personal tastes onto my child.  She wouldn’t take more than one sip.  Actually cried (this was around 9 months) so I bought a quart of whole cow’s milk instead and we haven’t looked back.  So I turned the goat’s milk into a nice, creamy 4 ounce log of goat cheese with garlic and herbs.  It was delicious.

I guess I’ll take this time to tell you that I don’t believe in eating something just because it has health benefits.  Eating grass straight from the yard is probably beneficial in some way, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.  I believe things should have flavor, seasoning, and should taste wonderful in addition to however many antioxidants they might have.  So this, I suppose, ties in to the way I have always cooked for Olive.  I haven’t ever given her something without seasoning.  From 6 months, whatever she’s eaten has been seasoned with something (yes, less salt than I’d prefer, don’t worry.) And now that she’s eating from the table, it’s game ON.  Welcome to the wonderful world of food, Ollie.  We have chocolate!

Making goat cheese is easier than making bread, but the two go together quite nicely.  I don’t personally think that it’s easier or cheaper than buying goat cheese at the store.  I think a quart of goat’s milk is comparable to a cheap log of goat cheese.  However, it’s fun to do stuff from scratch, it’s creamier, tastier and gives you a sense of self satisfaction that you did something the old way.  Isn’t that reason enough to at least give it a try?

 

DIY Goat Cheese – adapted from Serious Eats
makes one, 4 oz log of goat cheese

1 quart of full fat goat’s milk (I bought this brand)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from one large lemon, maybe two)
1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
a few pinches of salt
Herbs – whatever sounds good to you (rosemary, chives, herbs de Provence, non herbs like honey, chopped dried fruits, etc.  Possibilities are endless.  If you use something sweet, omit the garlic)

Fill a medium saucepan with goat’s milk.  Heat gradually until it reaches 180F.  Watch closely.  It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.  A candy thermometer works nice in this situation, but I used a probe meat thermometer the second time because it was more accurate (pictured here was my first attempt.)
cooking goat milk

Once it hits the magical temperature, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until milk starts to curdle, about 20 seconds. Don’t expect curdles, like cottage cheese curdles. Slight clumping will occur, but nothing too drastic. You can add a few extra droplets if nothing is actually happening.

Line a colander with a thin, flour sack kitchen towel.  Or lots and lots of layers of cheese cloth that you probably don’t have on hand.  Most of you have a thin kitchen towel that you can almost see through. As long as there aren’t holes, use it.  It’s efficient, it works great and just remember to wash it quickly and don’t throw it in the used-towel bin for a week all wadded up in a sweaty goat cheese smelling ball.  Like I did.

Set your lined colander over a deep bowl and ladle in the milk.  It will seem like it’s all seeping through, but don’t fret. Tie up the ends of the towel and suspend over the bowl and let it drain for about 2 hours.
straining goats milk

Transfer the cheese to a bowl and mix in seasonings to taste.  The first time I did it, I added the grated garlic, salt and about a teaspoon of herbs de Provence.  The second time, I roasted my garlic and added in olive oil.  SO GOOD. This time, I left out the garlic and stirred in some raw honey and a little salt and used it in a salad recipe from the Bonne Femme cookbook.  Amazing results.  Have fun with it!

After you mix in your flavors, if you want to be able to cut it or have some sort of shape, wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for a couple hours to let it firm up.  (see below) then you can cut it for bread or whatever you like.

goat cheese with baguette and raw honey

 

With just bread and extra honey it’s basically a dessert!

goat cheese honey salad

 

On top of baguette slices, broiled and then drizzled with extra honey.  Set on top of a mixed greens salad with toasted pine nuts and a sherry vinaigrette.  An excellent lunch!