Turkey Meataballs


Without question, Italian American cuisine is my ideal comfort food.

For me, this food will always be associated, first and foremost, with family. Not because I’m Italian (which, actually, I’m not even a smidge of) but because it’s what we always ate on my birthday, and what we asked for whenever Mom was taking requests, and it’s what I crave when I’m home for the holidays. Although my family isn’t Italian, you wouldn’t know it by the shovels of manicotti, penne, and lasagna I grew up on.

More specifically, it’s the red sauce gravy that really satiates. It reminds me of lazy weekends when pots of sauce would be simmering on the stove, bottles of juicy red wine would be opened, invigorating company and conversation, and we’d feast on the hearty meatballs or penne strewn through it.

I made turkey meatballs tonight, and they brought with them that rush of nostalgia and good feelings. Funny how food does that.

Healthier then your classic beef or veal, these turkey meatballs have less fat but stay fantastically moist by incorporating milk-soaked day old bread. They’re light and flavorful. The perfect meal to make for your next family gathering.

Ingredients
• 1.25 lb ground turkey
• 3/4 cup cubed day-old bread, crusts removed (I
used rosemary sourdough, it’s what happened to be
laying around.)
• 1/4-1/2 cup milk or just enough to thoroughly
moisten the bread
• 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pounded with a
bit of salt
• 1 tbs fresh chopped parsley
• 1 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1/8-1/4 cup grated Parmesan
• salt
• fresh ground pepper
• olive oil (for frying)

Optional:
• 1 small onion, finely minced. Though I adore
onions, I was forced to omit this as my boyfriend
detests them, and worse, can pick any hint of
onion out like a needle in a haystack.
• A pinch of cayenne pepper
• Chopped pine nuts

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, combine cubed bread and the milk. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meat and season with salt and pepper. Next, squeeze most of the milk out of the soaking bread and add the bread to the meat (along with the minced onion if you are using.) Discard the used milk.
3. Now add the garlic, herbs, egg, and Parmesan cheese to the bowl. Combine all ingredients with your hands. The mixture should feel very moist, but not overly wet. At this point, the smell from the herbs was divine.
4. Roll the mixture into golf ball sized meatballs, and preheat a heavy skillet on medium.
5. Pour about 1/8-1/4 inch olive oil in the pan. Wet your hand and flick a little water into the hot oil. If it sizzles, it’s hot enough for the meatballs to be added. Toss the meatballs around in the pan so they brown evenly on all sides. You will most likely have to fry in two batches.
6. Cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the middle, but be careful not to overcook, or risk drying out the meat. About 6-8 minutes a batch should do it.
7. Drain the meatballs on a paper towel to soak up excess oil, stir in with your favorite red sauce, pasta, and enjoy!

Beetiful

As you can see from the title of this post, I’m feeling very clever today.
So clever, in fact, that I know I should spare you, innocent reader, of any more word play, bad puns, and off-kilter metaphors.

Onto the beets.


I scrounged together leftovers from last week’s Farmer’s Market and came up with this roasted beet and spinach salad.

To roast the beets, trim the greens down to an inch or two. Save the greens for a future recipe. Then, either wrap each root tightly in tin foil, or place the beets together in a baking dish with 1/8 inch of water. Cover tightly and roast for 30-60 minutes at 400 degrees, or, until the beet is tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. After cooling, the beets are no trouble to peel. Discard the skin and stem. The beet can be sliced or diced for the salad, depending on preference.

Mixed with baby spinach, the sweet, earthy veg really hit the spot. However, the star of the salad turned out to be the creamy horseradish dressing.

My standard salad-for-one technique of mixing the dressing in the bottom of the bowl I’m about to eat from (less dishes.. ya know) doesn’t necessitate measuring, but imagine making your basic vinaigrette with an added squeeze of creamy horseradish for flavor, a small dollop of creme fraiche for consistency, and a sprinkle each of Herbs de Provence, fresh ground pepper, and chunky sea salt.

I ate up every. last. bite.

As an added bonus, I got to hide this under the trash in the kitchen.

The beet root sure does make a convincing rat tail, no?? I really got my boyfriend going for a minute. Just getting in the Halloween spirit around here! It’s fun to act half your age every once in a while 🙂

Evolution of a Dish: Roast Chicken

As a frugal cook, roast chicken is one of my all time favorite things to make. It supplies the basic ingredients for a week’s worth of meals, which is pretty great when you live in Southern California and the thermometer hit a ghastly 98 degrees today and you can’t bear the thought of turning your oven on again, not ever, for as long as you live.

There’s the juicy, herbal-scented meat of the roast chicken itself which can be made into a gazillion different sandwiches or salads, the just-out-of-the-oven crispy, salty, skin that puffs up ready to be peeled from the steaming meat, and last but not least, there’s the bones. Full of gelatinous goodness. Homemade chicken broth simply cannot be beat, and the carcass of a roasted chicken is a thrifty girl’s necessary first ingredient.

Though some argue that starting broth from a new, raw chicken yields the best results, I’ve found that as long as you don’t pick your carcass dry there’s still plenty of meat left clinging to the bones to flavor the broth. Besides, boiling the whole chicken would mean no crispy skin. And no crispy skin does not a happy cook make.

Anyway, back to the title of this post. I wanted to show just how much of a culinary workhorse a roast chicken can be.

This week, what started as an hearty roast chicken and roasted root vegetable dinner on Sunday…

…turned into chicken stock by Monday.

And a healthy chicken veggie soup by Tuesday.

I used Alice Waters’s recipe from The Art of Simple Food for both the chicken and the broth. Though I turned to Chef Waters in this case, the instructions were basic- no real surprises here, and I’m sure your Mom’s tried and true recipe would work equally as well!

**And in case you wondering, the green tinge you see on the roast are herbs stuffed under the skin (I used rosemary and marjoram.) They provide a great aromatic quality to the meat, and are not signs of a Frankenstein deformity on my precious chicken thank you very much.

A Farmers Market Lunch


One of the blessings of living in Los Angeles is beautiful year-round weather, which leads to a foodie/cook’s ultimate dream: lush, abundant, reliable farmers markets. It seems like you are never further then a stone’s throw away from a market in this city, and I’m not complaining. I love these markets, and try my best to make it each week to stock up on fresh produce.

Although organics are sometimes pegged as too expensive or inaccessible, from my experience, I’ve found farmers markets’ prices to be pretty competitive, especially when it comes to greens and herbs. And the produce tastes better. And you’re able to talk to the farmers that grow it, and in turn, can discuss how to best cook it, get help in picking the ripest fruit and veggies, etc etc.





On this trip, I gathered the necessities to assemble a simple, produce-centric lunch.

My bounty:

Which became:


Wild arugula salad with a homemade balsamic dressing made from Farmers Market Italian balsamic vinegar and California olive oil with a scattering of poached chicken mixed in. On the side is an open-faced sourdough sammie smeared with artisanal goat cheese and heirloom tomatoes.

It’s summer on a plate and a flavorful light lunch!

The Crawfish Boil- A Louisiana Springtime Ritual

Mudbugs, crawfish, crawdaddys.. whatever you call the little suckers, anyone who has spent time in Louisiana has inevitably come across these crustaceans in famous dishes like Crawfish Monica, Crawfish Etouffee, or at it’s most elemental, at a Crawfish Boil.

I went to my first boil while living in New Orleans and fell instantly in love with not only the strange shellfish, but the ceremony surrounding the boil. A crawfish boil is one of those food-centered gatherings that ends up not really being just about the food. Like ignoring the turkey on Thanksgiving in favor of football and sides, a crawfish boil is about laughing and drinking and prepping and stirring and peeling together. A messy, spicy, inebriated group of people getting together and making food.

So even when living in L.A., the farthest city in both spirit and looks from the swamps of southern Louisiana, we find a way to have a boil.
Luckily for me, I’m friends with a very enthusiastic deep South transplant here in LA who ordered a whooping 60 pound of crawfish for us to feast on.


Along with andouille sausage, corn, heaps of potatoes, mushrooms, lemons, artichokes, onion, loads of garlic, and numerous bags of Zatarain’s, we plunged the live crawfish into the pot.



After the crawfish are cooked, they’re dumped out on a communal, newspaper-covered table where everyone gathers around to peel, eat, and for the very dedicated, suck the heads. More on that here.


Turns out 60 pounds of mudbugs is too much for our humble stomachs to handle, but over a couple of Bloody Marys (with pickled okra, yum!), we managed to peel the entire batch.

The fruit our labor:

I can’t wait to use up the leftovers and have already started scouring recipes for a dish worthy of our hard-earned crawfish meat.
I’m thinking Etouffee, bisque, or Monica will be just the thing to cure my mid-week blues.

Even if I can’t still live in the coolest city in America, on a Sunday afternoon like this, I can at least pretend I do.