Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

No offense to T.S. Eliot, but I firmly believe March is the cruelest month.  It’s long, for one.  There are no holidays.  It still gets dark early, and it’s still cold.  The tourists are in full force, so you’re actually avoiding the cherry blossoms, at all costs.  And someone chose March to be Women’s History Month – which don’t get me wrong – this is important – but how come we’ve got to cram all the events and all the meetings and all the speeches and all the things into March?  I’m pretty sure – actually I know – that women are awesome all year round.  (AKA, I’m really lucky and work on issues that I feel incredibly passionate about, but I’m also le tired.  Growing a human is hard.)

However, despite the lack of posts and despite whining above, rest assured, we’ve been dominating Cooking Light’s March issue.  No one is going to call these meatballs pretty – but they were delicious.  And polenta…it’s the new staple in our house.

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Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

for the polenta:

  • 3-4 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • salt, pepper
  • 3/4 cup ground polenta
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • shredded cheese of your choice

for the meatballs

  • about a pound of lean ground meat (we used turkey)
  • splash sesame oil (this stuff is powerful)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • splash soy sauce
  • pinch of panko or breadcrumbs

for the sauce

  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (yes, really)
  • big dash sriracha or hot sauce
  • about 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • big dash of worcestshire sauce
  1. Make your meatballs.  Combine the turkey, onion, garlic, sesame oil soy sauce and breadcrumbs.  Roll into about 15-20 meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, about six minutes.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, get your stock boiling for your polenta.  (Note: you may need way more liquid at the end.)
  4. Add water, ketchup, sriracha, oyster and worcestshire sauce to the pan and whisk it up.  Return meatballs to the pan and cover, simmering until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. When the stock is boiling, add salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the polenta.  Depending on what kind you use – it may take up to 25 minutes.  Add butter and cheese and season to taste.
  6. Serve the whole shebang with a healthy side salad – this kind of heaviness needs a little greenery.

 

The Verdict:

We are the converted.  Polenta – never again pre-prepared.  Ever.  THIS is the way to go.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

Probably exactly what you need, right after the new year starts, is a recipe that combines two of the most wonderful, cheese and carb-laden treats known to humankind into one unholy meal.

Well, I can say that at least around here, “losing x pounds” didn’t make it to the resolutions list this year.  #pregnancyperks

I won’t lie to you: this recipe takes a while (about 2.5 full hours, from start to finish).  BUT, it’s worth it.  And not just if you’re pregnant.  So let’s get to it.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

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for the bechamel

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or cream, if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed reds
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

for the onion mixture

  • butter/olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (to make this veggie, obviously, just use veggie stock instead.)
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (you might want to tie these up into a bundle)
  • 1 bag arugula
  • 1 box pasta (I used cavatappi, which winds its way so delightfully around each onion slice, each delightful bite of cheese)

for the topping

  • about 1/2 cup panko
  • about 1/2 cup parmesan
  • (a little parsley, if you have it, would be nice right at the very end)
  1. Start your onions, which take the longest.  Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add onions, cover, and cook down, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  2. While the onions are going, start your bechamel.  Over low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir constantly to combine for 2-3 minutes.   Increase heat to medium, and slowly add the milk or cream; stir until thickened (this takes about 5-6 minutes; add more flour if you need).  Lower the heat, & season with s+p and the crushed red peppers.  Fold in the gruyere and cheddar until the sauce is melty and delicious – set aside and try not to eat.
  3. To the onion mixture, add garlic and dash honey.  Cook another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize.  Add wine and beef broth and stir, scraping up the bottom bits.  Add the thyme and let the mixture cook down, until the liquid is almost gone.
  4. The previous step will take a while, so this is is a good time to start your pasta water boiling and to cook according to directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a baking pan.  In the onion pot, mix together the arugula, pasta, onions, and bechamel.  Make sure it’s thoroughly combined before you pour into the baking pan – snag the bundled thyme as you do so.
  6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko and parmessan, and then spread this over the top of the pasta/onion mixture.  Pop the whole thing into the oven for 35 minutes.

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The Verdict:

You can taste how long this takes to make (in a good way, I promise).  It’s got serious flavor, from first bite to finish.  It’s two of the best meals ever, on one plate – how could you not love it?  Just make sure to serve with a side salad – you’ll want something a little…lighter.

 

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken

We are home.  And we are stuffed.

For the past week, we have eaten nothing but baguettes, cheese, croque madame, pain au chocolat, croissants, steaks and frites.  We have consumed bottle after bottle of champagne and red wine.  We bought ice cream cones for the express purpose of passing the time, standing in line for museums.  We were gluttons and we are not sorry.

Paris and London were in a word, amazing.  We climbed all the monuments (sort of atones for the food? maybe?).  We took boat tours down the Thames and the Seine, and toasted each other as the Eiffel Tower lit up the sky.  We looked at crowns and wandered through gardens.  We saw close friends and family; I wandered the grand flower store at the foot of our old apartment, where my father took me the day I turned 8 and let me pick out any flowers I wanted for a birthday bouquet.

We are stuffed – food-wise, but also joy-wise.  (I know, I’m cheesy, but it’s just the truth.)  In that honor, some stuffed chicken breasts I made before we left.

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Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 large ball mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons or so sundried tomatoes, julienned
  • about 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of water
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  1. After you rinse and pat dry chicken breasts, rub with a little bit of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper.  Use a small knife to carefully make an incision in each chicken breast; take care not to cut it all the way in half (you want to create a little pocket for all your goodies).
  2. Place each chicken breast under a sheet of parchment and pound with a mallet or small pan.so they are each less than an inch thick.  Insert a layer of basil, mozzarella and a few sundried tomatoes into each “pocket” of the chicken breast.
  3. Dredge each chicken breast individually in the flour, shake off excess flour, coat in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in panko.  Repeat for each chicken breast.
  4. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Without crowding the pan, cook each chicken breast for about 3-4 minutes on one side.  Lower the heat and use tongs to carefully flip to the other side, cooking an additional 3-4 minutes.  Keep chicken warm while you cook the additional breasts.
  5. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread.

The Verdict:

This is a go-to in our house: that panko crust keeps the chicken juicy and crispy at the same time, while the cheese just oozes on to your plate.  And no one argues with oozing cheese.

Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki

I’ve been waiting all week to post these bad boys.

This past weekend, Husband and I hosted my parents.  Normally, this is a good excuse to shuttle off to that restaurant we’ve been dying to try but can’t quite justify the expense…but since my parents were coming off a 3-day Civil War/college reunion tour, they wanted some home-cooked food. Enter sandman Deb Perelman.

Tip: next time your parents are coming off a 3-day Civil War tour (I’ll let you all ponder that in your heads.  Parental units hopping on and off a bus, checking out battlefields, dressed in orange and/or tiger stripes, chanting about Old Nassau.  My dad , the civil war buff, bopping about in his Abe Lincoln t-shirt.  My mom, the bewildered German, wondering when the part is when she gets to see her kids.  Makes me giggle.) make them this.

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Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

for your meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey (use a mixture of lean and fatty meat, so it does not dry out)
  • about 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful cumin
  • small handful coriander
  • large pinch of salt & pepper
  • about a tablespoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (better if toasted quickly)

for your chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • small handful sumac
  • a big bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • a bit of lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt, pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • olive oil
  • optional: olives (blech) or anchovy paste (yum), to add brininess

for your tzatziki sauce

  • about two cups plain Greek yogurt
  • about 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon, plus a little grated zest
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • optional: fresh dill, 1 clove minced garlic (there’s lots of garlic in the rest of this recipe, so I omitted it, or I should say, Husband omitted it, since he’s in charge of tzatsiki in our house!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Comine all of your meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly, using your hands, but do not overwork the meat.  Shape the meat into little golf balls.
  3. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large saute pan and brown the meatballs.  Do not overcrowd the pan.
  4. On a large pan covered with aluminum foil (to make your cleanup easier!), bake the meatballs for about 10 – 13 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, get your smashed chickpea salad going.  Combine all of the chickpea ingredients in one bowl, minus olive oil.  Mash (a potato masher works well!) together – leave it a big chunky.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  6. Finally, mix all of your tzatziki ingredients together in another bowl.  Season to taste.
  7. Serve everything together, all at once, and let the praise wash over you like a college fight song.

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The Verdict:

I know it LOOKS like a lot, but if you have the ingredients, this is easy-peasy and oh-so-good.  Mom, Dad & Husband all raved about this little combination, which we also served with salad and pita bread…tiding us all over until the next Civil War battlefield tour.

Very Veggie Not-Quite-Tart

Last week, I had epic plans to make Ottolenghi’s Very Full Tart.

Which I did, sort of.  There were (obviously, because why can’t I just follow a recipe, why why why) some tweaks.  (I guess because when recipes call for things like zucchini, which I hate, you know there have to be some adjustments…& one adjustment, leads to another, and another…)

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if only i could follow directions…

Very Veggie Not-Quite-Tart

  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 smallish eggplant, diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (or 2 medium onions)
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • leaves from about 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/3 cup ricotta (full fat works best)
  • about 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • a handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • about a cup heavy cream or milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper, place in ovenproof dish, drizzle a bit of olive oil over it and stick in the oven.
  2. Toss the diced eggplant with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of crushed reds on a large baking dish; stick in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potato to the eggplant pan and roast another 20 minutes.  In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil and saute the onions with bay leaves and a pinch of salt for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove all the vegetables (including the pepper) from the oven.  Reduce the temperature to about 325 degrees F.  Cover the pepper with foil and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel and chop into smaller slices.
  5. Grease the bottom of a pie or tart pan.  Spread out the panko bread crumbs on the bottom and halfway up the sides.
  6. Scatter the onion over the panko, cover with roasted vegetables (eggplant, sweet potato, bell pepper), and top with about half the thyme leaves.  Dot the veggies with both types of cheeses.  Scatter the halved tomatoes about the top.
  7. Whisk the eggs and cream in a small bowl with salt, pepper and some crushed red peppers.  Carefully pour the mix over the veggies and top with the remaining thyme leaves.
  8. Bake the tart for about 40 minutes or until the filling sets.  Admire your handiwork and serve with a small salad, (topped with any roasted vegetables that didn’t fit into your tart).
layers of veggie flavor
layers of veggie flavor

The Verdict:

This came out deliciously, and was great for a number of tasty, subsequent lunches. However, it won’t become a staple around here anytime soon, given that it took 2+ hours to make.  This is more of a snow day kind of meal.  Which, speaking of, where IS my snow day?!