Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 New Year's Eve Meaty Balls

Believe it or not, I never made a meatball before today. It's the last day of 2010, and I decided it was high time. The Joy of Cooking has about seven meatball recipes--traditional Italian meatballs to Hawaiian meatballs. I see more meatballs in my future.

I deviated only slightly from The Joy of Cooking's recipe for Italian meatballs, which start with a German meatball (or Konigsberger Klops), and then get more Italian-y.

Here's what I did:

2010 New Year's Eve Meaty Balls

1 lb grassfed beef, ground
2 eggs
1/2 cup panko crumbs
olive oil
3 heaping tbsp chopped parsley
3 heaping tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp nutmeg

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil (I cheated and used leftover bacon fat). Once cooled, add to ground beef in a good-sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with clean hands. Form into your desired shape (I made one inch balls) and sautee in a large pan in olive oil, turning so that each part of the meaty-balls is browned. Place in a casserole dish filled with tomato sauce and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

I asked D to do the pasta up right, and that he did. I don't think I'll ever serve pasta without doing it up this way. I had roasted two heads of garlic the day before, and D melted some butter with the roasted garlic and tossed it with whole wheat linguine. He added fresh cracked black pepper and chopped parsley and that's how we served the meat balls....on top of this amazing pasta.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mystic Gypsy Libations

In addition to the jars of hot sauce that we gave folks this Christmas, I also made Chai Infused Vodka and a bottle of Frangelico to a few people as a special treat. People are always so impressed with infused vodka, and it's the easiest thing in the world to make. I brought this concoction to a tea party for a dear friend's birthday party a few months ago and it was a hit.

I remember visiting a Russian bar-bistro in the East Village called Anyway Cafe years ago and being transfixed by the number of infused vodkas on the menu (the food an ambiance there are fantastic, too). I chose this spot to celebrate a publication I worked on once with the Open Society Institute and a Ukranian colleague, and we had a really nice time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas celebration at Tanoreen

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and we'd planned to spend it with friends at Fone of our favorite restaurants, Tanoreen in Bay Ridge. We were seven: two close friends who were headed to Ghana for the holidays, a friend from Florida who'd come to town to house- and dog-sit for them while they were away, and another couple from Jersey. We'd gotten to the neighborhood a little early, so D and I drove to Dyker Heights, a neighborhood where folks try to outdo each other every year in over-the-top lawn decorations. It's really an unbelievable sight: life-sized toy soldiers, Santas, reindeer.....D jokes that Con Ed makes a profit just from this neighborhood every year.

Tanoreen recently moved to a larger location with a liquor license. I was afraid a move like that might kill the spirit of the lovely little restaurant where the chef and owner, Palestinian and Nazareth-born Rawia Bishawa, would come out from the kitchen and check in with guests to make sure they were enjoying their meal. Bishawa still comes out, and the place is even warmer and more festive than its smaller digs down the street. Bishawa and her team cook up an amazing array of food from all over the Middle East. I am so glad that I've outgrown my childish distaste of lamb, because lamb is a huge part of Tanoreen's menu.

One of my favorite dishes is muhamarra, which is a blend of roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic. I absolutely love it, and have vowed to make it in the New Year. D and I shared the lamb kafta roll, which the menu noted was featured on ABC news, along with the recipe. It was one of the best entrees I have ever had. We ordered several bottles of this Lebanese wine, which D really enjoyed. Our friend told us he can sometimes find it at Red, White, and Bubbly in Park Slope.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mystic Gypsy Sauces

We made hot sauce for our friends and colleagues this year for Christmas. I had an elaborate idea in my mind for labels, but life was hectic, and I ended up doing each label by hand. They were minimalist and I think they turned out okay. After making a special coffee-mustard sauce for pigs n' blankets we brought to a party, we bottled up that sauce, too, and paired it with the smoky plum sauce.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Saucy-Son En Croute

The past few months have been so busy that we haven't done a lot of adventurous cooking. But I knew that I wanted to make something fun for our holiday potluck office party. One day I was shopping at Trader Joe's, and they were giving out samples of their crescent rolls with Quattro Formaggio cheese. It was delicious. I remembered D mentioning that we should make pigs in blankets, so I picked up three packages of sausage (smoked apple Chardonnay chicken sausage), three containers of crescent dough, a bag of Quattro Formaggio, and some dijon mustard. D suggested we make a spicy coffee mustard sauce for dipping.

I couldn't quite visualize how to roll these up, but it was pretty simple. Just stretch the dough out to be large enough to cover one whole sausage, and then roll it up with cheese and fresh ground black pepper, stretching the pastry dough over the sausage. At the last minute, we had the idea of rolling the sausages in parsley.

We popped them back in the fridge and let them sit overnight. About an hour and a half before the party, we cut them into 8 pieces each and placed them on a greased cookie pan. We baked them at 350 degrees until the pastry started to brown. Then we placed them on a tray decorated with red tissue paper.

For the spicy mustard sauce, we brewed a strong cup of coffee and then boiled it down to a syrup. We added that to a 12 oz jar of mustard, added some maple syrup, and seasoned it with a tiny bit of salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. It was very spicy; I think the dijon base we used was a bit too strong (Roland's). In the future, I might increase the amount of coffee syrup, and switch the maple syrup to honey. It was very tasty, though.

I love making little signs for potlucks. I started making little signs with used envelope backs, and then taping them to little toothpicks and sticking them in the food. I think people really appreciate knowing what they're about to eat. There were lots of people who don't eat pork at the party, and I think the sign helped to let them know it was chicken sausage.

I would definitely make this dish again.