June 30, 2008

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

Who is Grandma Maroni? I have no idea. But if you want to use this recipe yourself, just substitute your grandma of choice (but don't use Grandma Ward). There are actually two recipes here: meatballs and a tomato sauce (also Maroni's). You can combine these two with spaghetti for a regular meal or serve the meatballs with a dipping sauce. Since we were having band practice this Sunday (I'll be gone next weekend), I thought I'd just prepare some food for my friends at the same time.
These meatballs are actually easy to make and I used the full quantities in the recipe (which made ~16 moderate-to-large-sized meatballs). Meatballs aren't particularly appetizing to photo and the bottoms were crispier than the pictures show, but they were also quite delicious. Just combine the ingredients listed below in a good-sized mixing bowl, roll into 1 to 2 inch round balls, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Like the recipe says, if they are still too squishy when handling, add more bread crumbs.
The tomato sauce is nothing particularly fancy: it's basically crushed tomatoes combined with sliced garlic and diced onions. I must admit that I prefer my pasta sauce out of a can and without these fresh ingredients. What does that tell you? You can lead a horse to the kitchen but you can't make him cook. The goal, really, was to make something that anyone could enjoy, without being too fanciful or flavor-foreign. In that regard, the meatballs were good "finger" food and could be dipped into the sauce for some extra pasta-y flavor. OK, I promise I'm done with the hyphenated words.
Oh yeah, here are my friends being awesome. From left to right: Peter, Cory, and Jon. By high score, our band is a ranked a little over 300 in the world. And now for the recipes. Grandma Maroni's Meatballs:
  • 1 pound of ground chuck
  • 0.5 cups of bread crumbs
  • 4 large eggs
  • 0.5 cups of milk
  • 3/4 cups of grated Romano cheese
  • 3 ounces of grated onion
  • 1/4 cup of diced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 0.25 cups of chopped basil
Just combine all these ingredients in a bowl, roll into balls, bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, and serve. And for Maroni's sauce (I used a quarter of these ingredients):
  • 6 ounces of "good" olive oil (whatever)
  • 12 garlic cloves (!), sliced
  • 1 or 2 onions, diced
  • 2 (!) 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper (1 teaspoon or so each)
  • 1 "large handful julienned fresh basil leaves"
Again, this sauce seems a little much. Just buy a can of Ragu and you'll be fine. ;-)

June 24, 2008

Black Forest Ham and Gruyère Panini

OK, OK, OK, it's not really Black Forest ham, I couldn't find any of that, it's just regular deli ham. Proper Black Forest ham (with capital letters) - from the Schwarzwald region in Germany - is cured with a myriad of spices for one to three months. Albanian ham - from the Clifton Park region of New York state - is sold pre-packaged as lunch meat. Anyway, what's with this cookbook's fascination with Gruyère?
Oh, yeah, so... I bought a panini grill. A friend of mine clued me in to a great deal (she stays up late looking for sales on cooking equipment, apparently) and so I thought I'd indulge. Paninis and panini grills have been trendy this past year, but paninis are actually quite delicious and, if you can convince yourself, rather healthy. Alright, before you grammarians start complaining, I know "paninis" is a catachresis, but you're just going to have to deal. "Panino" is the singular and "panini" is the plural; I'm not saying panino.
So back to the sandwich... Between the (rather large) pieces of Italian bread, we've got a spread of Gorgonzola, caramelized onion, Albanian ham, and sliced Gruyère. When we afixed the Gruyère atop the turkey burgers of a weekend prior, we found that this cheese is simply too hard to melt in such a format. In between hot grill presses, it melted fantastically and was absolutely delicious. As the top and bottom of the bread was buttered for this panino (sigh), the grill left absolutely gorgeous marks upon each. Seven minutes, as the recipe commands, is simply too long for such bread (soft, but not crusty). Five would work fine, though maybe it would vary if you used a more gourmet roll (pro tip: pick up some from Panera on your drive home).
And now for the recipe, which serves four (please don't sue me). Adjust your quantities as per your guests:
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh tarragon (if you choose)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley (if you choose)
  • 4 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, softened
  • 4 crusty (curmudgeonly?) Italian rolls, sliced horizontally
  • 1 pound of Black Forest (or Albanian) ham, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices Gruyère cheese
  • misc. quantities of butter, sugar, salt, and pepper as detailed below
We'll want to caramelize the onions first, so melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a cast-iron (or non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced onions for two minutes, then reduce heat to low and season with 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Sauté for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once removed from heat, you can toss the onions with the tarragon and parsley. Butter both sides of your crusty Italian loaf (that was fun to type) and then combine 2 tablespoons of softened butter with the 2 tablespoons of softened Gorgonzola. Spread the Gorgonzola on the insides of the rolls, layer with the caramlized onion, the ham, and then two slices of Gruyère each. Grill these sandwiches in the panini grill for five to seven minutes and then eat while hot.

June 16, 2008

Tandoori Chicken Salad

I had a hard time picking what to cook for this week's meal (last week I was down in NYC at MoCCA and visiting friends). I wanted something simple, but not boring. After much deliberating (debilitating?), I found this recipe for Tandoori chicken salad from Food Network's website. Tandoori chicken is an Indian dish where the chicken is marinaded in a curry-esque yogurt. The meal is simple: make the yogurt marinade, grill the chicken, then add it atop a salad.
The marinade was simple enough: yogurt with Garam masala, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and a minced jalapeño chili. Garam masala is an Indian blend of cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, and other spices. Turmeric is a Southeast Asian spice from the ginger family often used in curries. Thoroughly coating the chicken and grill it along with some of the marinade until there's no remaining pink.
Once finished, add it to a salad of iceberg lettuce, cucumber, scallions, jicama, or your preferred greens. The recipe actually calls for cabbage, radishes, and cilantro, but these aren't really of my preference, so I did without. I had never heard of jicama before; it's, well, a potato/yam-like starchy thing that looks rough from the outside but is very juicy and crunchy on the inside. Without much flavor itself, it absorbs those its paired with. It was actually very delicious!
And now, by popular request, the ingredients and preparation. First, the link to Food Network's recipe: Tandoori Chicken Salad. It looks to be for a limited-time only, so print it now if you want to keep it. The marinade's ingredients are:
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons of Garam masala (powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic (minced or powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • a jalapeño chili, minced, if you so choose
Just stir these all together and cover the chicken thoroughly. Keep the chicken marinading while preparing the salad thusly:
  • shredded iceberg lettuce, as much as you need
  • shredded red cabbage (I just used a bag of mixed salad greens)
  • 1 cup of sliced radishes, if that's what you're into
  • 2 cups of sliced cucumber
  • a small bunch of sliced scallions
  • 1 cup of finely chopped cilantro leaves (unless you're Ian)
  • 1.5 cups of diced jicama
Just combine the grilled chicken with the salad vegetables and enjoy! How easy was that?

June 3, 2008

Gruyère Turkey Burgers

What do you do when summer arrives and you've spent all winter eating and hibernating? When you've got some extra pounds to lose before beach-bound sunbathing, but you just can't pass up the opportunity to grill out? Try replacing your double-stacked bacon cheeseburger with one of these!
Fresh ground turkey (extra lean) is a great, healthy substitute. Aim for half a pound and cook for five minutes or less per side. Make your patties too large and they won't cook through quick enough. Dry turkey is no good. While the burger is grilling, we'll go ahead and throw on everything else: some sliced mushrooms and sourdough bread to use as a bun. Before the turkey is completely finished, cover it in grated Gruyère and let the cheese melt for a few minutes.
Gruyère is a hard cheese, imported from Switzerland, and is generally expensive and exquisite. Once the cheese has had time to melt, move the turkey burgers onto the sliced pieces of sourdough bread. Cover with the mushrooms and enjoy your healthy alternative to the normal American excess. How easy was that? Fancy!