Tomato season is coming to an end, a time which, for me, is bittersweet. I am at the same time sad that I'll have to wait another ten months for full-flavored, raw tomatoes to grace my plate, and pleased that this sign brings Autumn (and the cooler weather that comes with her) just a little bit closer. To remedy these mixed feelings, I've been making and canning lots and lots of sauce. The ritual of washing dozens and dozens (and dozens x10) of tomatoes, passing them through the Sauce Master (best. tool. ever. thanks Joe!), and cooking the resulting puree down to half its original volume with onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs has been a weekly routine since mid-July. It brings me great pleasure to know that soon, when the air is brisk and the leaves have fallen, we'll be able to tap into a bit of Summer with one of the 30+ pints of marinara we've got stored away.
And, what better accompaniment to homemade tomato marinara than homemade meatballs? It had been awhile since the last time we made meatballs at home, but I'm thinking (and know that Brian agrees) that they should make a more regular appearance on our menu. They are so easy, and for us the epitome of comfort food when paired with fresh pasta and rich sauce. It may seem odd to have made a dish so warm and hearty during the heat of mid-August, but to me seemed an appropriate invitation for Autumn to hurry herself along.
Even if you're not set up to can tomato sauce, I still recommend doubling or tripling the sauce recipe and freezing the leftovers. And, while you're at it, go ahead and double the meatball recipe, too. They freeze well, and will be so delicious with the extra sauce come October...
Pasta with Bacon Garlic Marinara and Homemade Meatballs
sauce by Bella Eats, meatball recipe from Bon Appetit, October 2010
2 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 large heirloom tomatoes (about 3 pounds), blanched, peeled, and cored (keep the seeds)
salt + pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
1/3 cup whole milk
8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
8 ounces ground pork
1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 pound of fresh pasta (we love linguini)
First, get the sauce going (it will take about 2 hours). Saute the bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat until starting to brown. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper and saute for an additional 2 minutes, stirring pretty constantly. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you put them into the pot, and scrape the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Immediately start the meatballs once sauce is simmering. Combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl, stirring until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Place beef and pork in a large bowl and break into small clumps. Add the parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Whisk together the eggs and the garlic cloves in another small bowl. Pour over meat mixture.
Using your hands, squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs, reserving the milk. Add the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture. Using your hands, quickly and gently mix all ingredients together until everything is evenly distributed, taking care to not overmix. Chill at least 15 minutes and up to one hour.
Moisten your hands with the excess milk, then roll the meat into golfball-size balls. You should have about 16 meatballs.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the sauce to the desired consistency. Return to a wide, shallow saucepan and bring back to a simmer. Add the meatballs in a single layer, and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. You'll want to turn them about halfway through, but be careful not to break them apart before they are ready to move.
Cook pasta and drain. Remove meatballs from sauce. Add pasta to sauce pan and toss to coat. Serve with meatballs and shredded parmesan cheese.
There is something about summertime that leaves me craving tacos. I have no idea where this comes from, but the combination of fresh tortillas, pulled meat, avocado, and salsa does not leave my brain from mid-May through early September. Sure, I'd consume tacos any time of the year, but during these summer months I could eat them every single week. Also, we have a thing for pork in this household. Whether it be bacon, or pulled bbq, or thick bone-in chops...I dare say that pork is our favorite meat. So combine tacos with pork and you'll find a very happy Andrea chowing down, claiming 'this is the best meal, ever'. Not only because I love that particular combination of flavors, but because slow-cooked carnitas tacos are easy, and don't heat up my kitchen, and make enough quantity to have leftovers for a couple of days. On these brutally hot Virginia summer evenings that is EXACTLY the kind of recipe to do a little food dance for.
We made these tacos for Tommy + Kristin's baby party a couple of months ago (and, btw, Olive has arrived!). Ever since I've been craving them, talking about making carnitas tacos each week following. We finally picked up a beautiful pork shoulder (or butt...boston butt that is...I know, its confusing) from Belmont Butchery last week, and there was no way that carnitas weren't happening after 3 months of thinking about them. And oh, were they good. SO good, that I think they'll have to happen again soon. Maybe next week, even...
These tortillas came from La Michoacana. C-villians...if you haven't been there yet, GO. Right NOW. Everybody else, see if you can find fresh tortillas for your carnitas tacos, they will make all the difference.
serves 8 (about 32 small tacos)
(1) 6 pound bone-in pork butt (also called pork shoulder)
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
4 chipotle peppers (canned, in adobo sauce)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup orange juice
Trim the excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in your slow-cooker and set to LOW. Cook for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off of the bone. When it is cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place on a large platter or cutting board. Remove the bone and shred the meat to bite-size pieces.
Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat. To reheat, place carnitas in a baking dish and pour juices over top. Cover with foil and re-heat in oven. The juices are also really delicious as a sauce over the carnitas. It will be spicier than the meat itself, so be careful to taste-test.
For tacos, serve with small corn tortillas, sour cream, lime, avocado, fresh salsa, and queso fresco.
As much as both Brian and I LOVE to cook, there are still nights when we get home from the office and dread stepping into the kitchen. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have some leftovers floating around in the fridge, other times we resort to ordering steamed veggies and tofu (and maybe some crab wontons, ahem) from the Chinese restaurant down the street. Even though this happens every few weeks, it has been years since I've ordered fried rice. I think I had a few too many disappointments with too-old, slightly crunchy, oddly clumping take-out fried rice in the past, and have stuck with steamed for as long as I can remember. Plus, steamed is healthier, and it makes me feel a little less guilty about the crab wontons I shove in my mouth the minute we close the door behind the delivery boy.
But recently, we discovered how easy it is to make fried rice. And that really, when you make it at home, its not that bad for you. Yes, you throw a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in your pan, but we all know that the right oils in moderation are actually good for you, and when you divide this dish up into four hearty servings you've got nothing to worry about. Add the fact that we used brown rice instead of white and threw in some colorful veggies loaded with vitamins and you've got yourself a healthy alternative to take-out. And I guarantee that you can make it faster than the delivery boy can get the bad stuff to you.
It does help to have some forethought - you want to have rice already made in order to enhance the texture of the dish and cut down on preparation time.
Several Saturdays ago we picked up a couple of beautiful pork chops at the farmer's market from Double H Farm (no website) along with some of their gorgeous eggs. Pork chops on the grill seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the veggie fried rice I'd been thinking about, so I cooked up some brown rice that weekend and one night after work we put this meal together. It was quick, simple and incredibly delicious, not to mention colorful. I briefly thought about healthify-ing the rice even further, by using only egg whites, but when it came time to discard those beautiful orange yolks I just couldn't do it. I'll leave that up to you, if you wish.
The flavor of the pork was very good, I'm just not a big pork chop fan. I ate a few bites and then passed my chop over to Brian, whom I knew would enjoy it far more than I would. For me, the vegetable fried rice was the star of the show.
Vegetable Fried Riceadapted from Gourmet Magazine, via Epicuriousmakes 4 large servings
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
2 tsbp fresh chives or scallions, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups steamed brown rice, cold (ideally, leftover from the night before)
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp Asian sesame oil
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet (12") over medium-high heat. Saute' the carrot and bell pepper until tender, then remove to a separate bowl and set aside.
Wipe skillet clean, then heat over high heat, until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact. Add the remaining 1 tbsp peanut oil, swirling to coat pan evenly, and heat until hot and just starting to smoke.
Add eggs, tilting pan and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer and cook for 30 seconds. Add rice and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the carrots, peppers, chives or scallions, salt and sesame oil to taste, stir-frying until well combined.
Pork Chop Marinadefrom Weber's Big Book of Grilling, by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRaeenough for 4 pork chops, about 1-1/4 inches thick
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients.
Place the chops in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade over the pork chops. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Remove the chops from the bag and discard the marinade. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling or baking.
Cook as you wish. We grilled them, over direct high heat for 12-15 minutes. Turn them over halfway through.
We also whipped together a cucumber salad, to help with our abundance. It was nice and refreshing on the side, but you really need to like sesame if you're going to enjoy this salad.
Asian Cucumber Saladfrom Vegetables Every Day, by Jack Bishop
3 medium cucumbers - peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden brown (we left these out, and the sesame flavor was still really strong)
Toss the cucumbers with the salt in a colander. Set the colander in the sink and let the cucumbers sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, to drain excess liquid.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar and pepper flakes together in a small bowl and set aside, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Thoroughly rinse the cucumber slices under cold, running water and pat dry with paper towels. Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and sesame seeds.
A few years ago Brian and I bought a house. Its a small house, just 800 square feet, but it has a large backyard for the dogs and a great central location in the city. Its been a work in progress since before we moved in - first the bathroom, then a new air conditioner and after that a full replacement of all of our plumbing, with lots of little projects in between. The kitchen has been on the list for quite some time and while we’ve been able to make a few changes, it still hasn’t gotten the full overhaul that it needs deserves.We love to entertain and, as everybody knows, company gravitates towards the kitchen. Why wouldn’t they, when that’s where the good smells, conversation and open bottle of wine are located? Because our kitchen is small with little space for two cooks let alone extra conversationalists, our guests typically wind up in the doorway, leaning on the frame and trying to stay out of the way as Brian and I hustle about preparing a meal. We’ve gotten good at the “kitchen dance”, one of us putting a hand on the other’s back as we pass behind them with a hot pan or using a hip to “bump” the other aside so that the oven door can be opened. Its fun and amusing, but less than ideal.Eventually the kitchen will be re-designed and our guests will have a proper place to sit with a spot to rest their drink as they watch us cook. Until then, when entertaining, we will continue to try and prepare as much as we can ahead of their arrival so as to limit the amount of time that two of us are required in the kitchen together. Getting the meat in the oven, assembling the cobbler for dessert, chopping the veggies to be sauteed just before the meal - anything that will allow us to enjoy our guests without worrying that in our frenzy we might miss a step of our dance and burn an arm. If you’re looking for a main dish that has a maximum return for your relatively low effort, - that you can dress quickly, pop in the oven and after 40-60 minutes and a few bastings be rewarded with a beautiful and delicious star component of your meal - this is it. Not only does it make a lovely presentation, but the pork stays incredibly moist with the figs at its center and the flavors compliment each other wonderfully. There is a wine and fig sauce that came with the original recipe but in the interest of saving time and minimizing effort we chose not to make it. I’m sure it would be delicious.And the pork is perfect for sandwiches the next day, if you’ve got any leftover.Pork Roast Stuffed with Figsrecipe from The New York Times
1 boneless pork loin, about 2 pounds
1 cup dried figs
about 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
salt and pepper
wine, if necessary
Cover figs with hot water and allow to soak. Preheat oven to 425.
Trim pork loin of excess fat as necessary. Wriggle a thin, sharp knife into each end of meat, making a hole. Then, use the handle of a long wooden spoon to force a hole all the way through meat, making it as wide as your thumb.
Drain figs when they are tender, but not mushy. Reserve the liquid. Stuff the figs into the roast, all the way to the center from each end.
Combine salt, pepper and rosemary and rub it all over meat. Place meat in a roasting pan and pour about 1/2 cup of fig liquid over top of it. Roast undisturbed for 20 minutes.
Lower heat to 325 and continue to cook, basting with pan juices every 15 minutes or so. Add liquid (wine or water) if necessary.
When an instant-read thermometer registers 145-150 degrees - probably after 40-50 minutes - remove roast to a warm platter. (when checking temperature, be sure that thermometer is in meat, not fruit)
Let sit for 15 minutes. If you wish, make sauce described here. I did not, and the roast was still delicious.
In The Blog World:
My cousin Meghann is hosting an Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods Giveaway! Be sure to check out her blog and enter to win by midnight Friday. Also, don't forget that she is hosting another Blogger Bake Sale starting next week. She's been posting daily Baker's Spotlights to introduce all of the talented and generous bakers who are donating their goods for a great cause. Get to know the bakers so you're ready to bid on your favorite items!
The lovely ladies over at Keep It Simple Foods are hosting a Quaker Giveaway...who wants a free box of Quaker Simple Havest Trail Mix Bars? Me!!!
Click here for a FREE Barney Butter sample! Thanks Hangry Heather for mentioning it. I'm intrigued by this stuff, aren't you?
Bobbi of NHerShoes is giving away a Danskin workout jacket in a beautiful honeysuckle color...one can never have too many workout clothes!
I hope you all have a great Friday and weekend!!!