January 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

What seems like many moons ago, when I was working in publishing, I started to refer to Real Simple as "Real Stupid" like many of my print industry pals. Not nice, not nice, I know -- but kind of funny. I mean isn't every issue 10 great ideas for pasta and how to (re)organize your shoes? Truth be told, I often try recipes from Real Simple because they are, well... really simple. And sometimes yummy. And a lot of times I could use an idea for pasta, even though I have quite a lot of experience cooking it.

My favorite part of the February 2010 issue, however, is the quote on the spine: "A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness." -- Elsa Shiaparelli. Kinda makes me want to don a shocking pink apron in her honor.

January 23, 2010

gram's meatballs & new year's greetings

happy new year! a little belated, but heartfelt. one can only hope that this year will be better than the last.

as usual with the dawning of a new year, 2010 brings with it hopes of getting in shape, eating better, becoming a supermodel...seems as though each year brings another cunning plan for the diet lifestyle change to bring a resolution to any and all weight problems in the extended cadenelli clan.

even grams gets into the act; in fact, she is probably the greatest instigator of them all! mary dignard, maternal matriarch, eternal watcher of weight(s), and all-around most awesome person ever, apparently has it all figured out, having lost about 40 pounds in the last few years. ('it's easy,' she says. of course, it took her until she was 85 for it to be 'easy,' but who am i to point that out!?)

the details of this effective eating plan are kind of murky, but seem to include consuming mostly fruit, small hunks of italian bread and salumi (ok, i really say 'cold cuts'), and chocolates, the latter eaten rather clandestinely.

since she has 'retired' from any actual cooking, her menu definitely does not include meatballs, unless made by others. this is too bad, because her meatballs have been scientifically proven to be the greatest on earth.

my mother's meatballs are a very close second. mine are pretty good, but never seem to quite measure up. i guess that's just the way it is! but in any case, regardless of the generation making them, the recipe remains about the same. measurements are iffy, since italian meatball-makers would never actually measure anything, but here's the rough idea:

gram's meatballs
breadcrumbs [we always use progresso italian, i must confess, but originally fresh italian bread], handful
parmesan cheese [preferably parmigiano-reggiano] or romano cheese, extraordinarily large handful
eggs, 1 or 2
parsley [preferably italian flat-leaf, definitely fresh], 1/4 bunch or so
salt [i'm in love with maldon] and pepper [freshly ground]

ground meat [all beef, all turkey, or mix of both, or traditional mix of beef/veal/pork], 1 pound

mix all ingredients except meat together in large bowl. add ground beef and combine lightly. this method tends to be easier than adding all the ingredients at once and then mixing, but really, whatever floats your boat.

in my opinion, the secret ingredient of these meatballs is the cheese, as is evidenced by the amount listed. to check seasoning, though, i always cook a little tester meatball patty to taste, as i'm not a big fan of tasting raw ground meat. i tend to go heavier on the cheese and lighter on the breadcrumbs, but each time is slightly different. the texture should be pretty moist. if necessary, you can add a little water, milk, cream, or another egg if the mixture is too stiff. it's a very subjective process :).

when you are happy with the taste and texture, roll into balls of any size you'd like from marble to golf ball. i like to fry them in olive oil and keep them plain. of course, they can also be baked, or dropped into soup or tomato sauce.

always make more than you think you need, because they tend to cause immediate auto-eating. strangely enough, i love them cold the next day. as does da gorge.

over christmas vacation, my lovely and talented mother made an egg yolk-free and gluten-free version, using rice bread cubes soaked in chicken stock and egg whites for binding.

there was still a large amount of cheese involved.

here's to a great 2010!