Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Juicy Italian Meatballs and Umami Spring Angel Hair Pasta

I had a lot of ground beef and ground pork in the freezer.  I decided to use half for italian meatballs and use half for swedish meatballs.  I'll get to the swedish meatballs in another post.  For now, I'll just share my recipe for italian meatballs.  The milk soaked breadcrumbs really kept the meatballs moist and helped hold their shape.

Italian Meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp oregano
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp pepper

Soak the breadcrumbs in milk.   Saute onions until soft and translucent.  Set aside to cool.
Mix together ground beef, pork, soaked breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, egg, oregano, salt and pepper.  Once onions are cool to the touch, combine onions with meat mixture.
2 heaping tablespoons at a time, form the meatballs by lightly patting with the palms of your hands.
Heat a large frying pan w/ enough oil to just cover the surface.  Pan-fry the meatballs over med-low heat until brown on all sides, carefully turning once on each side, about 1 1/2 min each side.

I didn't feel like a saucy pasta dish, so decided to do a light spring angel hair pasta dish and topped it with a few meatballs.  The umami flavor of the pasta was sensational.

Umami Spring Angel Hair Pasta
16 oz. dried angel hair pasta
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups parsley leaves
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp garlic, minced
Any other vegetables you have around, julienned
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (see package instructions).  Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and set aside.  In a large saute pan (I used the meatball pan with all the pan drippings), saute the anchovy fillets and onions over med-low heat.  Cook until fillets are melted and onions are translucent.
Add garlic to onion mixture.  Stir for 30 seconds.
Add parsley, spinach, tomatoes and other vegetables.  Cook until spinach and parsley are just wilted.
Take pan off heat and toss in pasta.  Stir in reserved pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time to make a light sauce.  Be careful not to add too much, the sauce should not be too watery.
Mix in parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.  I strongly advise tasting before adding the cheese.  The anchovy fillets make up half the salt element in this dish.
Serve with meatballs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers
There were some really nice looking bell peppers on sale at the market, so that night's dinner was inspired by them.  I have always casted bell peppers as the supporting actor, but never the star.  This time, since I bought so many, I wanted the bell peppers to be the focus of my main dish.
Stuffed bell peppers freeze beautifully and make a great presentation when served with the tops on.  They can be stuffed with any type of grain (quinoa, rice, couscous, etc) and protein (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, sausages, etc).   Other ingredients like pine nuts, curry powder, diced tomatoes, herbs, feta cheese, and/or sun-dried tomatoes can bring endless variations to this one dish.  It is also a great way to transform and disguise leftovers.  The starch to meat ratio can be adjusted depending on what your budget is like and/or what you happen to have on hand.  The bell peppers really infuses the stuffing with flavor while baking.  Edible food containers are so cool.  Choose bell peppers that have even bottoms.  Or you can also cut them in half, length-wise (keeping the stems) to make side dish portions. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers
10-12 bell peppers
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp fresh marjoram
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp pine nuts
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp oil

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and set aside.  Remove and discard the seeds and white parts.  Par-boil the bell peppers for about 20 seconds and arrange standing upright on a baking dish.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Heat oil in saute pan.  Add onions and stir.  Cook until translucent.  Add ground turkey and garlic powder.  Stir until cooked through.  Mix in rice, tomatoes and marjoram.  Turn off heat.  Mix in feta and pine nuts.  Season the mixture with salt & pepper to taste.
Carefully spoon the stuffing mixture into each bell pepper.  Pack it in as much as possible without tearing the bell peppers.  Place the bell pepper tops over the filling, as covers.  Fill the bottom 1 1/2 inches of the baking dish with water.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.