Oh my goodness, I had the best weekend. Just sweet and relaxing. Someone did pull out in front of me and was smashed each other a little bit, but fortunately their SUV was so big and our car is so small that they actually smashed me with their tire. Uh, a fleeting appreciation for the size dynamics on the road… Anyway, even that was pretty much as nice as it gets, what with them being totally pleasant and retroactively hilarious (see husband hopping around the bumper exclaiming “Goddamn! It’s a good thing I just got done meditatin’!”) and everyone and everything seemingly fine despite it all.
Plus, and I keep meaning to mention this, we have been watching Paul Newman films. We were kind of already headed down that road before he died, with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (my favorite of his earlier films) and Cool Hand Luke, but his death renewed our focus and since then we’ve watched Hud (ooh, he is so bad), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (wtf with that scene on the bicycle, gah), and the Color of Money. Do not be afraid of the Tom Cruise action in the Color of Money. He’s terrific, and so is Paul. I know we were supposed to watch The Hustler first but we couldn’t get our hands on it so we’ll just watch them out of order. Anyway, all to say that we love Paul and so should you.
Ok, in other excitement, those eggs up there are green and one of our chickens laid them! Rhodie, our one Ameraucana, has been one hilarious chicken from the get-go. For the first few months she was officially Totally Insane, but she has chilled out a great deal and now I can even pet her. I just reread the description of her breed and I guess she’s supposed to lay blue eggs, but frankly I am thrilled to bits with the green eggs. They just seem so special, and she’s such a beautiful and unusual looking chicken, she is one of my favorites. Honestly though, whichever one I am petting is my favorite.
Last up: meatballs. So, since we really didn’t eat meat when I was a kid, I sometimes get to floor people when I say things like “I have never had a meatball.” Which, until about five years ago, was true. After which I floored people for the next half a decade by saying “I have only eaten meatballs once.” But now it’s twice because I just made them yesterday. The truth is that I have a mild fascination with comfort food: meatballs, turkey pot pie, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, etc. I think it’s because that kind of food was not at all a part of my family’s food culture (well, you can read about my great-aunt’s macaroni and cheese here). My mom’s version of comfort food was miso soup and greens, if you know what I mean. Which I am eternally grateful for, and I intend to torture my children with miso soup when they are sick too. But anyway. That first plate of meatballs was at a hipster restaurant in the Mission, one that pretty much forged its success on spaghetti, but I was just not sold. The meatballs were packed with capers. And I am very fussy about capers. Suffice to say that in my meatballs is not where I like them. But I remained intrigued by the whole meatball thing because you can put all kinds of things in them that you don’t normally throw into pasta sauce (eggs! bread crumbs! cheeses!). So for the last five years I have been saving meatball recipes. Like, I have eleven of them, and that’s without counting cookbooks. And when my favorite food blogger recently decided to do meatballs, I felt it was a sign. Plus, I keep being told to eat more beef, and honestly the only thing I know how to do with cow is put it in chili. I have all of my recipes organized by main ingredient (I am a librarian, don’t laugh), and I don’t even have a beef folder; the only beef we eat is generally cooked by B.
ANYWAY, this is getting way too long, so here’s the wrap up: I made meatballs! Which not only involved beef, but also frying, another thing I generally outsource to my husband. I used the Smitten recipe as a base, but I made several adjustments, via the eleven other recipes I had handy, via my “no fucking way I’m using veal” feelings, via the sauce amount looking skimpy, and via what needed to be eaten from our garden. And…they are totally, totally amazing. So good. Like roll over and die good. Due to afternoon plans, I made them after breakfast, which turned out to be a good idea because they kind of took a long time and because then they had all day to just make friends with the sauce they had been simmered in. Warning: this makes a huge pot of meatballs. For the two of us, I might think about halving it, we’ll see if we get sick of them by the time we finish them up.
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, the good stuff if you please
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fennel seeds
1 extra-large egg, beaten
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 green pepper, very finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup good red wine
3 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor for just a jiffy
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated parmesan
Make the meatballs: Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, all seasonings, Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into one-and-a half-inch meatballs.
Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) pan that will be big enough to hold the whole dish by the end, to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil (really do let it get hot, but not smoking, otherwise you will have sticking issues). Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium heat, turning carefully with tongs. There will still be some sticking; this is ok. It should take about 8 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs, and let the oil sit for just a second between batches to regain temperature. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.
Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and leeks and pepper and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve over pasta, garnish with parmesan cheese.