Weekly Winner -Great Big Balls of Comfort!

lion head meatballsI’d like to say I made this dish for the Chinese New Year.  Truth is, I made it quite a few weeks ago and am just now getting around to writing about it — not because it wasn’t good enough (it’s an amazing dish) but because, well…. life happens and I actually forgot about it until going through the photos I’ve set aside for the blog.  So here it is, better late than never …. Lion’s Head Meatballs.

If ever there was a winter dish, this is it!!  Massive meatballs bobbing around in a rich, aromatic broth with noodles to boot (or in this case, to slurp!)  While I admit the meatballs and broth are somewhat monochromatic and perhaps a bit anemic looking, do not be fooled.  Everything in this bowl packs a punch of flavor.  The recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated and while it takes a bit of time to put together, most of the time is spent in the oven making your house smell incredible.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp table salt

2 pounds ground pork

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

4 tsp sugar

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp white pepper

4 cups chicken broth

1 small head napa cabbage (1-1/2 lbs), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

4 oz rice vermicelli

Procedure:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325F degrees. Whisk baking soda, salt, and 2 tablespoons water together in bowl of stand mixer.  Add pork to baking soda mixture and toss to combine.  Add egg, scallion whites, soy sauce, wine, sugar, ginger, and white pepper.  Fit stand mixer with paddle and beat on medium speed until mixture is well combined and has stiffened and started to pull away from sides of bowl and pork has slightly lighted in color, 45 to 60 seconds. Using your wet hands, form about 1/2 cup (4-1/2 oz) pork mixture into 3-inch round meatball; repeat with remaining mixture to form 8 meatballs.
  2. Bring broth to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat.  Off heat, carefully arrange meatballs in pot (7 around perimeter and 1 in center; meatballs will not be totally submerged).  Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Transfer meatballs to large plate.  Add cabbage to pot in even layer and arrange meatballs over cabbage, paler side up.  Cover, return pot to oven, and continue to cook until meatballs are lightly browned and cabbage is softened, about 30 minutes longer.
  4. While meatballs and cabbage cook, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.  Off heat, add vermicelli and let sit, stirring occasionally, until vermicelli is fully tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Dain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and distribute evenly among 4 to 6 large soup bowls.
  5. Ladle meatballs, cabbage and broth into bowls of noodles.  Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve.

Weekly Winner: Because Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery…. right??

MacNCheeseI do love a challenge and this week, I got a good one! I have a wonderful, elderly gentleman that I cook for. His doctor has told him he needs to gain some weight.  The problem is he is not a big eater and honestly, sometimes I think he simply forgets to eat.  But he knows what he likes and what he thinks he’s going to like.  When speaking with him this week to get his weekly order he gave me a challenge:  He said he goes to his local Whole Foods and on several occasions, while perusing the hot bar of prepared food, he has stopped in front of their mac-n-cheese.  He’s never bought any because, according to him, there has never been very much in the pan when he’s been there, but what has been there looks rich, gooey, cheesy and like something he’d enjoy.  So he asks me: “Can you make me some mac-n-cheese like that?”

Challenge Accepted!!  I head on over to my local Whole Foods and buy a small container of this much-sought-after mac.  I walk home, heat it back up and sit down to see what all the fuss is about.  I taste it.  It’s good.  It’s ridiculously creamy and I believe I can recreate this.  Before I go any further let me be clear:  I am absolutely positive that Whole Foods does not use Velveeta in their version.  Their ingredient list, however does mention American cheese and a roux.  In my mind, Velveeta is an easy, time-saving step that will allow this to be easily reheated and remain smooth.

This is my version.  I gotta admit, I was fairly impressed when I did a side-by-side taste test.  I’m not sure anyone could tell the difference!  I can’t wait to see if one certain elderly gentleman agrees!

Wanna Be Whole Foods Mac-n-Cheese

Serves a ton!

Ingredients:

1 lb large elbow macaroni

2 cups whole milk

2 Tbsp butter

8 oz Velveeta cheese, cubed

1 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp kosher salt

8 oz grated cheddar-jack cheese

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

5 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  1. Cook macaroni is salted, boiling water for 10 minutes and rinse in hot water, drain well.
  2. While pasta cooks, heat milk, butter, mustard, salt and Velveeta in Dutch oven, stirring until cheese melts.
  3. When smooth, add additional cheeses and stir until melted.  Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes to continue thickening.
  4. Stir cooked macaroni into cheese sauce.
  5. Serve topped with additional grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Weekly Winner: New Year, New..yeah, yeah, yeah….

buddha bowlIt’s that time again!  New Year, New You!!!  You know what?  I’m the same me as I was last year and the year before that.  This doesn’t mean that when January 1st comes around I don’t feel like making a change…. it means I always feel like making a change.  After the excess and excuses of the holidays it is time to hunker down and clean up the eating game for a bit.  Yes, that’s right…. I said “for a bit”.  Because I know me.  I will revert back to cheese, my pastas and my pork.  And for me, this “new, old me” will take everything in moderation….even moderation.

Since I’m ready for some clean, nurturing meals, I can think of no better way to start than with this Buddha Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spiced Chickpeas, and Chard.  I got the recipe from Epicurious and honestly, it was so tasty and satisfying (not to mention pretty), I forgot I was being good!  I’ll be eating this throughout the year (even when I slip back into my “old” not-so-virtuous ways).

Buddha Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spiced Chickpeas, and Chard

Serves 4

For the poblano tahini sauce

1-1/2 cups roughly chopped poblano pepper

1 clove garlic, quartered

1/3 cup tahini

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the Buddha bowls

1 cup quinoa, rice, or farro (I used farro)

2 large sweet potatoes (1-1/2 to 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil (the recipe calls for melted coconut oil, but I gotta be me)

2 tsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp orange zest

sea salt

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch Swiss chard, red, green, or rainbow, stemmed, leaves cut into 1-inch strips

Preparation:

For the poblano tahini sauce:

In a blender or food processor, combine the poblano, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth. (If sauce is too thick, add water as needed to reach desired consistency). Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside

For the Buddha bowls:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa, rice or farro according to package directions.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil, melted) maple syrup, orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Mix until the potatoes are evenly coated
  4. Spread potatoes on a rimmed backing sheet and roast for 20 minutes.  Flip them with a spatula and roast until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown, an additional 10-15 minutes (while roasting chickpeas — see next step)
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chickpeas, 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the paprika, cumin, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Mix well until the chickpeas are thoroughly coated. Spread the chickpeas on the rimmed baking sheet with the sweet potatoes and roast until golden, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chard, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.  Uncover, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is completely wilted and cooked through, an additional 1 to 2 minutes.  Discard the garlic cloves.
  7. Put 1/2 cup of the cooked grain in the bottom of each of the four serving bowls. Top each bowl with equal portions of the roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chickpeas, and sautéed chard.
  8. Drizzle with the poblano tahini sauce and serve.