Blog Archive

Friday, May 30, 2014

Recipe Formula: It's a Smorgasbord

A recipe is only one piece of the puzzle.

This time out I am presenting a variety of ideas and recipes staring with meatballs. Many of us think of meatballs and spaghetti as comfort food, and at the same time seem to roll those balls too tight, at least that's what I have heard from a number of regulars at my chef's station. One lady has even chastised me for not putting a recipe out here for the meatballs that she had tasted at the station.

Recipes for meatballs are as varied as the mouths that open to eat them. I had the standard on one day with one and half pounds of ground beef and half a pound ground pork. On another occasion I had done chicken with pork for a lighter taste. It seems what struck so many with the meatballs I made was that they were soft and full of juice.

The secret? Well it's not a secret at all. As you mix the desired meat with a little seasoning the most important point to remember is to not overwork them. Once you've decided on the size of the meatball and you have the meat in your hands put it into the palm of your left hand. Now with your right palm roll the meat into the shape of a ball gently using the thumb to constantly turn the ball.

Think of it this way. You have your wife, girlfriend, husband or whoever at the tips of your hands. Now you want your partner to feel relaxed, your hands glide softly over the skin, bringing on feelings and emotions that can lead you both anywhere. Pleasure, discovery all await the one with the soft touch. That meatball wants the soft touch so it can take your taste buds on a journey of pleasure equally. If you think of the lipstick stain on his shirt collar you'll only have a golf ball swimming in the marinara sauce.

So there is no secret to uncover, simply do not squeeze too hard on the meat when rolling as not to drain the natural juice from the meat. First brown them well on all sides in a pan with a little olive oil and then the playground is all yours to choose.

These are just a couple of the recipes that I had made at my chef's station which got a lot of attention.

Spaghetti & Meatballs: Italy's Gift to Comfort Food

For the Meatballs:
2 lb lean ground beef
3/4 lb lean ground pork
1 tbsp garlic salt
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 egg

Combine all ingredients, roll into meatballs.
Brown all around before finishing in the oven.

For the Sauce:
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp each fresh basil, sage & thyme

Combine these ingredients and saute till onion and mushroom are softened.
Add 1 jar pasta sauce and bring to a boil, reduce heat,
and add meatballs and simmer 15-20 minutes.
Serve up with Italian parsley and grated montasio cheese or your choice of a good parmesan.

(Serves 6)

Turkey Meatballs

For the Meatballs:
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 egg
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tsp fresh oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper

For the Sauce:
2 cups tomato sauce or your favourite pasta sauce (marinara works too)
4-5 large basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups of sliced mushrooms, optional
4-6 oz. burrata cheese, cut into large pieces

Preheat oven to 400° F.
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, bread crumbs, egg, minced basil, garlic salt, oregano, cumin,
dijon mustard, black pepper, cayenne and red pepper flakes.
Mix together and roll into 1 inch meatballs.
You will end up with anywhere between 16-22 meatballs.
Bake meatballs for 15 minutes.
While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Heat the large skillet on medium-low and add tomato sauce and oregano. At this point you can add any herbs or additional ingredients such as mushrooms or red pepper flakes if you desire. Sauce will thicken.
Once meatballs are done baking, add them to the skillet, spoon the tomato sauce generously over the meatballs and add the basil.
Place the buratta cheese randomly in the tomato sauce and/or over the meatballs, continue cooking on medium-low for 5 more minutes or until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Serve meatballs over grain or pasta of choice, it would also be great over spaghetti squash.

(Serves 6)

Now for something different. At my chef's station I have often grilled a variety of meats, steak being among the most popular. Marinating various meats such as chicken can open the doors to a whole variety of flavours, but for steak I find a dry rub adds more strength to both the aroma whilst grilling and to the final taste. Here is a rub I had used only a couple of weeks ago that found many licking their fingers long after the steak was chewed.

Fragrant Steak Rub

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine the olive oil and spices well then rub the steak pushing down on the meat, then drop the beef on the grill. Now watch the neighbours smelling the air as the aroma floats across the fence.

As much as any man I love the smell of steak on the grill. OK, I have not ignored the fact that many of the ladies will also not pass up a well seasoned and grilled to perfection T-bone. Though summer brings families and friends together enjoying a meal al fresco. Who would scoff at a juicy beef burger atop a bun loaded with lettuce, onions and tomato. The tried and true topping is often mustard or ketchup, but let's be more daring and sample something new and different. No burger will ever be the same after you try one of these toppings.

The Californian

2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup mayo
1 crushed garlic clove
1 red hot pepper finely chopped

The Hot Mama

1 cup mayo
1/2 sour cream
4 grilled onions, chopped
1 tbsp spiracha
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sweet paprika
4-5 mushrooms grilled and chopped

The Creamy Italian

6 oz softened cream cheese
3 tbsp pesto
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 jar bruschetta
1 tsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

Asian Storm

1/3 cup Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp spiracha
1 cup grilled onion, chopped
1 cup grilled red bell pepper, chopped

Many of us feel a pinch when friends are about to drop by and we have no new ideas of what to serve as a tasty bite with a glass of wine and good conservation. Cranking up the oven and banging pots and pans is not always a necessity. Last week at my chef's station I threw out some freshly baked baguettes with a delicious topping. In fact it was so delicious that over the following few days more than one hundred copies of the recipe had been picked up.

The whole thing is quite simple. Take a freshly baked French baguette, slice it into rounds about half inch thick. Then shred some parmigiano reggiano cheese, top the cheese with a fig preserve and under the broiler it goes. Some 4-5 minutes and the cheese begins to soften, don't have it melt and run away. Now for the finishing touch, drizzle across the preserve a little balsamic glaze. Lay these stunning and delicious slices on a platter, pop a bottle of wine and let the conversation roll.

A beret with a difference

1 french baguette sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
parmigiano reggiano cheese, shredded
fig preserve, or any good fruit preserve of your choice

balsamic glaze to drizzle