Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mama Mia

I enjoy having a delicious lunch and dinner on Sundays, but I also enjoy a day off from cooking, without that having to necessarily mean eating at a restaurant or resorting to fast food, either one. That is why on Saturdays, a holdover from my "working outside the home for wages" days, I often cook ahead, preparing meals or components of meals I will serve later in the week.

Tonight we are having a tapas type dinner, lots of little plates, one of which will need to feature some meat. Tomorrow I am planning on homemade hot subs, a great meal for game days.

So what fits both meals just right? Meatballs! Here's how I do it. As laid out here, this recipe makes about 30 individual meat balls. While I am finishing off most of the meatballs in tomato sauce cooking ahead for tomorrow's subs, I will hold a handful out of the sauce to serve as a component of our dinner tonight.MEATBALLS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour a large jar of tomato sauce into a 9x13 dish and put it into the oven to warm.

I use David's Brick Oven Italian sauce as my local go-to option. Their sauce is thicker than most so I add in a cup or so of water to get it to the consistency of other commercial jar sauces. It will cook down for 20 minutes while the meatballs finish in the oven and then it cooks down even more tomorrow as the meatballs are reheated for the subs, so that handles the dilution.

Combine a pound of ground beef, a half pound ground lamb (or pork or loose sausage), a container of pesto, 4-5 cloves of finely chopped garlic, a cup of dry bread crumbs, some salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl. Mix well and form into one inch meatballs.I just use my hands to do this. If that grosses you out you can use gloves. Nothing works as well as rolling meatballs in between your hands.

The meatballs then go into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a few at a time, over medium high heat to brown on both sides in a sauté pan prior to finishing up in the oven.I took the advice of another blogger to slightly smash the meat balls prior to browning. This gives them better surface contact with the heat source and since they are going into a sandwich the thought is they'll be less likely to roll out and distribute tomato sauce on your shirt. Sound thinking.

You don't need to cook the meatballs all the way through. The point is to just brown the meatballs on both sides in order to prep a crunchy brown surface area.After each batch is browned on both sides (about one minute per side per meatball), place the browned meatballs into the hot tomato sauce holding in your preheated oven. After you get the last batch in the pan, set the timer for twenty minutes. That last twenty minutes in the oven will take care of finishing off cooking the meat. Since I had a handful of meatballs I was going to serve without saucing, I browned them a little more just for looks. They went into a separate pan in the oven to finish off for the same 20 minute time span.

I was all set. Saturday's double play was in the bag (or oven).Meatballs in tomato sauce prepped for delicious quick hot meatball sub sandwiches tomorrow, and meatballs solo as a little plate to go into our Mediterranean style tapas feast for dinner this evening.

The components for the meatballs were all just sitting around in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry. That's what I enjoy most about putting menus together - taking disparate elements and combining them so they end up throwing a mouth party in their reincarnation as sides or entreés. The Fall Pantry Challenge? Bringing out the best in the ingredients we already have on hand is what it is all about.

No comments: