Monday, June 30, 2014

Spaghetti and Meatballs (GF)

I’m so obsessed with the meatballs at Pizza Rock – incredibly tender, flavorful and moist, bathed in bright tomato sauce.  I can’t NOT get them when I go.  (I suspect their tenderness can be attributed to the presence of ground veal.)  I’ve been searching for a meatball recipe to match that one, but I always follow instructions and get something that just tastes like a ball of hamburger with no flavor.  No more!  This is a recipe of my own creation – no white bread soaked in milk, since I’m boycotting white flour – with all the flavor elements amped up an extra notch.  These are good on their own and need only a little sauce, Parmesan and noodles to make them complete.  I use all hamburger since I get grass-fed beef from my parents, but feel free to add pork, veal or Italian sausage.  I normally do NOT use dry powdered “Parmesan” cheese, but for an ingredient in meatballs I won’t pony up a quarter cup of my pricey authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I’ll save it for sprinkling on top!  Enjoy.

2 pounds ground beef (or a combination of beef/pork/veal/sausage)
1 cup oatmeal, ground in a food processor to the consistency of coarse flour
1/2 cup milk, or enough to just moisten the oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated or dry powdered cheese)
about 1/4 to 1/3 of an onion, grated
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon in my Bolognese, but feel free to omit this)
1 handful basil leaves, chopped or snipped finely (reserve a few for serving)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

8 heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped in a food processor
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Combine the oatmeal and milk in a bowl.  Set aside.  Add the meat to a large bowl and add the moistened oatmeal and all the remaining ingredients.  Using your hands, mix everything just until combined but do not overmix.  Use an ice cream scoop to shape into large balls and bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking prepare the sauce.  Brown the onions in olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add bay leaves, spices, tomatoes and their juice.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta if serving.

When the meatballs are cooked, drain off the excess oil from the pan.  Nestle the meatballs in the sauce and place the baking pan over a burner on medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, deglaze with the red wine, quickly scraping the bits from the pan while the wine reduces slightly, 1-2 minutes.  Stir the reduction into the meatballs and sauce.  Season with salt to taste.

Serve alone or with gluten free or whole grain pasta, garnished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh basil leaves.

No joke - I would put these up there with Pizza Rock's balls!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jumbo Shrimp and "Grits" (Low-Carb)

Hello!  What follows is a super simple, fast recipe.  I have been enjoying cauliflower puree (adapted from this recipe) whenever a recipe calls for the main ingredient to be served swimming in sauce on a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes.  Ok ok, so it's not exactly the same... but it works really well as a lower-calorie, nutrient rich alternative!  It's also a great fiber source so it'll leave you feeling full, happy and satisfied.  With this small swap I don't feel guilty about adding butter, Parmesan and then layering on a rich sauce.  Additionally, it's versatile in that you can take any leftovers and turn them into a creamy, super nutritious soup!  Just add the reserved milk back in along with a little something else (curry powder, goat cheese, fresh herbs) to kick it up.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower - I try to avoid eating raw cruciferous vegetables since they can wreak havoc on my digestion.  As of late I'm discovering how delicious cauliflower can be when it's seasoned with just olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasted or sauteed to a deep, dark brown.  Since cauliflower has a naturally high sugar content it's perfect for caramelizing in this way, and in my opinion it really holds up a lot better than roasted broccoli, which gets kinda soft and soggy.

I hope you give this boring old white vegetable a chance to prove how versatile it can really be :)  Enjoy!

Jumbo Shrimp with Cauliflower "Grits" (Cauliflower Puree)

1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 pints milk (whatever your preference, I used skim)
Salt and pepper
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2-4 tablespoons butter
1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup white wine
1 sprig basil, thyme or tarragon

Remove the green stems and leaves and roughly chop the cauliflower, discarding any brown or discolored pieces.

Heat a large pot over high.  To the pot add the chopped cauliflower; pour in enough milk to almost cover.  Season generously with kosher salt and black pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil, stirring gently as needed.

When the cauliflower can be easily mashed with a wooden spoon it is cooked.  Drain the cauliflower over a colander (reserving the milk!).  Return to the hot pot.  Using an immersion blender (or food processor if you don't have one), blitz the cauliflower until no large chunks remain, adding the hot milk a little at a time if needed.  Set the pot aside over low heat and add up to one cup of Parmesan cheese, plus 1-2 pats of butter if desired and additional salt and pepper as needed, until ready to serve.

When puree is finished, heat a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pan.  Season the shrimp liberally with salt, pepper, the cayenne and add to the pan in an even layer.  Flip when shrimp turn slightly pink and remove from the pan after 3-4 minutes.  To the hot pan add the wine and lemon juice.  Raise the heat to high and stir, until sauce has reduced, 2-3 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the shrimp back to the pan and toss with the reduced sauce.

To serve, spoon the shrimp and sauce over a bed of the cauliflower puree.  Tear the fresh herbs and sprinkle over top with another pinch of the cayenne, if desired.

Jumbo shrimp... because I love oxymorons.