Monday, March 14, 2011

cloudy with a chance of meatballs

yesterday was a great day at the market. 
it was so nice that there were actually people there and the sun was shining - hopefully signs of things to come. so fyi the sunday market hours have changed, they are now 10-5 (i missed the whole 10 part in the last newsletter and showed up at 7, a mere 3 hours before the market opened...oh dear). it will be great for next weekend though and those two extra hours in bed.

today is a little dreary though and i've decided to have a spaghetti & meatball meal for lunch. i've been meaning to blog about this dish for awhile. for valentine's day i wanted to make a romantic meal and was having a hard time deciding what to do. a lot of the things i wanted to do were either too extravagant or would be completely ruined during the reheating process at home. and then this image came to mind:

and i settled on spaghetti and meatballs. it's simple, cute, holds up well, is so satisfying and i like cartoons. i bought all of the beef from getaway farm, 'parmesran' cheese from foxhill (it's called that because parmesan is now being treated like wine with an appelation controllee), and for the binder i made homemade breadcrumbs from some leftover garlic and herb focaccia.

i used my trusty ice cream scooper to portion all of the meatballs. for things like this it's very important to have uniform size to ensure uniform cooking.

there ended up being a 'few' of them and i think they look pretty cool all lined up. when i make meatballs i cook them under the broiler. it's a great way to develop great 'brown' flavour without stressing over them breaking apart in the pan and having grease splatter all over your arm and you can bang out way more in the same amount of time.
also an important tidbit - if you're going to cook them again in the sauce, don't cook them all the way through. let the cooking process finish in the sauce and the flavours will mingle and you don't wind up with tough, dry, overcooked meatballs - because they really are the star of the show!

but you can't forget the pasta either.

i think it looks pretty cool too. that giant colander was a great investment. if you're in the market for some kitchen equipment check out the cash & carry on chebucto road. i love exploring there and they recently cleared out two aisles and filled them with restaurant equipment - massive bowls, colanders, containers... i bought a massive potato masher there this week and it was only $6!
the pasta i use is catelli smart. i have tried and tried to find a nice whole wheat pasta and they are all nice in theory but in practise it's a whole nother story. this one tastes like regular but it has loads of fibre so you don't have to feel so guilty because the carbs aren't entirely empty.

you can tell i'm pretty into food when i think even the canola oil in the squirt bottle looks interesting...

i may have gotten a little carried away with the portion size (which i sometimes do) and this is what the final product looked like, originally i had planned on them being individual portions, what was i thinking?

the red plaid curtain in the background seems quite fitting for this one too... mine just went into the oven for lunch.

continuing on the italian theme, i catered a birthday dinner party on wednesday night and i guess i was in an italian kinda mood as each course had some italian undertones. for a little starter i made some mushroom and goat cheese triangles. the filling is made with shallots, garlic, cremini mushrooms, herbs and goat cheese all pureed in the food processor. then it is chilled and stuffed inside little bundles of filo dough. i guess they went over alright because the birthday girl has ordered 30 of them for pickup on friday! i don't have any photos but i'll document the entire process this week when i make a new batch.
filo can seem a little daunting but it's actually pretty quick, easy and extra tasty crispy. the trick is to touch it with a delicate hand, work quickly and use butter. the same technique can be used to make any sort of appetizer bundle - spanakopita, smoked salmon mousse, sundried tomato, olive and caper... the possibilities are endless and work particularly well with any filling that you might find inside a ravioli.

for the first course, it was seared digby scallops over risotto with butternut squash, zucchini and corn, topped with arugula.

again the portion was probably a bit large but i always worry about people not having enough. also a proper risotto is supposed to spread on the plate, not stand up in a neat little pile, so it looks larger than it was. the key is to start with a nice stock. please, please, please don't use the store bought stuff. it is so full of sodium and things i can't pronounce that it will totally throw off the natural and simple flavours of a risotto. maybe i should start selling containers of frozen stock along with my soups...
risotto also needs to be stirred quite consistently as it cooks - incorporating one ladle of stock at a time. when i used to teach cooking classes i would always tell people that they were burning calories and getting an upper body workout before dinner so it all came out in the wash!

second course was a pan-seared and herb roasted shani's farm chicken breast, over gnocchi alfredo with shiitake and oyster mushrooms, baby spinach and red wine vinegar roasted shallots (a little acidity to cut through the richness). it was also topped with pea tendrils from river view herbs to jam some more green veggies into the meal.

i had made a gnocchi dish like this to accompany some braised beef brisket a few weeks back and the guest of honour really enjoyed it, so i thought i would make some more for her birthday. i also add some blue cheese to the gnocchi - it's based on a classic italian dish called gnocchi con gorgonzola. i never liked blue cheese growing up - in fact my brother and i would be chased around the house by 'blue cheese breath' - but i had this dish at a restaurant in montreal during university and since then i have liked blue cheese. it works really well with the potato gnocchi and meaty mushrooms - i bought some fantabulous blue cheese from sweet williams on saturday (along with a delectable smoked turkey leg) and it is soooo good.

at this point i think most of the guests were full to the brim but still had a lemon & almond tart to work through. i made the italian meringue on site and piped it and blowtorched it in front of some of the guests and i think it went over ok - dinner and a show!

i made it a little different than i do for the market. underneath the lemon curd i baked a thin layer of almond cream and then just a thin layer of lemon curd and served it accompanied by a thick swoosh of raspberry coulis and some fresh berries and mint for colour. since it was thin and light, i think it was the best way to finish a rich meal.

last week was busy, i'm sold out of 3 flavours of soup, 2 types of bbq sauce, shepherd's pie, and baked beans. i had better get to work. oh also, my friend works for the halifax refugee clinic and they are having a bake sale tomorrow at the dal sub and i'll be dropping off dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting (the leftover raspberry coulis from the dinner party has inspired my new favourite concoction) so check it out and get your sugar on for a good cause!

1 comment:

  1. Wow.....I'm drooling. All that good food!Yum. Might have to pick up a meal next market day!