My Communal Table

Melting Pot Meatballs

Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs. Love them. Who doesn’t love them? Whether it is a swedish meatball, pork meatball slow cooked in ragu, or a chicken meatball floating in a beautiful broth, meatballs are just solid comfort food. My families’ century old restaurant still has BBQ meatballs on the menu after decades of being a customer favorite. I suspect that there might even be a revolt if it were ever to be removed. I am telling you it is comfort on a plate.There is even a restaurant devoted to them in NYC. Who can resist a unctuous meatball sitting in front of them? The good news is that meatballs are not complicated and you can make them in a huge batch and freeze them to use in different ways at a latter date.

I originally dream up these meatballs to go with the large amount of Oxtail Ragu that I had frozen in the freezer. I tried to mimic the flavors of the ragu by adding some of the same ingredients to the meatball. A chef would say he is layering the flavors to add intensity. I usually bake my meatballs, but they taste great fried as well, but it is a healthier choice to bake them.

Click here for Oxtail Ragu

Makes 24

Melting Pot Meatball:

1 cup milk
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup bread crumbs
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
2 eggs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated romano cheese
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
2 teaspoons fresh sage
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste

1. Heat up milk until it just starts to bubble.

2. Pour over bread and raisins. (Note: It can be a couple slices of bread or bread crumbs. Whatever you have on hand.) Make sure that all the raisins are covered. Set aside to cool, while prepping your meat.

3. In a large shallow bowl, place the meat and all the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. Mix together.

4. Mix the milk mixture now that it has cooled. Raisins should be plumped up and milk soaked up in the bread. Add to meat mixture and blend well.

5. Form into balls. Size can vary depending on personal preference. I like them about the size of a plum.

6. Place on a ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes in a 350F oven. (I like baking my meatballs. Easy clean up, browns from oven. Brown adds flavor. Can freeze them and vary the sauce to suit the dish I am cooking at the time.)

Now for the explaination of “Melting Pot Meatball”… A couple of days have passed and longing for comfort food, but more ragu and meatballs are not going to hit the spot. No way am I going to the grocery store at this hour. Oh yes, I can change the sauce that I put over the meatball and satisfy my need for something different. Asian influenced..yeah, that’s it. With some heat…yes.

So I pull meatballs out of the freezer and defrost in microwave. Start the sauce cooking, then toast the bread for my meatball sandwich. Oh, I have some dinner roll size ciabatas in the freezer, so it looks like I am going to have Meatball sliders. Oh, now I am getting hungry. Lettece, jalepenos and some pickled cabbage are placed on the bread for the base of the slider. I toss the meatballs in the finished sauce and place on top of the base. Top it and serve…OMG. I usually have the handy bottle of Sriracha on the dinner table for the people that want more heat. I am one of those people. Love spicy heat.

Tangy Asian sauce:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons water
3 ginger, large slices
2 scallions
3 slices jalapeno
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1.Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over low heat until cooked down slightly. Approx. 15-20 minutes.
2.Strain sauce through sieve. Use on meats or veggies. Will store well in fridge for about 10 days.

Hope that you can see how you can stretch your food dollars and your time with a little prep and forethought. I got several meals out of few recipes. Plus, meatballs are just the best.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


Grilled Lemon Chicken with Feta Dressing on Lemon Thyme bread
June 24, 2010, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Main Entree, Sandwich | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I have a tendency to cook less in the summer and just let the fresh summer ingredients speak for themselves. I like how refreshing and tangy this chicken is with the feta cheese dressing. Pizza dough is the base for the bread, but lemon and thyme are the star of this meal. I use the same marinade for the chicken and bread. Do not limit yourself to just chicken. I have used an assortment of vegetables, steak, or fish. I have also use whole wheat pizza dough.

Serves 4

5 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
2/3 cups of olive oil
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
handful of fresh thyme
4 chicken breasts, pounded down slightly or thinly sliced
1 pound pizza dough

1.Mix up marinade in a jar with a lid:lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, s&p, and shake well.

2.Place chicken in a shallow dish and cover with marinade, leaving 1/3 of the marinade in the jar to brush on the bread later. Then place thyme on the chicken and toss well.

3.Pizza dough is at room temperature and the grill/ grill pan is set on medium. Form bread rounds into your desired thickness and shape. Brush one side of marinade. Place marinade side down on grill.

4. When bread is done cooking on one side, brush the top with marinade and place thyme leaves on the bread. Press in the leaves into the bread. (I have used dough from my bread machine or store-bought.)

5.Flip bread over and cook until it reaches desired crispness. Finish all bread and set aside.

6.Grill marinated chicken until cooked until cooked through on both sides. Pull of heat.

7.Assemble sandwich as desired and top with Feta dressing (see recipe below)

Feta Dressing:
1 ounce feta cheese
2 T. buttermilk
3 T. greek yogurt (I usually use the 0%)
1 1/2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves
s&p to taste
sesame oil, a few drops

1. Mix together and served chilled.

I make a variety of this with goat cheese or blue cheese. It is a good creamy dressing with a bit of tang. It is low in calorie, fat and carbs. It really is a go to dressing for a lot of things.

Kids and adults both like this meal. I actually crave the dressing against the tang of the lemon. Enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Ham and Sweet Potato Sandwich
June 8, 2010, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Main Entree, Sandwich | Tags: , , , ,

I can get somewhat emotional about sandwiches. I love them. I am always dreaming up my next favorite sandwich and this one has been on the top of the list for quite a while. The saltiness of the meat with the sour dough bread, then throw in the sweet potatoes and the peppery crisp of arugula… OMG, then the creaminess of the brie cheese. This is heaven.

I like it either warmed up like a panini or just assembled cold. It depends how hunger I am, if I can wait to heat it up, I eat it ASAP with some dijon mustard.

For the perfect sandwich:

2 slices of sour dough bread
2 slices of ham, crisped up slightly in some butter
2 slices of brie cheese
handful of arugula
sweet potato fries, see note
dijon mustard

Note: Cut sweet potato in french frie style. Skins and all. Lightly toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and stick into a preheated oven of 400F, tossing a few times, until crisp. Approximently 30 minutes. I alway make extra fries, so I can make this sandwich the next day.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth