Antipasto Chopped Salad

I’ve become a fan of this blogsite, Foodiegate. Here is a recipe for Traditional Italian Antipasto which they sampled at a restaurant called “Tony’s” You know I gotta’ re-post that!

Antipasto is the traditional first course of an Italian meal that is served before the main course. It literally means, “before the meal.” Nestled in between the rocky mountain faces of the Appalachians and the Juniata River, stood a simple Italian restaurant…

https://w.atcontent.com/-/3vWG6DuN0m-/tonemanblog/4FUSF7ybx1L.text/Face (more…)

10 Dishes to Make This Winter: #3 Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is the 3rd of a series, 10 Dishes to Make This Winter.

Meatballs are a very personal food and one person’s favorite is another person’s disaster.  I would never claim that my style is the best, only that it is my favorite.  There are variables like the ingredients, and the size but the most distinctive feature of mine is the technique. 

I brown meatballs in a skillet to put a nice caramelized crust on the outside and then drop them into the spaghetti sauce to finish cooking them.  It flavors the sauce to be sure, but it also give the meatballs their characteristic crusty exterior and soft center.

Many cook theirs in the oven or entirely in the sauce and it is highly subjective; but, if you’ve never tried this technique, give it a shot!  It also happens to be a great recipe in my opinion.  The sauce has a rich meat flavor, and the onions and tomatoes are left chunky which complements the meatballs.  Further, the tomato paste helps thicken the sauce to the perfect consistency.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz veg. oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 16oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 16oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 16oz beef broth
  • 1Tbs + 1tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • dried oregano, dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • spaghetti

    Leave the onions fairly large for this recipe, about the size of the canned diced tomatoes. Chunky really works for this dish!

SAUCE

Cook onions and garlic in some olive oil or butter (not the vegetable oil listed above) until softened, but not browned.

Add tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, beef broth, sugar, salt and pepper (1 tsp salt/1/2 tsp pepper), 1 1/2 tsp oregano, and the bay leaf.

Simmer uncovered for 30 min (while you make the meatballs.

Let the sauce simmer while you make the meatballs. Make sure you use a large pot because you will be adding the meatballs to this sauce.

MEATBALLS

Mix breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and water.  Blend in ground beef , half of the grated parmesan cheese (reserving the remainder for garnish), parsley, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 1/2 tsp oregano. 

Mix this mixture well.  I find nothing works as well as two hands.

All of the ingredients, the breadcrumbs, the eggs, the parsley, the cheese all play a role in the flavor and texture of the meatball. Be sure to mix well!

With a 2oz ice cream scoop, make the meatballs, rounding them with your hands and place on a sheet of foil near the stovetop.

The size of the meatball is a matter of personal preference, but take care to make them all the same size.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet on high, to just about the smoke point and brown the meatballs.  Move them around in the pan to get an even browning and as they achieve this, drop them into the simmering spaghetti sauce. 

For this technique, it is critical to get a good caramelized crust on the outside of the meatballs before dropping them into the sauce to simmer.

Once the last one is in the sauce, simmer partially covered for another 30 minutes and cook the spaghetti.

Once browned, drop them into the sauce to simmer another 30 minutes. The result will be a rich delicious meat sauce, and meatballs with a crusty exterior but soft center.

Serve a healthy ladle of the sauce with a couple meatballs and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

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Basic Marinara Sauce

 

Marinara is a very personal and subjective staple.  The recipe someone grows up with, maybe their grandmother’s or their mom’s is a sacred memory.  This is a very basic recipe and I encourage you to personalize it and make it yours.

There are a lot of factors such as what type of tomatoes to use, seasoning, and texture.  The technique, however, is basically the same.

Start with onions, garlic, and Italian seasoning...

Start by sautéing onions, garlic, and seasoning.  You want them soft, but not browned.  Seasoning can include bottled Italian seasoning, herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano, or just salt and pepper.  This is where you begin to make the recipe yours.

Choice of tomatoes is another way to personalize. In my book, canned is just fine.

The choice of tomatoes is primarily one of preference and texture.  Diced tomatoes will yield a chunky texture and crushed tomatoes will yield a more consistent and thicker texture.  The addition of tomato paste will thicken the sauce.

I am a fan of crushed tomatoes, and the pot I use will comfortably accommodate a #10 can from Costco.  Today I used a mixture of diced and crushed because I was serving it with bread and big chunky gnocchi.  For something fine like spaghetti or even a vegetable lasagna, I would opt for a smoother texture.

After sauteeing the onions and garlic, add the tomatoes, season and simmer.

Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the tomatoes and simmer.  Simmering time will vary from 15 minutes to an hour.  What determines this will be the desired thickness of the sauce.  When using diced tomatoes I prefer to add all the juice, and then reduce it through simmering.  This concentrates the flavors.

SUGAR:  Many recipes will call for sugar.  I mentioned above that marinara is a very personal preference but in my opinion, sweet tasting marinara is unforgivable!

That said, some people will saute the onions with a bit of sugar to caramelize it and develop flavor, and others will add a small amount (like a teaspoon) to balance the flavor when the tomatoes are acidic.

Once reduced, let it cool at room temperature, and it can be packaged for the freezer if you will not be using it all.

An hour of reduction lowered the level by about an inch but thickened the sauce and concentrated the flavors.

π

Bibiana

Buratta d"Andria at Bibiana

Last week I had the chance to eat at Bibiana in downtown Washington, DC. 

Wow!!  The menu fits into the category of Italian, but this is not merely a new copy of an old favorite cookbook!  From the moment you walk in the atmosphere and decor is sleek and comfortable, and the service is efficient and enthusiastic. 

The picture above is an appetizer called Buratta d’Andria.  It was buratta cheese which is made from mozzarella and cream.  Mozzarella and cream!  It had a slightly firm outer crust and was creamy yet light inside.  It was served with grilled zucchini and a minted zucchini puree. 

If I had been called away after just this dish the evening would have been a success!

Fortunately I was not called away and the next course was Fried Artichokes.  These were tiny, tender fried artichoke hearts which featured the tart, almost pickled flavor of the vegetable with the lightest crispy exterior!

Fried Artichokes

The food just got better from here.  I ordered a special that night, truffle risotto.  As this dish arrived, tables around me could smell the rich earthy truffle and began reconsidering their dinner order.  The server brought out a truffle the size of a hard boiled egg and grated it over my dish the way one might grate parmesan cheese!  He told me to say “when” but I was speechless!

Every single bite of the dish made me acutely aware of how delicious it was.  Bibiana was a finalist for Best New Restaurant of 2010 in DC, and its chef, Nicholas Stefanelli was named a Rising Star Chef by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.  Google him and you will see that he is indeed a rising star.  I was quite pleased to see this as Nicholas Stefanelli is a graduate of Gaithersburg’s L’Academie de Cuisine, an institution at which I myself spent some time.

This is a great time to get down there because they feature a seasonal menu and they make the most of summer’s bounty.  It’s also much easier to get a table in DC in the summer!

π

Carpaccio!

 

Bresaola is a salted, air-dried beef.  It is dark red, almost purple and on the plate looked like radicchio or slices of beets.  You can find this in supermarkets and deli’s.  It has a deep mellow flavor.

True carpaccio is made with raw beef, sometimes seared on the edges.  In this case I used the bresaola.

It was a first course on a Friday night dinner with friends.  This traditional Italian presentation began with a layer of paper-thin slices of the beef, which were drizzled with olive oil.

This was topped with fresh arugula, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and freshly ground pepper.  It was served with lemon wedges which were squeezed over the salad at the table.

It is very light and delicate.  The peppery and slightly bitter arugula, the tart lemon juice, and the rich mellow flavors of the cheese, the beef, and the olive oil all combined at the moment they hit the taste buds.

π

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