Monday, January 14, 2008

Spaghetti with meatballs

Everybody has his own favorite recipe for spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Here's mine. I prefer to emphasize savory herb and spice flavors rather than the sticky sweetness which is common in American sauces, so bear that in mind if you follow this recipe.

Spaghetti Sauce
Using canned tomatoes is far more convenient (and practical in the off-season) than using whole fresh fruits, and does not significantly alter the taste if high-quality product is used. The secret to bringing the flavors out is the relatively large amount of olive oil; many of the important flavor chemicals in tomatoes are oil-soluble rather than water-soluble.

  • 1 1/2 c. red wine

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • 1 white onion, diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 28oz. cans tomatoes, whole or crushed

  • 1 28oz. can tomato paste

  • 4 tsp. mixed dried Italian herbs (esp. basil and oregano)

  • 2 tsp. cumin

  • 1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • Meatballs (recipe follows)

Combine wine and vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half. Set aside.

While wine mixture is reducing, heat oil in a stock pot or casserole over medium heat. Fry onions, bell peppers, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes until onions begin to be translucent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine mixture, and all remaining spices. Reduce heat to simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to bring sauce back to a boil and add meatballs. Cook five to ten minutes, depending on size of balls. Remove from heat and serve over warm spaghetti.

Once again, I prefer to use spice flavors rather than sweetness in the meatballs. These definitely have an unusual flavor, but, although it doesn't fit neatly into any national-cuisine category, I really enjoy it. I prefer to use ground turkey for the meat, not for any silly health reasons, but because its lighter flavor allows the spices to work more prominently. If you use a meat with more flavor like beef, you may need to adjust the quantities of spices.

  • 2 lb ground meat

  • 1/4 c. dried bread crumbs

  • 1/4 c. quick-cook oatmeal

  • 2 tsp. cumin

  • 2 tsp. mixed dried Italian herbs (esp. basil and oregano)

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • 1 tsp. curry powder

  • 2 tbsp. mustard

  • 2 tbsp. ketchup

  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Form into small balls between 1 and 1.5 in. in diameter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sausage sandwiches

Sausage sandwich with red-onion marmalade

Good sausage doesn't need much help to be delicious, as it's already prepared with tasty meat and a variety of herbs and spices. This sandwich takes advantage of those flavors by pairing them with tangy marmalade and sweet mustard which complement the flavors in the sausage rather than competing with them.

Sausage Sandwich with Red-Onion Marmalade
This is a pretty basic sandwich. The trick is to find the right combination of flavors. I used the honey oatmeal bread from a recipe in the book that came with my Kitchenaid mixer for the toast; any hearty and sweet bread should be fine. If you prefer a very strong bread flavor, a rye or pumpernickel might be appropriate as well, but you'd risk overpowering the sausage flavors.

  • 2 slices hearty sweet bread, toasted

  • 1 high-quality savory sausage, broiled and sliced into medallions

  • 2 tsp. stone-ground mustard, to taste (alternative: use purchased pesto instead)

  • 2 tsp. red-onion marmalade, to taste (recipe below)

  • A few sweetened dried cranberries

Spread mustard on one slice of bread and marmalade on the other. Arrange slices of sausage to cover one slice. Sprinkle on cranberries. Serve open-faced or as a conventional sandwich.

Red-Onion Marmalade

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 red onion, diced coarsely

  • 2 tsp. (~2 cloves) minced garlic

  • 1/4 c. port wine

  • 2 tbsp. marsala wine

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

  • 1 c. red table wine

  • 2 tbsp. honey

  • 1 orange, juice

  • 1 orange, zest

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until caramelized, stirring frequently. Add port wine and simmer about ten minutes. Add remaining liquid ingredients and simmer until reduced to marmalade consistency (about fifteen minute), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and fold in orange zest. Store in refrigerator and serve cold.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2007's Christmas dinner

This is the third successive year that I've concocted a grand meal as a Christmas gift to my parents as well as my brother and sister-in-law. This year, however, I was able to work on a previously unprecedented scale, thanks to the assistance of my lovely girlfriend-cum-sous-chef. I also mixed things up a bit from previous years by focusing significantly more on the presentation of the foods, even going so far as to acquire two whole new sets of dinnerware to make sure I had enough square plates. It was quite an adventure.