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Spaghetti and Meatballs : Italian after all?

Spaghetti and Meatballs : Italian after all?

Italian cuisine is one of America's favorite ones and, indeed, Italians constitute 6% of the US population. But, the forever question has been is "Is the Italian food eaten in the US really Italian?"

Does the infamous spaghetti-meatballs dish really have no Italian origins?

The truthful answer to that is that is "It's complicated"...

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One Pot Roast Away From Happy...

One Pot Roast Away From Happy...

Summer may not be the season you may associate with lamb roasts. But there are two great reasons you should make them now. 

1. It's a one pot meal, which, means more time with your wine bottle, feet up.

2. This is high time for the meat as well as the herbs and produce. So everything tastes amazing with little work!

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Rice and Sprouted Mung Bean Crumpets

Rice and Sprouted Mung Bean Crumpets

Anyway, out of hopelessness is borne love, nay?! One of those creations was this crumpet. To be fair, it started out as an yeasted pancake experiment that I had thought of the night before but, restless as I am and thinking on the spur that a crumpet would be nicer, I decided to go with that. So, this small bite came together as gluten free crumpets made with rice and sprouted mung bean flour, smeared with hummus and topped with lamb Proscuitto (from my butcher) and fresh mint. Mind blowingly good!

It is surprisingly light for being a bean heavy dish and for that protein packed reason, leaves you feeling rather satisfied while that and the rice gives you a spurt of energy to face the morning with something approaching enthusiasm. Hey! It is Monday after all! As to the flavors, lamb and hummus behave like couple souls while the mint looks upon the lot with a doting sprightliness that only makes you feel rather fond of the whole dish and envelops you in a cheery outlook! 

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Not asking for much

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I have been on the road for a month now and have eaten out every single day! I am nearly at the end of my tether of not having a proper home cooked meal. This morning I woke up with one of those slowly germinating headaches. Yes, I know I had one too many last night but you see the thing is when you wake up and you feel fine, you think you have drawn an ace. 

Only to be blinded by a sudden onset of sharp yelps from within your head as you slowly pick your way back to the hotel on a hour long journey without even the saving grace of a coffee. Then to face packing an unwieldy amount of bulk into a small suitcase and bit of cursing thrown in, followed by a long trudge across three train lines to the airport because you were an idiot and did not check the routes before making the booking. Finally, when you arrive at the airport, supremely thrilled with yourself about having rallied so well under the circus, they say you are too early for check in! Pah!

All I kept thinking about was that missed coffee, and a grumbling tummy wanting a simple bowl of polenta topped with homemade tomato sauce and a bit of this and that. Really, was that too much to ask for? In my rather grumpy state I was sending many wishes around that someone would catch on. But to no avail. Eventually, I could only manage a steaming bowl chicken soup from Pret that I wrapped myself around while I gave the airport the sardonic eye of a recovering victim. 

Anyway, here I am now in Dublin and thanks to some foresight (not mine) I am ensconced in a short stay apartment equipped with a full kitchen (but without any food items). I nipped out to load up on some basic stuff. I am so looking forward to butternut squash soup tomorrow. And, in a week, thankfully, I will be in a proper home with all the comforts of a home kitchen. And, then I cannot wait to go back to my home. :)


Herbed Lamb Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

The reason I love meatballs, outside of their inherent awesomeness and comfort, is that this dish, in parts as much as in whole, can be made in bulk and frozen up to a month!

If you are freezing the meatballs, then I suggest doing so after the baked stage. They keep for a long while and you can simply drop them straight from the freezer into the hot sauce.

If you make the whole dish and freeze it in sauce that has the advantage of letting the flavors blend and layer slowly over time.

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For the meatballs:

2 lbs coarse ground lamb

2/3 cup chopped mixed herbs (I used thyme, basil and rosemary)

6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced fine

2 tsp chilli flakes

1 egg

lots of fresh ground pepper

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

For the Tomato Sauce:

1 medium red onion, fine diced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

8 ripe juicy tomatoes or 2 cups homemade tomato sauce

1 cup lamb stock

a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

 

Pre heat oven to 400 F.

Mix together the meatball ingredients and season per taste.

Spread olive oil on a baking tray. Shape the meat mixture into 1.5 inch spheres and place on the tray, one inch apart.

Bake for 20 minutes until firmed up on the outside and the juices are released. 

Remove and reserve both balls and juice until later for the sauce.

Meanwhile, start on the sauce by sautéing the onions and garlic.

When soft, add salt and pepper and tomatoes. 

Tie the herbs with a string and add to the pot. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower heat to reduce the volume to half.

If you are using previously made sauce you can cut short this time.

Add lamb stock and bring to gentle boil.

Lower heat to medium-lo. gently place the meatballs into the sauce and pour over the drippings.

Let cook for 30 minutes at least upto an hour, adjusting liquids as needed.

Serve over hot polenta or pasta with parmesan shavings.


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The secret of great meals - Lamb Chops with Polenta and Braised Swiss Chard

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Spring has arrived! It is such a glorious feeling! Finally, it is warm enough to stroll through farmers' market engaging in meaningful conversations and finding out the back stories of the produce on sale! I have been many such trips and coming back with simple, fresh and ridiculously tasty loot! I will put up a post this weekend with recipes for fresh vegetarian meals.

Spring is also the season for ewe lambs. Ok, I know it doesn't sound nice talking about eating a four month old animal but the reality is that it is the tenderest meat you will ever bite into this year. The beauty of any dish is in the ingredients. Spring lambs are so succulent and flavorful that you don't need much cooking to enjoy them. A quick saute and it will be perhaps one of the best dishes you may have had in and out of a restaurant!

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I share with you today a very simple and flavorful dish of lamb chops served on a bed of polenta and braised swiss chard. I actually served this dish with white wine rather than a full bodied red typically paired with red meat. Simply because, the meat itself is delicate and does not need a robust wine to accompany. It is beautifully paired by a crisp, light white like a Chablis.

Lamb Chops with Polenta and Braised Swiss Chard

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Start with the polenta, them the chard and finally the chops. Cook the chops last, just before serving!

For the Lamb Chops:

6 baby lamb rib chops

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T rosemary, minced

1/2 tsp maldon salt or fleur de sel (Use the finest salt you have and use it sparingly. It only takes a little of the good stuff to bring flavor to the meat)

1/2- to 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper based on your taste

1 T good, fruity olive oil

Mix the marinade ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Meanwhile wash and pat dry the chops. Rub the marinade on both sides of the chops and let rest for 30 minutes up to over night.

When ready to cook, heat a heavy bottomed pan with a light drizzle of olive oil over medium-high flame. I always use cast iron or steel and never non-stick; the sear isn't good and it tastes funny! Arrange the chops in one layer and let them cook undisturbed for two minutes. Gently lift the first chop you placed in the pan to check the sear. If it is good enough turn all the chops over. If not, leave them cook on the side for another minute. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop for a medium-rare-ish finish.

Cook the polenta according to instructions using milk as the liquid.

For the Braised Swiss Chard:

1 bunch swiss chard, washed, drained and chopped

1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, smashed

olive oil for the pan

Heat the oil and saute the garlic until the oil is perfumed. Add the sauce and bring to a gentle boil. Add the chard, cover the pan and cook until the leaves are just wilted. Remove from heat.

To serve:

Place some polenta on the plate/bowl. Ladle over it the braised greens and top with the seared chops. Sprinkle fresh grated parmesan if desired!

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