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Mediterranean Cocktail Meatballs

30 Dec

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When you have a child, you don’t attend as many parties as you used to, pre-child. At least, my husband and I don’t, but that may not be the best indicator of what most people do or do not do. I mean, we rent movies from the library (it’s free! You can keep them for three weeks!), and, up until about a month ago, I’d been using the same cell phone that I’d had since 2007 (what? It still worked—sort of). What I am saying is, we’re not your average people. If anything, we’re probably pretty below average. All right, now I am just starting to feel a little depressed.

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Moving on, sometimes when I think of the holiday seasons my husband and I used to celebrate, pre-child, I fondly remember the packed tables of tiny finger foods, petite glasses of sparkling beverages, and the dulcet tones of—all right, so none of that ever really happened. Mostly our pre-child holiday party experiences were a lot like our pre-child any-time-of-the-year party experiences: beer, chips, band in the basement.

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The thing is, I’ve never been a dedicated party person. The experience of too many humans packed into one space tends to leave me a bit cramped and annoyed, and, to be candid, whenever I tried to enjoy a loud basement band I inevitably spent the majority of my band-watching time being worried that people might spill stuff all over the floor or drunkenly slam into me, or perhaps spill stuff all over me while drunkenly slamming into the floor. I’m too much of a wienie for parties.

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But! I still like party food, even if that food is decidedly different from the type of foods I ate when I actually went to parties. How nice would it have been to walk into a (calm) party and see these delightful little turkey meatballs sitting on a platter, self-decorated Italian parsley-adorned toothpick dutifully saluting forth from each one? With little pearls of feta cheese hidden in each bite, the taste pairing so beautifully with the mellow spices and bright hit of lemon zest, these meatballs are the perfect addition to an offering of tasty party snacks. We ate them on a quiet evening, as a party of three, then retreated to the living room afterwards to partake in a bit of dancing. To Minor Threat. (What? We haven’t completely changed.)

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More Party-Appropriate Foods: Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps, Tiny Party Sandwiches, Quick All-Parmesan Crackers (gluten-free!), Savory Walnut and Olive Oil Sables, Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas and, wow, I am only now realizing how many tiny, fork-free foods I have on this site.

Mediterranean Cocktail Meatballs

1 pound of ground turkey, not lean

¼ cup chopped onion

1 large clove of garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

4 ounces crumbed feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Alternately, if you want to pan fry the meatballs instead of bake them, you can forgo the baking sheet and oven and just grab a large skillet.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, except for the feta cheese. Using your hands or a sturdy spatula, mix together all of the ingredients until they are well combined. Gently fold in the feta until uniformly incorporated.

Form about 1 level tablespoon of the meat mixture at a time into a small meatball. You can either place the meatballs on the parchment-lined baking sheet and then bake them for around 12 to 15 minutes until they are cooked through, or you can pan fry them in a little olive oil in a hot skillet, turning every couple of minutes until the meatballs have browned on the outside and cooked completely through.

Makes roughly 40 meatballs, give or take a few, depending on how generous your tablespoon scoops are.

Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas

26 Nov

We’re entering into that glorious time of the year when the celebrations are plentiful, the lights forever twinkly, and the snacks are everywhere, all of the time, no matter where you look. For a dedicated snacker (as I happen to be), this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. In her cookbook Super Natural Everyday Heidi Swanson notes that her day’s consumption of food goes something like “meal-snack-meal-snack-snack-meal,” a series of events that I can only describe as being somewhat blissful in its rhythm. Swanson, of course, makes the most of those meals and snacks, indulging in supremely healthful foods that provide the most punch as possible, both in terms of flavor and nutrition.

I wish I could say that I am always that dedicated to eating healthfully. Certainly a lot of people would look at my meals and snacks throughout the day and declare me to nothing short of a Pollyanna when it comes to food (I don’t drink sweet beverages at all, I eat very little meat, I don’t buy junk food), but one can certainly find a lot of room for improvement when it comes to my snack choices during the holidays. Whereas I ordinarily find much satisfaction in eating a few nuts or an apple for a standard snack, the holidays inevitably turn me in an entirely different direction, snack-wise. Things just seem to appear in our house, and then those things inevitably end up in my mouth. The chocolate covered nuts, the containers of homemade cookies—bless them all, but, my lord, I lose my mind when those things are sitting around and looking at me with their luscious, chocolaty, buttery eyes.

Perhaps this year I will be able to keep a stash of more sensible snacks around, so that I can maintain my normally reasonable and pleasurable way of eating. These crispy, spicy chickpeas will be a good start. They take absolutely no time to throw together, and they make a wonderful snack, garnish, or added protein, whether I am looking for something snacky or something to plump up a meal. My current favorite way to eat them (aside from just eating them as they are, which is simply wonderful) is to throw them on a pile of quinoa, chopped raw spinach, and avocado, then drizzle everything with a touch of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The spices are just perfect and the tiny kick of heat makes for a nice surprise. All in all, these little chickpeas are a welcome addition to the day, no matter the season.

Last Year: Slow-Cooked Beans and Huevos Rancheros

Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups cooked, drained chickpeas

2 teaspoons garam masala (a commonly found Indian spice blend)

¼ teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper, if you want things a little spicier)

salt and pepper to taste, if needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, then add drained chickpeas. Sprinkle over garam masala and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Sauté the chickpeas and spices, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, then place the skillet in the heated oven. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are crisp and golden. Taste for seasoning, and add a bit of salt and pepper if you think it is necessary (garam masala spice blends contain different levels of salt, so it is important to hold off on adding more salt until after the chickpeas have been roasted).

Eat the chickpeas as is, or add to salads or soups.

Nun’s Puffs

6 Nov

Let’s start with the name, shall we? After much searching, I am still completely clueless as to how these delightful little pastries came to gain their rather fetching name. We can speculate, of course, but that’s all we’d be doing, and it seems almost beside the point to try and create a juicy backstory for these little numbers. Especially when, instead of looking around for naming clues, you should be spending your time baking up a batch of nun’s puffs. No, like right now.

With a texture poised somewhere between a choux pastry puff and a popover, only less crisply dry and more eggy in the middle, the nun’s puff might be my new favorite breakfast treat. Because of their relative simplicity, ingredient-wise, they are prime candidates for dressing up in any manner you choose. The richness of the butter, combined with the slight custardy flavor of the eggs, is the prefect backdrop for both savory and sweet applications. The outsides, so crisp and light, mingle delightfully with the airy and soft middle, because of the relative hollowness of the pastry’s middle, you can fill them with any number of things. I stuffed my serving with scrambled eggs, topped with a nice scoop of fried apples’n’onions (thank you, Almanzo Wilder), while my son slathered his with raspberry preserves. Both were absolutely delicious. I also sprinkled half of the puffs with cinnamon sugar before I baked them, and the resulting puffs emerged with a lovely lid of cinnamon crunch perched on top.

For as splendid as these puffs look, they are a cinch to make. Because they are baked in a common muffin pan, you don’t need a special pan, as you do with popovers, and you don’t need to fuss around with the oven, as you do with cream puffs. You mix, portion out, then bake. What greets you after 30 minutes is a dozen of the most spectacular baked goods you’ve ever seen straight from the oven, craggly, tall, and light as a feather.

Last Year: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn

Nun’s Puffs Recipe

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup milk

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

optional: 2 teaspoons sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly butter a 12-portion muffin pan, being sure to butter the edges of the cups and around the top.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter had melted, stir in milk and raise heat to medium.. Bring the mixture to a light boil, then add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until it comes together in a cohesive ball. Remove from heat, transfer dough to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.

When dough has cooled a bit, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about a minute after each addition. You can beat the egg into the dough with a wooden spoon, a handheld mixer on medium speed, or a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment on medium-low speed. After the last egg has been beaten in, the mixture should resemble an extremely thick, stiff cake or muffin batter.

Divide the dough evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. If using, sprinkle the tops of the dough with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in center of oven for about 30 minutes, or until the puffs are tall, golden brown, craggly on top, and very puffy. Remove each puff from the pan immediately, and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve while still hot or warm.

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