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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.

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Turkey Pear Sausage with Ginger and Sage

8 Nov

There comes a time in every person’s life—that is, if the person in question likes to cook, and by “likes to cook,” I mean “is slightly unreasonable when it comes to wanting to spend time in the kitchen”—when you’ve just resigned yourself to the fact that, sooner or later, you are just going to have to learn how to make sausage. It’s not because you eat a lot of sausage (you don’t), and it’s not because you think that making sausage will be so much more economically sound than buying sausage (I have no idea if it is or not). It’s because, when you really, really like to cook, sooner or later the list of things you have made in the kitchen starts to seem a little barren when you add up the list of things you’ve never attempted to make.

I don’t mean to make it sound as though I am constantly trying to one up myself in the kitchen. I am not. Even the mere thought of that is too exhausting to consider. But I do like cooking, and I do like learning new things, so it seems only natural that, eventually, I was going to learn about how to make sausage. Because why not?

The first thing I learned about sausage is that sausage can be any number of things, but it is, generally speaking, a mixture of tiny bits of ground up meat and fat mixed with seasonings. That’s it. Does anyone else find that totally fascinating? No? Okay. Moving on. Because the relative simplicity of the very description of sausage, I found it the perfect medium for combining flavors and elements of my choice. Not being a fan of pork, I decided to make my sausage out of ground turkey (the higher the fat content the better), and, because I realize that ground turkey can have a tendency to get sort of dry, I added a shredded pear to the mix to stave off dryness. Because pears love ginger so much, it seemed only natural that I should add some ginger to the mix. Sage seemed like a natural progression after that, and by the time I was done, all I could do was wonder why it had taken me so long to make something so delicious. The bite is tender and juicy, the spices are delightful, and the mix of earthy sage and bright ginger are a perfect match. This took my morning scrambled eggs to a whole new dimension of enjoyment, making the morning seem instantly a bit more special.

Turkey Pear Sausage with Ginger and Sage Recipe

As you can see, this is a recipe for bulk sausage. I have never tried to convert this recipe to make sausage links, so, if you are in possession of some casing and a sausage stuffer and you think you might want to try this out as link sausage, please know that I have absolutely no idea if it will work or not. However, if you do try to make linked sausage from this recipe, please do let me know how it turns out!

1 pound of ground turkey, not lean

1 large pear, shredded using the larger shredding holes on a box grater (you should end up with roughly ¾ of a cup of shredded pear), drained of any excess juice

3 tablespoons finely shredded onion (again, use a box grater for this)

1 medium clove finely mashed and minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon finely minced fresh sage (or scant ¼ teaspoon dried sage)

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

pinch of ground nutmeg

pinch of dried coriander

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients (again, make sure the shredded pear is well drained of any excess juice, or else your sausage mix will end up too loose). Gently mix together using a flexible spatula or your hands. Mix until everything is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To cook sausage, form patties in the size of your choosing. Heat a bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan or cast iron skillet set over medium or medium high heat, then add the sausage patties when the oil is hot. Cook patties, being careful not to crowd the pan, until they are sufficiently browned on each side and cooked all the way through, about 3 to 4 minutes for smallish-sized patties.

Makes a little over 1 pound of bulk sausage.

Chicken Tikka with Tomato

16 Aug

This recipe is straight-up not mine, but it has, over time, morphed into something that comes as close to anything as being my signature dish. I bring this dish to potlucks and birthday dinners, I make it for family events like last fall’s cider pressing, and once, at the request of the betrothed, I even brought it to a wedding. It has become a dish for which I am known, and there is a tiny little part of me that feels sort of bad about it. After all, I didn’t put in any work when it came to developing the recipe or testing it out to make sure that it was perfectly delicious. To make it I just crack open a book, gather things together, and use someone else’s wisdom to guide me. Other than a tiny little tweak concerning the switching of cardamom pods with ground cardamom, and the exclusion of clove that I insist on in every recipe that happens to call for clove (because if there is one spice by which I cannot abide, it is clove), this recipe is 100% Madhur Jaffrey’s.

With the simplest of preparations involving nothing more than whirling up a marinade, pouring it over some chicken, then waiting a few hours before grilling the chicken to a perfect finish, there is no simpler way to become acquainted with making Indian food. Make it enough, and people may even begin to request it from you. I take no credit for the recipe itself, but I may have to claim ownership of warning you of its charms.

There is something about the warmth of the spices—a bit of cinnamon, a hit of cumin, a good dose of cardamom—combined with the perfect bit of brightness, garlic, and onion, that makes this chicken really stand out. I know that might sound a little phony and desperate (really? Can someone feel that strongly about chicken?), but I swear it is true. If you’ve always wanted to take a stab at Indian cooking, but are at a loss over where to start, I suggest you make this dish (along with these super simple accompaniments) your inaugural entrance to the world in Indian cooking.

Last Year: Quick All Parmesan Crackers–gluten free!

Chicken Tikka with Tomato Recipe

From Foolproof Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

For the marinade:

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

20 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon tomato puree

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips

Put all of the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor or blender and process to a smooth paste.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, add the marinade, and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours. (I have been known to marinate this chicken for fewer than 4 hours and it turns out just fine—I have also left it to marinate overnight, for up to 12 hours, and it also turned out just fine.)

When the chicken is done marinating, preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan over high heat. Grill the chicken pieces in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the grill surface. Discard any marinade that is left behind in the bowl. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes total, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through, but still tender.

Serve immediately.

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