Spaghetti with Meatballs

I told you I did a lot of cooking this past weekend, so much that I probably won’t have to cook anything for a good part of the week with all the leftovers I have. Anyway, I’ve never really been attracted to try Spaghetti with Meatballs, but I saw this recipe on cookingchanneltv.com that called for sun-dried tomatoes, lean ground beef, and ricotta cheese, I decided to give them a try. I used this recipe adding my own twist, making it spicy by adding Cheyenne pepper.

This recipe tells you to cook the raw meatballs directly in the sauce, so a very lean ground beef is absolutely key. So, though I like to complain that I can’t find certain ingredients here in Spain, I can go to the central market and ask the butcher to grind a fresh pound of meat for me. Starting with my extra-lean beef, I added ricotta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, an egg and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Pureed tomato, finely diced onion, and a couple of garlic cloves (I leave them whole so I don’t have to eat them) make up the sauce. Let them simmer together for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens and the meatballs are cooked through.

Top the spaghetti with meatballs, sauce and some chopped basil and Parmesan cheese. At the last minute, I also decided to make some easy garlic bread with a french baguette I had in the freezer by rubbing a garlic clove over the bread, drizzling olive oil, sprinkling Parmesan cheese and a little sweet paprika, and putting them in the oven for a few minutes.

With a pound of beef I made 24 meatballs and I have the feeling that this is one of those things that tastes even better the next day when the sauce’s flavors have had the chance to develop more, so I’m looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

Here’s the recipe for Meatballs with Tomato Sauce:

Meatballs

  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 3.5 oz (100g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl until they are evenly distributed. Form golf ball sized meatballs with hands and set on a plate.

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds (800 ml) pureed tomato
  • Salt and pepper

Saute onion until translucent in a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add tomato puree, salt and pepper. (Optional: Add garlic and/or Cheyenne pepper to taste) Bring sauce to a simmer and add meatballs. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that all sides cook fully.

Meanwhile, boil salted water to make spaghetti (or whatever pasta you prefer). Optionally, toast up some garlic bread to help you sop up that yummy sauce!

*Recipe courtesy of David Rocco on cookingchanneltv.com (link)

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Shallots, and Basil

I can’t remember where I first heard of sweet potato gnocchi, all I can tell you is that I have had them on my bucket list of things to make and/or try for several months. I have actually never made fresh gnocchi, sweet potato or otherwise. It seemed intimidating. I am happy to report that it’s not! If you can make simple sugar cookies, you can make gnocchi. Easy as it may be, I still needed a recipe, so I searched a few of my favorite recipe sites (cookingchanneltv.com, cookinglight.com, foodandwine.com, etc) and actually found very few recipes using sweet potatoes rather than regular potatoes. Also, all of them called for a brown butter and sage sauce.

For the gnocchi, I opted for a recipe I found on epicurious.com, which called for sweet potatoes, ricotta cheese, fresh nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and brown sugar.

It’s a bit of a labor of love because you have to roll each of them, but oh, is it worth it. Up until today I had only tried store-bought, refrigerated gnocchi and they tend to be a little bit dense and stick to your teeth. These are amazing little pillows of flavor that are so worth the time it takes to roll them out.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned the difficulties I have getting certain ingredients occasionally. Just like yesterday, I subbed ricotta for pureed cottage cheese. Then I had another dilemma – every recipe I found said brown butter and sage and I just couldn’t find sage anywhere. So, I got creative, thought about it for a little bit, and came up with shallots sauteed in butter with basil. Shallots have so much flavor, and the sweet aromatic basil went perfectly with the flavor of the sweet potatoes. I don’t know how it would have tasted with sage, but this combo is a winner.

Clearly, this isn’t “light” or “diet”, but every now and then you just crave a comforting, rich dish like this one. My mouth is watering just looking at this picture as I type… So here’s the recipe, because I know you can’t wait to try it too!

Gnocchi (10-12 servings):

  • 2 lb. red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, dried and pierced all over with a fork
  • 12 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour

Place sweet potatoes on a plate and microwave on high 5-7 minutes on each side (depends on the size, the need to be soft to the touch like a baked potato). Cut in half and spoon out the insides into a medium bowl; mash.

Add ricotta; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Mash to blend. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, divide into 6 equal parts. Rolling each piece between palms and the floured surface, make a rope about 1 inch thick (aprox. 20 inches long). Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll them over the tines of a fork and set aside on a baking sheet.

Boil and salt water in a large pot. Add gnocchi in batches and boil 5-6 minutes. Initially they sink, when they are done they will all float up to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl or baking sheet and add next batch.

*Recipe courtesy of epicurious.com from Bon Appétit (link)

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup butter
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper (pepper optional)

Add olive oil to a pan heated over medium heat; add sliced shallots. Sautee about 5 minutes until tender. Add butter and allow to melt and brown, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat if necessary to keep butter and/or shallots from burning. Once all of the gnocchi are cooked, add them to the pan. Add basil and mix together until evenly coated.

Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

And love!

The Spanish Tortilla

Ah, the Spanish Tortilla… So simple, yet, it’s kind of tricky. And I can’t call myself “Spanish” until it’s been mastered. I think I have finally gotten the ratio for a consistent tortilla.

To make this tortilla, which serves 3-4 people (or more if it’s served as an app. along with other things), I used 2 large potatoes, 1 medium onion, 3 large eggs and 1 teaspoon of salt. Now that you know this, it’s going to be super easy, trust me.

First, peel and thinly slice the potatoes and onions. In the end, you’ll never see the shape of the slices, so if it’s easier for you to cut the potato and onion in half so you have a flat surface to slice on, do it (that’s easier for me, anyway). If you have a mandolin, bust it out.

In a large pan, heat about a quarter inch of olive oil over medium heat. Add all the sliced potato and onion. I prefer not to add any salt at this point because I save olive oil that I just use to fry potatoes for use again later, so I want to know it isn’t going to make the next thing I make overly salty. You’re going to need to flip these over every 5 minutes or so until they are nice and soft.

This needs to turn into…

This.

It’s probably a good time to get a glass of wine because this is the part where the love is made. The potatoes need to cook slowly so they become soft, but a little bit chewy around the edges and the onion needs to be nice and soft too. It’s going to take about 20 minutes.

Other than sip on that glass of wine, you also need to beat 3 large eggs in a large bowl and add one teaspoon of salt to that.

Once your potato/onion mixture is soft, use a slotted spatula to drain and take the potatoes out of the oil, leaving as much oil behind as possible, and add them to the eggs. Mix the potato/onion mixture with the eggs.

To actually make the tortilla, I use a smaller pan so that it will be thicker. So, once the mix is made, I lightly oil (just enough to coat) the pan and pour the egg/potato/onion mix into the pan and spread it so its even in the pan. This needs to cook over medium-low for about 5 minutes. When you see that the egg pulls away from the edge, it’s time to flip. Put a large plate over the top of the pan, place your hand flat on top of the plate and flip. Put the pan down and slide the tortilla back into the pan and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. I prefer that the egg be a little less done, so I take it out quickly, but that’s up to you.

There you go, that’s all there is to it!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

This week I’ve had no time to really cook, but have had a million ideas going through my mind of things I want to eat. Finally, the weekend is here…and with it, time! The first thing I got to work on was these Lemon Ricotta Cookies that I have been craving ever since I discovered them around Christmas when I made them for our family’s yearly Cookie Exchange Party. I absolutely love lemon desserts and these cookies are so moist and fluffy with that delicious mix of sweet and tangy. Yum!

This recipe calls for whole-milk Ricotta cheese in the batter, which gives it this moist cake-like texture. Here in Spain, every now and again I have a hard time finding certain ingredients; Ricotta cheese is one of them. I have a book called The Food Substitutions Bible, which helps me solve problems like this one, so I actually used a cheese just like cottage cheese and used an immersion blender to make it smooth like Ricotta before adding it. They tasted exactly like I remembered them, so if you ever have that problem, now you know!

Here’s the recipe:

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 15 oz. container of whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

* * * * * *

Preheat oven to 375º F (190º C)

Cookies:

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add Ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Then, add in the dry ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon (about 2 tbsp) dough onto the sheet. Bake for about 15 min, until lightly brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice, and zest until smooth. Once the cookies are completely cooled, spoon about 1/2 tsp of glaze onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. And…Enjoy!!

*Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentis and cookingchanneltv.com (link)

French Toast with Cinnamon Apples

So, since I’ve started this blog I’ve been craving making all kinds of things. I’m not a big breakfast eater, so we’ve instituted a new tradition: Sunday Brunch. I’ve been telling my boyfriend for months that we’ve got to make french toast and I finally got to it. The best french toast I’ve ever had was at a little cafe in Davis, California where I went to college. They made it with thick slices of rustic bread and it was delicious.

First, I prepared the fruit topping. Peel and slice up two Granny Smith apples into thin slices, sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and add the apples and cook them until they are tender. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk and cinnamon together and slice the bread into 1 inch thick slices. I just used a standard french toast recipe from cookinglight.com, so if you have one you prefer, you can use that one.

Let the slices soak in the mixture for about five minutes while heating butter in a large pan.

Once the butter is hot, place the slices and cook each side until golden brown.

Plate them and spoon apple mixture on top. Top with maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Here’s the complete recipe:

Apples:

  • 2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. butter

French Toast:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • powdered sugar

This is a really easy, delicious recipe that you can top with whatever fruit you want. Since it’s winter, there aren’t that many fruits in season, so apples and pears are the best bet, but I can’t wait for summer to do this with fresh strawberries and blueberries!

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Every Christmas my mom gives me a bag of See’s Candy Peppermint Twists in my stocking and so I made some peppermint bark with it yesterday. These are way yummier than candy canes and have a softer consistency, so they’re great for this recipe.

I crushed about half a cup of them in a plastic bag with a hammer. Then I melted several bars of white chocolate in a double boiler. Once the chocolate is creamy and smooth I folded in the crushed candy, reserving about a quarter of it to sprinkle on the top.

I spread the mixture evenly on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or plastic wrap and sprinkled the reserved candy on top. That’s it – a few hours in the fridge and then break it up into pieces. I actually gave most of it as a gift to some friends who I was having lunch with yesterday, but I had to save a few pieces for myself!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is my boyfriend’s specialty – and he learned it from a real live Italian he lived with a few years back. Now it’s our go-to meal when there’s nothing in the fridge and we want a hot, hearty meal on the table in 20 minutes flat. It’s not the type of pasta I would recommend saving leftovers of, so calculate the quantity of spaghetti for how many people are eating. Also, according to our Italian friend, it’s really important to use spaghetti for this recipe – it’s gets all tangled with the egg and traps the heat in, cooking the egg more effectively. You’ll find if you do it with linguini or something else, it will end up really runny instead of firming up and sticking to the pasta.

This is how it’s done for two servings.

The key is to keep it simple – there are only 6 ingredients and really no need to measure them. Here it goes:

  • Whisk 2 large eggs in a large mixing bowl (calculate 1 egg per person).
  • Add a large pinch of salt and small pinch of nutmeg and pepper to the eggs (depending on your feelings about pepper, you can add more or less – I like it to have a little kick – however, nutmeg is essential).
  • In the meantime get a large pot of water boiling and salt the water. Also get a non-stick pan on medium-high heat to cook up some bacon (I cut up the strips before, but do it the way that works best for you). If you don’t like bacon, you could also use any type of thick sliced ham that you like.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, drain it completely and immediately add it to the egg mixture. Toss the spaghetti and add the bacon. The heat from the pasta pretty much cooks the egg, but if you have doubts about eating semi-raw egg, carbonaras in general probably aren’t for you.
  • Serve and top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

That’s all there is to it! Sometimes I like to switch it up and add some sauteed mushrooms and onion or shrimp to the mix. To do that, do everything else the same and just toss those ingredients in at the very end. Not only is this super fast, but it’s not as heavy as a lot of others I’ve seen that add heavy cream to it. There’s just no need!

*Thanks to Rodrigo, the chef behind today’s meal.