We’ve been into little dishes lately. Usually meatballs are reserved for Sunday sauce but this week we turned them into an appetizer. For this batch I used a mix of ground beef and ground pork (you could also use veal or ground chicken or turkey). I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and fresh minced mint. For the binder I used an egg and panko bread crumbs. (I would advise you to add some fresh grated parmesan cheese…which I can’t do because SOMEONE doesn’t eat cheese…)
I baked these babies in the over at 350 for about 30 minutes and served with a side of spicy mayo. They smelled great and the pop of mint was amazing.
Sometimes you just don’t need a big meal. Tapas, mezze, antipasto, appetizers, whatever you call it, it’s fun to make and to share.
Last night we plated up some mortadella, prosciutto, gouda, homemade pickles, pepperoncini and fresh bruschetta.
Add a nice crusty baguette or warmed pita bread and you’re all set!
(And the wine, don’t forget the wine!)
Pro-tip: The bruschetta is super easy to pull together. I dice up some really ripe plum or san marzano tomatoes (if I can find them), add minced garlic and diced red onion to taste and season with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and a little dried oregano. Let it marry for about an hour in the fridge. Meanwhile, cut the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and brush one side with a little EVOO. Then to toast – I toast only one one side, leaving the other side softer. I do this so the crouton doesn’t break into a million pieces when you take a bite of it. When cooled top (the toasted side) with about 1 teaspoon of tomato mixture, plate and serve!
A few weeks ago I found spring roll wrappers at the grocery. I haven’t made spring rolls in a long time. It got me thinking about many, many years ago when I took an Asian cooking class at Hofstra. The class was was taught by a petite Jewish woman who, after getting divorced, explored China for some time. After she returned to the states from her Chinese escapades she taught these night classes with an enthusiasm that was infectious. Anyway, I pulled these together partially from memory and partially just using what I had available at home. Spring rolls and a side of fried rice everyone loved this simple, fun dinner.
For the spring rolls, I used what I had available, which in this case was scallions, green cabbage, sausage meat, garlic, bean sprouts and seasonings. It’s so easy! Thinly slice cabbage and scallions and mince garlic. Add a few tablespoons of EVOO to pan, add sausage meat to pan and cook until no longer pink. Add cabbage, scallions and sprouts to meat. Season generously with fresh black pepper. Add about a tablespoon of fish sauce if you have it and a little soy sauce to taste. Cook until veggies are soft. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a strainer and let excess liquids drain off (do this so that the spring rolls don’t get soggy). When mixture is cool enough to handle it’s time to make the spring rolls. I put a spring roll wrapper on a cutting board so that it’s oriented like a diamond. Then place about a tablespoon and a half of mixture in the middle of the wrapper. I then fold up the bottom corner, then both the left & right corners then roll the wrapper away from you making roll somewhat tight so that the stuffing stays inside. You can use either a little water or egg to seal the top corner. Repeat with the rest of the spring rolls, your technique will get better the more you do. You can either deep fry or pan fry the rolls, removing when they are brown.
Along with the spring rolls was a fried rice recipe that my mom used to make. I used Uncle Ben’s brown rice (about 2 cups, cooked) – which must be made the day before and cold when you prepare the fried rice. Like all my recipes, I used what I had available. In this case it was a few leftover pork chops which I diced up, scallions, a sweet onion roughly chopped, fresh carrots & celery also chopped up and a 1/2 cup of peas for pretty color. Start by cooking what needs to be cooked the longest – the pork and the carrots. Start by adding a little sesame oil (or EVOO) in your wok and let that heat up. Add pork and carrots and cook until the pork is no longer pink and the carrots are soft. Add the rest of the vegetables, stirring until cooked. You can add more oil if you need to. Then make some room in the center of your pan and stir in a scrambled egg . When egg is cooked add the rice a little at a time, folding in vegetables. Add soy sauce to taste (remember it’s super salty so don’t go nuts) and a ton of fresh cracked pepper. Voila! Homemade fried rice.
Pro-tip: You can make this recipe with so many variations (shrimp, chicken, beef, vegetarian) and any vegetables that you have on hand. I like color in the dish so the carrots and peas really added that element.
There’s a short season for stone crabs in Clearwater that begins in mid-October. Local legend is that stone crabs can only be found here – I don’t know if that’s true, but what I can tell you is that they’re delicious, pricey and gorgeous. These little buggers have a much harder shell than blue crab, or even lobster for that matter. They’re served boiled, cracked, either cold or hot with drawn butter or an aioli. Ranging from about $35-65 per pound depending on size (medium, select, or large) they’re not cheap. I researched the prices per pound and saw that there is also a jumbo size ($105 for a pound and a half, which is about four claws) – but I’ve never seen jumbo on a menu near us. I have never made these at home, I prefer to leave the mystery of perfectly boiled stone crabs to the professionals. If you ever have the chance to try these, I highly recommend that you do.