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Sunday, November 8, 2009

veal ricotta meatballs

veal ricotta meatballs - take 2

This is a very important post, dear readers. One that’s taken me many hours to put together, because I cannot implore you enough that whatever it is you’re doing right now – you need to stop and rush to your kitchens to make these. I know – you’re thinking, meatballs, big deal, what’s the rush. But because I’m what you’d call, a meatballs skeptic, this is doubly important. I wouldn’t just sigh over any meatballs, right? They would have to be really, truly magnificent. And they are.

veal ricotta meatballs - take 2

These are the meatballs I’ve dreamed about for over a year. A year, people – do you know how long that is in food obsession terms? That’s twelve long months of fantasizing about these orbs made seemingly out of meat clouds and so delicious and light, they practically melt in your mouth. You barely even have to chew them. And until very recently, they weren’t a staple in my kitchen. But that’s all changed now.

veal ricotta meatballs - take 2

About a year ago, a good friend of mine took me to a little wine bar in the East Village called Terroir, run by the same lovely folks behind a thoughtfully run restaurant “Hearth” where Marco Canora, the chef behind this recipe, makes his amazing dishes. She had mentioned, on our way there, that aside from an excellent wine list, there are some worthwhile nibbles we should order, namely, the veal ricotta meatballs, which we promptly ordered upon arrival and that order changed everything I knew about the dish. These weren’t regular meatballs of my past: heavy and dense and bland; instead they were light, delicate and perfectly seasoned. I tasted a bite of Parmiggiano, a gentle hint of ricotta, a tang of tomato sauce. Instantly smitten, I knew, at that exact moment, that these were the meatballs I’ve been searching for (if one does indeed go on a search for the perfect meatball, which you know I would, because that’s the kind of girl I am).

veal ricotta meatballs - take 2

Since then, I’ve sent dozen of my friends to the bar, always instructing them to order the meatballs and have tried to recreate the magic at home. Until two nights ago, I’ve been using the Mario Batali recipe, but after Deb alerted me to Marco Canora’s recipe, I switched over. The ingredient list and proportions are very similar, if not identical. But a few additional steps, and helpful hints below, I think, make this recipe more useful. These meatballs are a process and take over a day to make, which, I know, is a bit belabored for something as rustic as a meatball. However, asking your butcher to triple-grind your meat (which is recommended below) ensures a delicate, light texture. Starting on your ricotta cheese the night before, is a necessary step because store bought ricotta just won’t cut it, and you see in the previous recipe just how easy it is to make ricotta at home. Moreover, I read somewhere, in relation to this recipe that you need to have your ricotta cheese need to be the texture/density of tofu (super helpful, right?), really helps you in determining how much draining of ricotta you have to do. And there’s also chilling the meatballs before frying them. I’m not sure what chilling your meatballs before frying does, but I dutifully followed directions and can tell you, it’s worth the trouble because the results are that good.

veal ricotta meatballs - take 2

And while normally meatballs are an accessory to spaghetti, I urge you to resist having them play second fiddle. These are in their own category of excellence and deserve to be first violin at your dinner with a solo performance. Serve them alongside a simple salad, as it’ll only highlight the rustic simplicity of the dish. Spaghetti and meatballs, just might become a thing of the past.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

thai beef salad

thai beef salad

Over here at Sassy Radish kitchen we’re in packing mode, finishing food we have and making do with what the pantry offers. Save the occasion dash for an herb or vegetable, cooking here for the next few weeks has to be about not wasting (and thus inventiveness for me) and less about flipping through the latest issue of Gourmet looking for my next fix has come to a screeching halt.

thai beef salad

You see, here at SR I have big news! SR kitchen is about to get bigger. As in square footage. I’m trading my cozy (read: tiny) walk-up kitchen for a spacious, open, with a huge island and shelving (see the pictures) one. To tell you I’m excited, would be a huge understatement. I am counting down the days! Oh and did I mention that it comes with a dishwasher? Every time I say the word dishwasher an angel gets his wings. Or at least it feels like it. Say it with me – deeeeshwaaaasher. Doesn’t it just sound so musical and lovely?


As excited as I am about this new kitchen, I will miss my 40 square foot kitchen I made a pretty good use of over the last 12 months. I didn’t expect to move out so soon, but an irresistible opportunity presented itself. And now I get to be closer to friends, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Baked Bakery, the Clover Club and other delicacies that will challenge my waistline. While I’ll miss my cozy little kitchen, I’m ready and excited for a more spacious one.

thai beef saladthai beef salad

Since moving requires packing and perishables do not good packing goods make, I’ve initiated an operation that I’d like to call ECIMK (Eat Crap In My Kitchen). The operation was fully commenced when my friend Marc came over for dinner a few weeks ago. You know you’ve got a good friend on your hands when you write “I have a lot wine and we need to make a dent in the supply.” And your friend dutifully obliges with an “I’m there!” response. And not only does your friend arrive hungry, but also helps you through three (3!!) bottles of wine in one night. Between the two of you. How lucky can a girl get?

thai beef salad

One of my not-to-be-packed items was this lovely skirt steak, chilling in the freezer waiting for the opportune moment to make its statement. Now, this is probably the part where I should tell you that happen to really love a skirt steak, so much so that I’d rather have that for dinner than a filet mignon. I’m an odd girl, I know, but that’s just how things are around here.

thai beef salad

I also come with some odd cravings and on any given day there are a few meals I can always happily consume. A Thai beef salad probably sits at the top of that list. Hearty enough for a dinner dish, it’s the perfect antidote to a sticky muggy day because you get the cold, refreshing crunch of lettuce, the bite of the spicy/sweet chili lime dressing, and the nice heft of beef. Filling, yet not heavy, refreshing, yet you won’t go hungry in an hour. I think it’s the epitome of a perfect meal.

thai beef salad

As you can tell from pictures, I like my meat on the pink side. By all means, please cook it longer because everyone’s preferences vary quite a bit. Not only is this a favorite, but also happens to be super easy to make. The whole thing comes together in under 20 minutes. Including all the prep work. You can even make this on a weeknight when you have little time to cook. And it makes room in your soon-to-be-emptied freezer too. How about you? When you’ve had to move in the past, what were some of your more creative uses of food so it didn’t go to waste?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

beef bourguignon

beef bourguinon

Even though I keep claiming to have broken up with winter a couple of weeks ago, I’m still carrying my gloves and wearing my scarf and wool coat because it’s just not that warm in the mornings are evenings. Sure, the temperatures claim to be more temperate during the day, but that also happens to be the time when I sit in front of a computer, inside, and deal with client related matters. And so upon leaving the office, I’m once again met with a rather persistent chill. A chill that’s clearly being shoved out by the onset of spring, but like a guest that overstays his welcome, this chill lingers in hopes perhaps of sticking around another week or two.

browning the meat

Well, despite the fact that I’ve been ready for spring for quite some time, the weather still dictates warmth and comfort when it comes to my food. A salad sounds delightful in theory, but when all is said and done, when I get home from work, what I want is something soft and warm and filling. And beef bourguignon fits the bill.

mushrooms for the stew

I meant to make it all winter season and yet something would always upstage it. A soup, a chicken dish, cake, even (hey, cake can totally be dinner). Honestly, I can’t figure out why because this is so good and so flavorful that I should have made it in large batches over and over and frozen portions for later consumption. Better yet, this dish gets better the next day after the flavors had a chance to develop, which makes for leftovers you’d be looking forward to having.

beef bourguinon

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

beer braised leg of lamb

beer-braised leg of lamb

I’m not sure how to segue into this post I’ve written and rewritten this post nearly half a dozen times and I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps because making this dish left me pretty bleh to begin with. Not terrible, not great – it was simply “meh” on the scale of “ewww” to “mmmm”. It was just so-so. And it was largely my fault.

I’m very picky with lamb. Almost ridiculously so. Back in high-school when I ate Easter dinner with my then-boyfriend’s family, it was the one holiday meal I kind of dreaded. Out of politeness for the mother, I would break my strict vegetarianism to take a symbolic bite sized piece of lamb, flavored only with salt and rosemary. But what made me quiver was the mint jelly, which to this day reminds me of eating toothpaste. But give me a fragrant Uzbek plov, or Persian manty, and I can’t get enough lamb. It’s all in the flavoring I suppose. Like I said, I’m tricky with this meat.

raw leg of lamb

And so when KS and I picked up a leg of lamb (on sale!) at Whole Foods on Sunday, fresh from our Carribean get-away and eager to fill up our fridge and pantry with edibles, I was rather indecisive of how I wanted to cook it.

Part of me wanted to roast it. Part of me wanted to braise it. Part of me wanted something simple and a part of me wanted a dish full of complex spices. In short, I was asking for the impossible and I wasn’t going to take it.

rosemary, cilantro, garlic, salt

After failing to find a recipe I liked, I decided to marry a few of my own. I was going to braise the lamb in beer, but add more spices and herbs than what the recipe called for. And perhaps that’s where I went wrong because the dish just didn’t know what it wanted to be. And so it was just so-so.

Tyler Florence recommended a Roast Leg of Lamb with beer, honey and thyme and while I liked the idea of beer, but not of honey or thyme. Another recipe with my favorite Alton Brown, suggested a grilled leg of lamb with pomegranate molasses. But we lacked an indoor grill, and for some reason, KS is not a fan of sweet/salty combinations. I managed to sneak some of it in anyway and he still doesn’t know about it (or he will once he reads this post).

We ate this dish in its entirety and are completely now lamb’ed out. And though this recipe was a bit of a letdown, the couscous I made along-side it was nothing short of incredible. But that’s for Sunday night. We’re off to DC for a wedding some the cherry blossoms festival. If anyone has any fantastic brunch recommendations in the Georgetown area or beyond, please let me know!

beer goes in

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Monday, March 10, 2008

braised beef short ribs

braised short ribs

I can’t quite decide if this Daylight Savings thing is working for me. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to leave work while the sky is still brightly lit. On the other hand, waking up at 5:30 in the morning has once again become quite difficult – and as I make my way to the subway in the morning, they sky is dark and gloomy. And it is still very cold. Which is probably why I am still a bit incredulous that this thing called spring is ever going to arrive.

It has been a stressful year for the markets so far, and thus for me at work. Though I am not an economist or a strategist, I have a very strong feeling that this sub-prime issue is not going away any time soon and everywhere you look in financial news-sources, the word “recession” turns up a few too many a time and the markets have been steadily declining on the heels of seemingly never-ending bad news. Coupled with it the rising cost of food, fuel and commodities while the consumers are watching their spending – makes for a glum story indeed.

parsley mire-poix

Which is probably why a few weeks ago, I had the craving for precisely this kind of a comfort meal: warm, rich, flavorful, with a thick sauce. I’ve been waxing poetic about braised short ribs to KS and he would nod approvingly, but I could just see in his eyes that he wasn’t really following me. Not until he tasted it, did he understand why I have not stopped talking about it. We both had seconds and needless to say there were no leftovers. And because it rained that entire day, this dish was like manna from heaven. It warmed and comforted us. I have to mention here also, that this dish is super easy – all it requires is time. If you can slow-cook this in your Le Creuset or the equivalent for 3+ hours, you are guaranteed something truly amazing. It’s pretty much fail-proof. Another note is that I chose not to puree my vegetables as the original recipe suggests because I like my vegetables chunky. And instead of cooking potatoes separately from the short ribs, I cooked them in the same pot, letting them absorb the flavors of the stew.

browned short ribs - looks gross

And though I can’t get enough of these warm, rich stews, with this vacation coming up next Friday, I just can’t wait to leave behind my winter coat and winter eating and put on my bermuda shorts and have an umbrella drink! For one glorious week we’ll be basking in the Carribean sun, lazing around on the beach and catching up on reading.

Perhaps upon our return, spring will have officially kicked off and I’ll have more spring cooking on my mind. But for now, with another rainy day facing us, I’d rather have this warm, comforting meal, over a cold, crisp salad.

braised short ribs

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Monday, March 19, 2007

corned beef

corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots

I have, on a number of occasions, claimed that give me a holiday having nothing to do with my culture, throw some good food in it, and I’ll be more than happy to celebrate it just for the food of it. A few people in the past raised their eye brows at me when I told my stories of lamb roasts over Easter weekend, or trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to make aloo ghobi over Divali. My own favorite holiday, Thanksgiving comes with my favorite dishes, plenty of them, and a table full of friends. Interestingly enough, I quickly grew to love Thanksgiving and kind of forced it on my family. And now my mother kind of even likes it. But I digress.

after the bath

I realize that there’s just about as much Irish in me as was in Golda Meir, and I’ve never even visited the Emerald Isle. And even despite the fact that in my heart, I always felt a little Irish, with what, my love of Guinness, Irish music, my favorite writers are all Irish (Joyce, Wilde, Yates, Shaw, Thomas Lynch), cabbage and potatoes (undoubtedly stemming from my Russian upbringing) and whiskey; I cannot, rightly, lay claim to the heritage, being its eager admirer nonetheless. And yet, despite all that, when KS emailed me about making corned beef and cabbage with mustard for dinner Friday night, I leapt at the opportunity, immediately researching the recipes online. Give me slow-cooked tender meat that has been braising in the oven for hours on end, and I’m a happy girl.

corned beef ready for slicing

If any of you reading this are New Yorkers, you will probably remember Friday as the worst weather day in the history of winter 2006-2007. I don’t even know what that was that fell from the sky, but I’ve never seen anything quite so nasty. Microscopic icicles? A new strain of sleet? Spiked, armed snowflakes?

Nursing a cold and a Rudolph-red nose, the last thing I was looking forward to doing is going to Whole Foods and picking up the ingredients for our Irish-pride feast. But KS, being a gentleman and world’s most glorious boyfriend, did it for me, picking up a succulent cut of corned beef brisket from Bazzini along with a few other ingredients.

introducing - the savoy

As soon as I came home from the office, I got immediately to work around starting around 5:30pm, and by 9:30pm we had ourselves a simple, Irish meal, so delicious, we regretted not buying a larger brisket so that we could have leftovers or make it into corned beef hash (but we later decided that not only are we going to make this again soon, we’re going to brine the brisket ourselves – ha!).

kicking it up a notch

The four hours of waiting was worth every minute. And while corned beef with potatoes & cabbage is one of the simplest, easiest things to make (I still cannot believe how little effort it took and how good it tasted), it has an honesty to it that is filling, satisfying and comforting. While the weather outside was frightful, we, wrapped in fleece and wool, ate on the couch, watching the Empire Strikes Back, and gobbling up our food. The only thing missing from our dinner was soda bread, but given the fact that I just learned the soda bread I have known and liked in the past is apparently an impostor, maybe that’s okay. The authentic version sounds a bit unappetizing.

So okay, I’m not Irish by blood, but perhaps being a little Irish at heart is acceptable? And while on Saturday, I didn’t imbibe(colds and beer rarely go hand in hand), I did pick up a tome of Yates and read a few poems.

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