Meatballs: Not Just For Spaghetti Any More
Meatballs in the refrigerator or freezer are like insurance. The problem is that most methods are time-consuming and messy.
Meatballs factor in my relentless crusade to trim food expenses by avoiding costly last-minute take-out, fast food and frozen entrees. Meatballs are one of many alternatives.
They can be made of almost anything. The classic beef meatball tastes better with a little ground pork or sausage meat, either bulk or removed from casings. Meat can be cut with grains like brown rice, crushed bran flakes or whole grain bread crumbs. Finely grated veggies like carrot and zucchini are a must. A handful of spinach and celery leaves, some parsley and a few mushrooms chopped in a blender with the egg (especially for poultry meatballs) boost nutritional value.
The messy step - browning meatballs in oil - just isn't necessary. Instead, form meatballs with wet hands, place on a foil-lined baking pan and broil without turning until crunchy on top. With slotted spoon transfer meatballs to simmering sauce and continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Make a big batch. Freeze half covered in sauce. Layer the other half (don't let meatballs touch) on foil or plastic wrap in a rectangular container with tight-filling lid and freeze. Lift out as many as needed for subs or other uses. Try them sliced atop homemade pizza or floating in minestrone.
Kids love small meatballs-on-a-stick, either short wooden skewer or toothpick, with a simple dipping sauce. Ketchup mixed with hickory barbecue sauce will do.
General guidelines replace recipes. For every two pounds of meat put a large onion, a rib of celery, handful of parsley leaves, one to two of cloves garlic and one slice of bread in processor. Process until chopped fine. Add an egg, process just until incorporated. Add salt, pepper, finely grated carrot or other veggies and seasonings. Mix into meat lightly with a fork; overmixing results in hard meatballs. Let sit for at least an hour before rolling into balls and broiling.
Any sauce will do. I like light marinara from a jar. But my best non-Mediterranean is intriguingly sweet-sour-spicy. In blender or processor, puree a cup of whole-berry cranberry sauce with a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (not tomato sauce), a splash of vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, ? teaspoon ground ginger and a few drops hot sauce. Simmer until well-combined before adding small broiler-browned meatballs made with ground chicken and pork. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over rice. Scatter with blanched snow peas.
I'll save vegetarian "meatballs" for another day.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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