Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meatballs and Marinara

Marriage is about compromising, right? One of - if not the - biggest compromises we make is in the kitchen. My diet is mostly vegetarian, with eggs and a little chicken (and maybe the occasional piece (err, pieces) of bacon) thrown in for extra protein. G is a carnivore who likes his hamburgers medium rare and never misses an opportunity to offer me a chunk of pink animal flesh. Since G and I have been married, I've had to be creative in the kitchen. I've also had to be increasingly flexible with what I consider vegetarian. A classic example of this is the recipe below, which is for meatballs and marinara sauce. I don't eat the meatballs, but I do eat the sauce they float around in. Three years ago, I would have prepared, served and stored the sauce and meatballs separately. This no longer happens. It's too time consuming, and frankly, while I don't see myself biting into a meatball anytime in the immediate future, I don't notice any of the juices they release into the sauce. Marriage is teaching me how to be more flexible, and that is a good thing.

You might be wondering what kind of compromises G makes. Suffice it to say his reaction to our freezer full of organic vegetables - especially the peas, they're his kryptonite - often involves loud sighs and occasionally swearing. Just last week, I watched him open the freezer door, survey the recently stocked shelves of Trader Joe's organic foursome, and then release an audible sigh followed by him saying "oh my god" under his breath.

But really, if one of the biggest compromises we have to make for each other comes down to vegetables and red meat juice/bits, that's awesome, right? I think so.

On to the recipe! I intended to take pictures, but the diced tomatoes I used for this batch of sauce made it look rather industrial and not pretty. To be totally honest with you, they actually didn't taste very good, either. Alas, I promised a friend I'd post the recipe, so here it is:

Marinara (my own recipe)

2 large cans diced tomatoes and juices*
1 small yellow onion, chopped**
1 cup kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine

*I almost always use Nature's Harvest canned tomatoes w/ basil (available at Cub), but opted to use Muir Glen last night because they were on super sale. Bad move. If your grocery sells Nature's Harvest, use it, it is perfect for this recipe.

**Depending on what's in our refrigerator, I also add spinach and/or carrots.

I make our marinara using both our slow cooker and the stove top. If I'm making meatballs, I will usually put the tomatoes in the slow cooker right away and then move on to prepping the meatballs.

Meatballs (Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe)

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 1% milk
1/2 lb. ground sausage
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup minced onion
1 minced clove garlic

Mix the bread crumbs and milk until very moist. Add both meats, the egg, both cheeses, the onion and garlic, and a few twists of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the bowl.

Form the mixture into 3/4 inch balls. Cook in EVO over medium heat, turning until all sides are brown. Place the meatballs on a paper towel to drain the excess oil, and cook the remaining meatballs.

When all of the meatballs are cooked, I put the entire plate directly into the refrigerator so they don't sit around collecting bacteria until the sauce is ready (it will be a while).

Drain liquids from the pan used to make the meatballs into a container and return the pan to the stove top over medium-low heat. Add two tablespoons (or more depending on whether or not you use extra vegetables) of EVO, heat, and then add the vegetables (with the exception of the spinach) you want to include in your sauce. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the wine, scrapping the bits off the bottom of the pan, and heat for a few minutes. Add the mixture to the slow cooker. Let the mixture cook for at least three hours over low heat. If you add spinach to the mix, do so when you have one hour of cook time remaining.

I add the meatballs when there's about 30-45 minutes of time remaining. I put half of the cooked meatballs in the sauce, and half in the freezer for a later date.

It might seem like a lot of work up front, but the leftovers last for many days. Let me know if you try it...

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