Homemade Tomato Sauce & MeatballsPosted: 03/19/2014 Filed under: Appetizers, main dish, Meat, Pasta, recipes, side dish | Tags: cooking, Italian cooking, meatballs, pasta sauce, recipe, tomato sauce 49 Comments
When I first migrated to LA back in the late 70’s, I moved into one of those sprawling apartment complexes in the San Fernando Valley. It housed transplants literally from all over the world. Young people who came seeking fame and fortune and hoping to get their big break, and people like me who were just looking to escape the cold, brutal weather of the east coast. I came with nothing but a suitcase and $400, so moving into a furnished apartment meant I could live with some of the comforts of home. It was a lovely place really, gold shag carpeting, plaid sofas and avocado colored formica counter tops. It had all the warmth and coziness of a Motel 6, but it was home.
I remember those first months living in LA all by myself so well. It was lonely and exciting all at the same time. Everyone at this complex was very friendly. We all seemed to be in the same boat; without family, little money, and crappy jobs, but very intoxicated by the perpetually blue skies, balmy weather and swaying palm trees. (You didn’t see many palm trees in Philadelphia.) My neighbors across the hall were a brother and sister team from North Jersey named Theresa and Anthony. He called her “Tree” and she called him “Ant”. I guess being east coasters we connected. Every night they saw me come home from work with a McDonald’s bag in hand, so they decided to teach me how to make Tomato Sauce and Meatballs. I’m not sure they were necessarily very good cooks, but I’ve been making their sauce (or gravy as they called it) and meatballs ever since.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
- 3 cans (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes – I used San Marzano
- 5 large basil leaves
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Empty the 3 cans of crushed tomatoes with the juice into a large stock pot. I used a deep pot because tomato sauce splatters like crazy. If you have a splatter shield, now’s the time to bring it out.
- Add the basil leaves, thyme sprigs, salt, brown sugar and butter, and heat on medium until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and stir until the butter is melted. You’re going to cook the sauce low and slow for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. When sauce is ready, pull out the basil leaves and thyme sprigs and discard.
- As the sauce cooks it will begin to reduce, so you will have to add some water to it to get your desired consistency. I wanted a smooth and creamy sauce, so at the end of cooking I used my immersion blender for about a minute or two. You could also pour it into a blender for a smoother consistency.
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 3/4 pound ground veal
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 1/4 cup grated romano cheese
- 1/2 small onion, pureed in food processor
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- Place your onion in a food processor and process until it’s finely minced. (I used my mini food processor). Put the onion and all the other ingredients into a large bowl and mix with your hands. Make sure to incorporate all the ingredients evenly throughout.
- Form into balls, a little bit larger than a golf ball. Don’t work the meat too much, because you don’t want the meatballs to be dense (like golf balls).
- Put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium heat, and brown the meatballs just til you get a nice crust to form on the outside. You are not cooking them through in the skillet. When the meatball is a little crusty, then pop it into the pot of sauce, and let all the meatballs cook for about 30 minutes on a very low heat. The meatballs will flavor your sauce as it cooks, and then it will taste awesome!
Cooking the meatballs in the sauce is what gives the sauce it’s amazing flavor.
This recipe makes enough meatballs (about 30 – golf ball sized) and sauce, that you can have some now and freeze the rest for another meal. Just place in an airtight container.
Meatballs don’t always have to be served with pasta. I make these as an appetizer all the time. Put the meatballs on a dish with a fancy toothpick through them, hit them with a dollop of sauce and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
For Friday night dinners with the kids, I get some good Italian rolls and make some awesome meatball sandwiches.
Chicken Sliders with Herbed MayoPosted: 01/28/2014 Filed under: Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, main dish, Meat, recipes, Sandwiches, snacks | Tags: chicken sliders, sliders, Super Bowl snacks 42 Comments
When one is planning a Super Bowl get-together, one must give serious consideration to the refreshments. Because really, what is a Super Bowl party without the proper accouterments. Like the Super Bowl itself, watching the game at home should be an “event”. I would be negligent in my duties if I only served chips and dip, and my husband and sons have come to expect more from me as the years go by. Chips and dip are still on the menu, because every sports-loving guy still loves and expects them, but I needed to serve something more substantial but still in the realm of down home comfort food.
Chicken Sliders seemed like the obvious choice, because you can hold them in one hand while your screaming at the tv and holding a beer in the other. I would call this kind of breaded and fried chicken, Chicken Schnitzel or Chicken Milanese. Basically it’s boneless, skinless chicken breast that’s dredged in flour, eggs and panko bread crumbs and then fried. The end result is chicken that’s crispy and crunchy on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside. And, for a little extra added tastiness, I plopped on a dollop of this homemade Herbed Mayo. Yay, score one for Mama!
Chicken Slider with Herbed Mayo
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into approx. 2″ x 4″ pieces)
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 mini slider rolls ( I used King’s Hawaiian Rolls & Rockenwagner’s Mini Pretzel Rolls)
- red onion, thinly sliced
- Roma tomato, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon finely minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon finely minced chives
- 1 teaspoon finely minced chervil (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or brown)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse chicken under cool water and pat dry. Pounding the chicken breast will enable it to cook through consistently if all slices are of same thickness. Cut the chicken into 2″ x 4″ pieces (approximately). Lightly season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Now make yourself a “dredging station”. Take three shallow bowls, and put the panko crumbs in one, the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, in another, and beat the two eggs with a tablespoon of milk and place in the third bowl. Using tongs (or a fork) dip the chicken into the flour and gently shake off the excess. Next, dip it into the egg mixture on both sides. Last, dip the chicken into the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs to adhere to the chicken breast. Lay the finished coated pieces on a wax paper covered baking sheet.
- In a large skillet, set over medium heat, pour the vegetable oil about 1/4″ deep. Don’t put the chicken in until the oil is hot enough, but also don’t let the oil get too hot. If the oil is too hot, the outside coating will burn, and the chicken inside will not cook through. Also, do not crowd the pan, make sure there is room in between the chicken pieces. When the chicken is golden brown, remove from the pan and let drain on a paper towel.
- To make the Herbed Mayo: place all the ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk together until smooth. Adjust the salt and pepper to your own taste. Cover bowl and keep it in the fridge until ready to use.
- Just assemble the sandwiches, spread with the Herbed Mayo and enjoy.
Makes 8 Slider Sandwiches
When working with chicken you always have to be concerned about contamination. When I pound my chicken, I cover the bottom surface with plastic wrap, place the chicken on top, then cover the chicken with another sheet of plastic wrap. I never want to get the bacteria on my surfaces or on the rolling pin I’m using to pound the chicken. Always wash your hands after handling chicken and touching something else.
Make sure the chicken is always cooked through (no pink inside) to avoid salmonella poisoning. If your not sure, take a small pairing knife and cut into a piece of chicken just to check the inside.
When frying chicken, try to keep the oil at an even temperature. If it gets too hot and starts to burn, or there’s a lot of burnt pieces of bread crumbs in it, clean the pan and start with new oil. Burned, dirty oil will affect the final taste of the chicken.
If you can’t get panko bread crumbs (usually found in the Asian section of the market) you can use regular bread crumbs. but I find the panko crumbs give the chicken a much crunchier, crispier texture. It’s well worth seeking these crumbs out.
The reason I pound the chicken is that the breasts are naturally thicker in some parts and thinner in others. By pounding it, the breasts are the same thickness at all points and therefore will cook through consistently.
Grilled Brie & Pear SandwichPosted: 10/09/2013 Filed under: fruit, main dish, recipes, Sandwiches, snacks | Tags: brie, cooking, grilled brie & pear, grilled cheese, pears, recipe, sandwich 45 Comments
Ooooh mama, look what I got in the mail today! If you follow my blog then you know I recently featured a posting for an almond pear cake. Apparently someone at Frog Hollow Farm saw that posting and realized that I must be a serious pear lover, and offered to send me a box of their pears. Well Mama never turns down offers of food.
It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and the husband and I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so I’m thinking grilled cheese and pears because it’s a perfect combination. I always have arugula and pecans on hand so this is pretty much a done deal. It’s buttery, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s crunchy…do I have your attention yet???
I really want to thank the folks at Frog Hollow Farm because these were probably the best pears I ever had, and I’m not just saying that. These particular pears that they sent were called Warren Pears, and they were sweet and juicy and devoid of that grittiness that pears can sometime have. If you’re a pear lover like me, then I would recommend you check them out.
Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich
- 4 slices of bread – I chose a hearty multi grain variety
- 1 firm, ripe pear – any variety
- small wedge of brie, cut into 1/8″ slices
- handful of fresh arugula
- handful of toasted pecans
- 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
- Using a mandolin on the larger setting, slice your pears and with a sharp knife, slice out the core and seeds.
- Butter the four slices of bread making sure you cover every square inch of bread with butter to insure perfect toastiness. Layer a bread slice with the arugula and pecans, several pear slices, and the brie. Then place the second bread slice on top.
- Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and place the sandwich in the pan. Let the sandwich get a nice sear on it, then cover the pan with a lid to allow the cheese to melt better. When the sandwich is golden on the first side. Flip it over until it browns on the other side.
Makes 2, darn good sandwiches
I just couldn’t get enough of these scrumptious pears, so I sliced some up on the thinner setting of the mandolin and made some pear chips to serve along with our sandwiches. However, to really savor the loveliness of this fruit, one should just eat it in it’s natural state!
Grilled Shrimp KebabsPosted: 08/14/2013 Filed under: Appetizers, Fish, main dish, recipes, side dish | Tags: barbecue, cooking, grilled shrimp, grilled shrimp kabobs, recipe, Shrimp 36 Comments
I know I haven’t posted a new recipe in awhile, but Mama took a little vacation. I’m funny when it comes to leaving home, and that’s why I hardly ever leave. I find the whole traveling process very stressful, especially when there’s airline travel involved. But, little did I know that a lovely little paradise existed 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.
A group of my friends (Cindy, Roberta, Wendy and Lauren) go to Catalina for a week every summer. I’ve been invited to go in the past, but I had envisioned Catalina to be nothing special, so I always declined. But for some reason my husband, and I and son #2 decided to give it a try. Well, Mama was pleasantly surprised. Actually more than just pleasantly.
Catalina is very easy to reach, no muss, no fuss. One hour on the Catalina Express and you arrive in Avalon Harbor. There’s very few cars on the island, and most people get around by golf cart. The city center is very quaint, and filled with small restaurants, shops, bars and markets. Nothing fancy mind you, but keep in mind this is a very low-key, stress-free vacation. But what wow-ed me the most was the island’s natural beauty. Sunshine every day, bright blue skies and water clear enough to see fish, dolphins and plenty of seals. And guess what…I can’t wait to go back.
My inspiration for this week’s recipe came from the Pacific Ocean. I find the visual, as well as the sound and smell of the ocean so relaxing. How better to pay homage to the Pacific than with a shrimp recipe of course!
Grilled Shrimp Kabobs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- juice from 1/2 lime
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tail shell on)
- 1 large green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 large yellow onion cut into 1″ pieces
- fresh pineapple cut into 1″ chunks, or you can use a 15 ounce can of pineapple, with the juice drained
- Metal skewers, or wooden skewers soaked in water
- Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail shell on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water then dry with a paper towel and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the shrimp, vegetables and pineapple. Pour off 1/4 cup of the marinade, and reserve for basting the shrimp on the grill.
- Place the shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade in the bag, coating all the shrimp. Place the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Take your skewers and thread the shrimp on the skewers, piercing the shrimp through the center, with both the front and tail portion going through the skewer. Thread on a piece of pineapple, then another shrimp, then the green pepper and onion. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Place the completed skewers on a metal baking sheet.
- Spray your grill with cooking spray so the shrimp won’t stick, and heat the grill to medium high.
- Place your skewers on the grill and baste with the remaining marinade. Turn the skewers so the shrimp cook evenly on each side. All grills are different, so cook the shrimp until they are pink on the outside. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp as they will become rubbery. As soon as they are no longer opaque, they are done.
- Serve immediately from the grill.
If you’re going to use wooden skewers for these kabobs, soak them in water for an hour or two so that they won’t burn when you put them on the grill.
To devein the shrimp, run a pairing knife down the back of the shrimp. You will see the black vein. Using the tip of your knife, cut out the vein and discard.
Always spray your grill with a little cooking spray, or brush lightly with some olive oil so that the shrimp don’t stick to the grill.