Sunday, January 1, 2012

More Resolutions... and Italian family recipes too.

At mass today, the priest gave a really beautiful homily about embracing love, living love, and talked about not being afraid to express love to those who matter to us.  For me, it rang true with one of my resolutions for this year.  You see, during our pre-wedding workshops, we had to talk about what makes us feel loved.  For Joe it was "service", meaning doing things for him like cleaning and cooking.  Ok... that sounds a bit like a '50s housewife, but still, it is something I truly work at (although don't often succeed with). 

I admit that I have had a really hard time with the whole timing thing... when I get home from work, I make Ava the priority because she will only be little for awhile and I truly treasure our time together.  And that means that the chores and the cooking wait... and that Joe comes home from work disappointed.  I enjoy cooking, but I have a hard time cooking while keeping everything spic and span.  I can get dinner made, but not cleaned up, or I can feed Ava and clean up, but not get dinner on.  And this goes for double now that I have Ava on my legs. 

I feel like I have been slacking in the cooking department for awhile now, and so this year want to make an effort to put a nice dinner on the table.  I want Ava to experience nice family dinners, rather than hodgepodge ones where we all eat at different times.

For tonight, I made Joe's grandmother's recipe for homemade meat sauce with meatballs, and a raw kale salad with walnuts and romano cheese that I saw on The Amateur Gourmet.  As a kid growing up, Joe's family always had a nice Sunday dinner at his grandmothers house, with homemade sauce, pasta, meatballs/sausage... the works.  I am happy that Joe's Aunt has the recipes to share with me now that his grandmother has passed away.

First the meatballs (and sausage which I omitted today):
For the meatballs, I used 80/20 beef (a pound) and you can use a pound of mild sausage too.
If using sausage, you can simmer them in water to rid them of excess fat before browning. Set them aside.
For the meatballs, add bread crumbs, a little milk, a little parsley, 1 egg, and salt/pepper to taste.  You can also add a little Parmesan cheese if you have it.  I didn't write out amounts because sometimes you have to play around with it a bit, because you don't want the mixture to be too tight (you might need to add another egg here).  But here is what consistency you are looking for, it is a little "tacky" and squishy:

You then form then into the size you want, and brown them in a little oil and set aside.

Now for the sauce:
You will need a medium onion, salt/pepper, a couple garlic cloves, 1 lb of ground beef, 2 6oz cans of tomato paste, 1 large can tomato puree, sugar, oregano.

First sautee the onion until translucent, add in some salt/pepper.  Add in your finely chopped garlic, and sautee for about a minute.  Set this aside.

Brown your beef and season it with salt/pepper.  Drain the fat and add to the onion/garlic in your pot.

Add in your tomato paste and tomato puree.  For each 6 oz can of paste add 4 cans of water.  For each can of puree add in a half can of water.  Mix well.  Add in a couple teaspoons of sugar,  a little salt and pepper, and a couple shakes of oregano.  You may need to adjust salt, but do so once the sauce has finished cooking.

Add in your meatballs (and sausage) and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer.  Put a cover on the pot, but leave it open a little so that the water can evaporate.  Let the sauce simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours... or until it is the consistency you want.  Mine took a little over 2 hours.  Remember too that your sauce will thicken as it cools.

The finished sauce:

If you follow the link above, this is all written up much more eloquently, but when I made it to specifications, I felt it needed a little tweaking.  He does say that WE are the ones that have to make it taste awesome, and really I think it will mostly depend on your tastes.

All you need is: kale ( I found a precut bag at Trader Joe's- I love less work!), a couple lemons, salt/pepper, walnuts, olive oil, pecorino (romano) cheese.

Wash, dry, and thinly slice/shred the kale.  Warm and toast your walnut in a pan on the stove and set aside.  Wash your lemons and zest onto your shredded kale.  Also squeeze in the juice.  I would start with one lemon first, as when I used one and a half lemons it was a little heavy on the "acid" side, which I wasn't sure how to remedy.  Season with salt/pepper, add in your olive oil.  Don't be shy with it!  The key to this salad is to toss, toss, toss!  You really want the olive oil and lemon to get all in your kale.

Add in your walnuts and grate your cheese... toss, toss, toss!

Now, pretend you are on Chopped or Iron Chef, and taste your salad!  Add in more lemon juice, cheese, salt, zest if needed.  And toss it!

My finished salad:

Now, to be honest... as usual my timing was off... so the noodles were done before the sauce, Joe was hungry and dinner wasn't ready... and so was Ava.  But all in all, for an early attempt, I know it will get better!  After all, just look at how Ava is eating her noodles like we never feed her!


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