Grilled Italian Meatballs with Pomodoro Sauce

Grilled Italian Meatballs with Pomodoro Sauce

  • Servings: 10-12 balls
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

    Meatballs
  • 1 lb ground lamb (can substitute with ground pork or regular ground beef)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, shredded
  • 1/3 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 small onion, shredded
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Sauce
  • 14 oz/400g (~1/2 can) canned tomatoes (San Marzano suggested)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Mix together the lamb, beef, shredded garlic, buttermilk, onion, dried spices, panko crumbs, eggs, parmesan, salt and pepper. Form into large balls, about 2-3″/5-8cm wide. Heat BBQ to medium heat. Place meatballs on the grill (recommended to use a grill mat). Cook for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through, or until the inside of the meatball is fully cooked. For sauce, place all the ingredients in a pot and place on the stove on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce temperature to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes. If desired, blend sauce to make smooth. Place meatballs in pot with sauce, turning gently to fully coat and heat through if cooled. Place on plate, pour sauce over meatballs. Serve.

And now for the details…

The weather is turning crisper, the leaves are changing colour and school buses can be seen driving past the windows all morning/afternoon. Not to mention that Pumpkin Spice everything is available again. Fall is here folks. And I am not a fan. I don’t know what it is about fall, but I feel unsettled and uncomfortable. Plus, it means that summer (my favourite season) is officially over. And so, I’m gripping what’s left of summer with all the strength I have and squeezing what’s left out of grilling and sunshine.

And so, grilled meatballs.

Could you do these in the oven instead? Of course you can. But grilling allows that extra bit of charred oomph, and who doesn’t want to tszuj up their dinner a little?

We start out with the meatballs themselves. I have used ground beef and lamb for mine, but if you are not okay with eating lamb (I have quite a few folk in my life who are not), or don’t have it readily accessible, feel free to swap out the lamb for pork or more ground beef. But if you are using ground beef for the whole thing, I would recommend doing a 50/50 mix of lean and regular ground beef, since the lamb does contain a bit more fat than lean ground beef, and we want that fat for an added punch of flavour.

Place the meats in a large bowl, and add in the rest of the meatball ingredients: buttermilk, garlic, onion, spices, panko crumbs, eggs, parmesan, S&P. Options to switch out? Buttermilk can be switched out for regular whole milk. And while I haven’t tried it, if there is a dairy allergy in your household, I would imagine a non-dairy alternative could be used. If you do try that out, let me know how it goes! You can also switch out the panko crumbs for regular bread crumbs. If you end up buying the “Italian Style” breadcrumbs, go a bit lighter on the spices and salt that you add, since those will already be in the bread crumbs.

Next, we mix all that good stuff together. Similar to in my burger recipe, I am going to recommend you do this with your hands, not a spoon or spatula. Because like that recipe, we are going to try and minimize how much we handle the meat. And the reason? Same as with the burgers, the more we mix and push ground meat around, the more we compress it, resulting in a tough or chewy meatball. No thank you. I want my meatballs juicy and tender. Using our hands allows for a gentler touch, and overall helps reduce the likelihood of overmixing. (Holding myself back from adding “that’s what he/she said” was really difficult through this entire paragraph folks, I hope you appreciate my restraint)

Once it’s all mixed together, form them up into relatively even-sized balls, about 2-3″/5-8cm in width. We are going a bit bigger here than say, Swedish-style meatballs, since they are going on the grill and we don’t want them falling through! Again, a light touch here, just enough to have the meatballs hold together, but not squishing them like a vice.

And then we get to the cooking. (Before we really get into grilling, you can always skip to the sauce and have that going on the stove/bbq burner at the same time you’re cooking the meatballs.) Preheat your grill to medium heat (somewhere around 350º-400ºF/175º-205ºC). I would strongly recommend using a grill mat for the cooking of the meatballs. This will help avoid any sticking to the grill (and the resulting breaking apart of the meatballs!) as well as keep the fat from dripping all over your grill, which could cause flare-ups and over-charring of the meatballs (plus the mess of cleanup is contained to the mat). We are going to cook the meatballs for about 10-12 minutes total. Our goal is to get the insides of the meatball fully cooked, which means it will register at about 160ºF/71ºC if you poke the middle with a thermometer. We will also be flipping the meatballs just over halfway through the cooking process to brown both sides. Be extra careful when flipping. This is probably the most likely point for the meatball to fall apart. I used a fork and a set of tongs to carefully flip mine over.

When the meatballs are done, remove them from the grill to a plate and set aside.

The sauce is nice and easy. We are going to put all the ingredients for the sauce (canned tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, S&P) into a pot on medium-high heat and bring it up to to a simmer. Once it starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and let it bubble away for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and again. If you like a smooth sauce, after the 20 minutes, blend it up (transfer to a blender or use a handheld blender in the pot). Finally, transfer the meatballs into the pot with the sauce. This is another place to be careful. Don’t stir the bejeezus out it, or the meatballs will break apart. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can skip straight to serving, but I like transferring the meatballs with the juices into the sauce to add a bit of extra flavour and to get the meatballs and sauce to the same temperature. Turn the meatballs gently in the sauce to get them nice and fully coated.

Finally, we are ready to eat! Transfer the meatballs to a serving dish, and pour the tomato sauce over top. Serve with your favourite pasta, or with some bread to mop up all that tasty tomato sauce.

Happy eating.

Monkfish with Browned Butter Sauce

Monkfish with Browned Butter Sauce

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 fillets monkfish, approximately 6oz each (can substitute with cod, halibut, mahi-mahi, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup broth (vegetable, chicken, or seafood)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Liberally salt and pepper the fish fillets. Add oil to a pan heated to medium heat and lay the fish fillets onto the oiled surface. Cover the pan and cook for 6-10 minutes (depending on thickness of fillets), or until fully cooked inside (~140ºF/60ºC), flipping the fish halfway through cooking. Transfer the fish to a plate and set aside. Add the butter and garlic to the pan and heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter has start to turn a golden brown. Add the wine and broth, stirring well. Allow the sauce to reduce by half, then add the whipping cream. Allow the sauce to cook for a 2-3 minutes, then add the tarragon, stirring in completely. Add the fish back to the pan, spooning the sauce over the fish. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

And now for the details…

So… monkfish. Have you tried this fish before? If you haven’t, I would say: no time like the present!

Monkfish has often been referred to as the “poor man’s lobster”, since it’s quite dense in texture, and a bit sweet in taste, a bit different from the typical flaky texture you get from many other white-fleshed fish. But I don’t love that reference, to be honest. It devalues the monkfish. Monkfish is similar to lobster in texture, but to think that the only thing it has to offer is as a cheap replacement to lobster is taking away the amazingness that is the monkfish! It doesn’t have quite the same flavour as lobster, it has a taste all unto itself: a bit sweet, salty, and of course there is no mistaking that it is in fact fish, but not an unpleasant fishy taste. And can we talk about the fact that you don’t need to shell it like you do lobster? BONUS!!!

Monkfish is a weird looking fish. I’m not sure which of our ancestors decided it would be okay to put this in our mouths, but they were certainly quite brave! Seriously, do a quick internet search for “monkfish” to see what these look like pre-fillet and you’ll understand what I mean. They are also aptly called “sea-devils”, which is nomenclature I can get behind. Could you imagine swimming and seeing one of these things drawing near??? Okay, I’m exaggerating, since you probably wouldn’t see them… From what I’ve read, they aren’t stalkers like a shark, and like to hunt by camouflaging themselves and waiting for their prey to draw near, but still!

An interesting bit of information I have found on these is that the only useable bits for the entire fish are the cheeks and the tail. If you’re not squeamish about watching a fish being filleted, check out this super cool video by Fish For Thought TV, where the gents break down an 18kg monkfish. They did some weighing throughout the process, and in the end, there was only just over 3kg of meat on an 18kg fish!

To get started with our cooking process, check out your fillets to make sure there is no membrane left on the fish. The fishmonger I had purchased my fish from had done a pretty great job of cleaning that fish before selling, and I had only a tiny bit of membrane left, and was able to remove it easily with my fingers, no knife needed! The membrane will cook to be quite tough and chewy, and considering the plump, meaty, juiciness of the fish, we definitely want to lose that membrane!

Next, salt and pepper your fillets quite liberally and let them sit for at least a few minutes. While you are waiting, get your other ingredients out and chop the garlic and set aside. This will allow you to move quickly through the cooking process, so you get to eating faster!

Next, add the oil to a medium- to large-sized pan. I suggested 1 tablespoon, but to be honest, you want just enough for a light coating on the pan. You can even use a paper towel to swish it around, coating the bottom surface, and soaking up any excess that isn’t needed. Heat the pan over medium heat, and then add the fish to the pan.

Cover the pan while the fish is cooking, lifting it only to turn the fish halfway through the cooking process. How long to cook the fish will totally depend on the size of the fillet. I used a temperature probe and aimed for an internal temperature of 140ºF/60ºC. It took my fillets about 10 minutes to cook through. The goal, like most fish, is for the translucent colour to turn opaque. Try to avoid overcooking the fish, since it can get dry and kind of tough if you cook it too long.

Once the fish is cooked through, take it out and place it on a plate to the side while you prepare the sauce.

Keeping the temperature the same, or just *slightly* higher, add the garlic and butter to the pan and let them cook, swirling the pan occasionally (as in, pick up the pan and swish it in a circular motion to get the butter and garlic to swirl around in the pan, then put it back down, repeating every now and again). This will go through a few steps here. First, the butter will melt down and encompass the garlic in a glorious hug. Next, the butter will kind of foam up, and the garlic will release that glorious smell. Then, both the garlic and the butter will start to brown and smell a bit toasty. That toasty smell is your cue to add the broth and the wine. When adding the liquid, things may get a little spurty. To minimize this, try to get the broth and wine to room temperature before adding, and stir well once you add them in. Let the sauce simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, then add the whipping cream, stirring in completely. Let this come to a simmer and cook for another few minutes (1-3) until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the tarragon, then give the sauce a quick taste-test, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, add the fish back into the pan. This is just to reheat, not cook, the fish, so don’t leave it in for too long. Less than a minute for sure. Spoon the sauce up over the fish to help it reheat on all sides. Finally, transfer the fish to a serving dish, and then spoon the sauce over the fish, and serve!

Happy eating.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 2 Tbsps flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 1 1/4 cup pumpkin purée (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 115g/4oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped loosely

Directions


Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk to fully mix. Add the garlic, and continue to whisk until the garlic has turned fragrant and the flour as just started to turn golden brown. Add the milk in 1/2 cup portions at a time, whisking completely before adding the next amount. Add the milk until a cream sauce has formed, but not too thin. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to stick to the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk in the pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream cheese and parmesan and stir until cheeses are completely melted and mixed into the sauce. Set a pot of heavily salted water to boiling. Cook the macaroni according to instructions. Drain the macaroni, then add to the pan with the sauce and mix well. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve.

And now for the details…

This dish could almost be viewed as an adult take on classic Mac and Cheese. Or, if you’re trying to hide fruits/veggies from your kids (or other members of your household… I do know some adults who aren’t fans of veg lol), you could tell them this is Mac and Cheese and not tell them about the pumpkin 😛 Although, if you are going to try and pull one over on your kids, be aware that the texture is a little less smooth than a typical Mac and Cheese because of the addition of the pumpkin, not to mention the addition of spices!

I came up with this recipe after I’d opened a large tin of pumpkin purée to bake muffins for my in-laws, then had a bunch of extra purée on my hands. I didn’t want to do more baking, so I figured, why not do a savoury take on pumpkin, and use it for a pasta sauce instead?

The cinnamon and nutmeg are subdued and delicate in the sauce, just a small addition to bring a teaser of pumpkin spice flavours. Then the addition of the cheeses brings this dish well into the savoury realm. The hazelnuts add a nice texture contrast, and I love their flavour up against the pumpkin cheesiness.

We are going to start out by making a béchamel, or white sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted, whisk the flour into the butter, and add the garlic. We are going to cook this, whisking constantly, until the garlic has become fragrant and the flour/butter has just started to turn a golden brown.

Next we will be adding the milk. We add the milk in small spurts, about 1/2 cup at a time, and whisking the milk in. The whisk is very important here! This will be hard if you try to using a different stirring utensil. The first couple of additions might worry you a bit. It will be very thick at first, almost paste-like. Fret not! Keep adding the milk a little bit at a time, whisking to fully mix each time, and soon you will have a nice, creamy sauce. Stop at about 2 cups, and see if you need to add any more. If the sauce is quite thick (think yogurt consistency), then you need to add some more milk. If it is closer to about syrup consistency, you’ve got it about right. We are going to cook the sauce for a bit longer after we’ve added all the milk, about 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. A good way to test it? Drop your wooden spoon in the sauce, then pull it out and run a finger along the back of the spoon. If the line you’ve drawn with your finger stays in place without the sauce running back through it, your white sauce is done cooking. Turn the temperature down to medium-low.

Now is about a good time to get your macaroni a-cookin’. Boil some heavily-salted water, add the macaroni, turn down the heat on the pot to medium, and cook according to the pasta package instructions.

As the pasta cooks, let’s get our sauce finished up. Add the pumpkin purée, nutmeg, cinnamon, cheeses, and broth. When adding cream cheese to a sauce, it’s fastest to break it up into small-dish pieces so that it with melt a little easier. Allow the sauce to heat up until the cream cheese is fully melted and the sauce just starts to bubble. By now, your macaroni should be almost done cooking. Steal 1/4 cup of pasta water and add it to the sauce before draining the pasta, mixing the water in. This is going to help the sauce stick a bit easier to the pasta.

Drain your pasta, then add it right into the pan with the sauce. Stir well until every piece of macaroni is fully coated. Do one final taste test here and add salt and pepper to taste. We waited until the last minute for this, since the pasta water, broth, and cheese will have added salty elements, and it’s best to wait until all those are melded before adding any more salt.

Pour everything into your serving dish of choice, and then sprinkle the pasta with the toasted hazelnuts, and serve.

Happy eating.