Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings The Book

157. Sicilian Meatballs p.222

I can’t find a recipe for these meatballs online, but I can’t stand to think that the internet will go without it for another day.

3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs from Italian bread (crusts discarded)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (2 3/4 oz) whole almonds with skin, toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg

Stir together bread crumbs and milk in a medium bowl.
Pulse almonds with sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add to bread crumb mixture, along with remaining ingredients, and mix with your hands until just combined.
Roll mixture into 1-inch meatballs and transfer to a plate. Refrigerate if not cooking immediately.

These meatballs are a component of the Perciatelli with Sausage Ragù and Meatballs recipe I’ll be writing up next. In that preparation they’re browned in a pan, and then slowly simmered with a tomato sauce. I’m sure they would be excellent baked on their own, or as a component of any other recipe calling for meatballs. They are without a doubt the best meatballs I’ve ever had.

Everything about the recipe is spot on. The flavour was just perfect, there was something ethereal about the combination of the sweet cinnamon and currents with the beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The ground almonds grounded the flavour with an earthy body. They had a lovely fine grained texture, interspersed with chunks of pine nut and currant. They were delicate, but managed to hold together.

I’m going to Toronto with the boys this weekend, and I’m going head to head with one of them in a Sicilian meatball battle. He’ll be using the recipe from The Bon Appétit Cookbook, and I’ll go with this one. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? I like my chances, his recipe doesn’t call for almonds or cinnamon, which really made the dish for me.

I’ve you’ve ever loved a meatball, you owe it to yourself to try these. I barely noticed the rest of my dinner with these on the plate.

Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

45. Hummus with toasted pine nuts, cumin seeds, and parsely oil p.14

The recipe

I made this for one of The Boys going away parties. He’d just finished his Ph.D. and was heading off to a very fancy post doc in the states. I was throwing a party in his honor, and I wanted to make things he would like. I think I did alright in pleasing him, but I totally forgot that his girlfriend is allergic to garlic, and couldn’t eat even one of the dishes I’d prepared. I apologized at the time, but I’ll say it again. I’m sorry.

I love hummus as party food. It has all the virtues of a good crowd pleaser; it’s intensely flavored, can be dipped with anything your heart desires, it neatly avoids almost all dietary restrictions, it’s substantial, and it costs pennies to prepare. The only downside to hummus it that it’s oatmeal like appearance doesn’t make for the greatest visual impression. Here a very basic hummus recipe is given a face lift with a rather attractive topping of pine nuts, cumin seeds, and drizzled parsley oil. The nuts also add a nice texture and bursts of flavour, giving you a little something to look forward to in every bite. The vibrant green of the oil really set the dish off. That colour happens to have been attained with parsely. Maybe it’s not so useless after all? That might be going too far.

I think this dish is being added to my repertoire of party standards. It’s a way to take the ubiquitous bowl of hummus at college parties along with you into the adult world.

The Book Vegetables

42. Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts p.526

the recipe

A while back I mentioned that I’d think about opening a restaurant that specializes in helping adults overcome their childhood food traumas. Brussels sprouts will feature prominently on the menu. This preparation is the perfect reintroduction to this maligned vegetable. Boiled or steamed they can be fairly one-note bitter, and overcooked they have that sulfurous stink that’s so common in foods kids hate. Here they’re prepared simply with garlic and pine nuts in a bit of butter and olive oil. The garlic, and the nutty flavours of the browned butter, and pine nuts compliment the sprouts beautifully. The presentation is dramatic and very attractive, and the sprouts end up crisp, lively, and just cooked through. My dining companion and I made twice as much as we thought we’d eat, but polished the whole plate off.

I liked these so much I made them for the boys on one of our weekend getaways. That experience emphasized how important a heavy bottomed pan, and careful heat management are to getting this recipe right. Using a flimsy non sitck, on an unfamiliar stove I managed to leave half of them mostly raw on the inside, the other half overdone and all of them unappealingly blackened on the bottom.

That said this is still far and away my favorite Brussels sprouts preparation. As long as you can maintain low even heat the sprouts get caramelized on the bottoms, and perfectly cooked though. This recipe is ideally balanced; it manages to show off everything that is great about Brussels sprouts, and deftly avoids their weaknesses.

Pan-browned Brussels sprouts, you’ve earned your 5 mushroom rating.