Let’s Get the Meatball Rolling

shortcut sausage meatballs

hot and fresh out tha kitchen

Happy New Year, people! So far, it seems that 2014 is only about one thing: the cold.

Seriously, there’s something called a polar vortex screwing up all the weather across the US. The South is cold, the Northeast is freezing, the Midwest is like the Arctic. So, when it’s this cold out, I can think of only one thing to really warm me up: some hot – and fast – comfort food.

But first, let’s talk about meatballs.

I know. Everyone has their favorite meatball recipe. Grandma Whatever used to make them with so-and-so ingredient, and that means they’re the best meatballs on the planet. Sure, sure. We’re all entitled to our favorite meatball recipe. But sometimes you don’t have the time to let your meatballs slow-cook away all day in a pot of sauce. Sometimes you just want to stuff your face with meatballs before your nose falls off from frostbite. True story.

So when that happens to you, put Grandma Whatever’s recipe away, and whip up these bad boys instead. And in no time you’ll be enjoying heavenly little sausage meatballs, cooked (quickly) in a flavorful sauce.

Shortcut Sausage Meatballs
1 lb of Italian sausage (I used hot)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ bunch of scallions, diced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Your favorite pasta (I used spaghetti)
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Start by removing the sausage from the casings. Place into a medium bowl and gently mix together. Roll cherry tomato-sized meatballs and place on piece of wax paper.

shortcut sausage meatballs

hey fellas

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook until they’re brown on all sides. Add the scallions and oregano, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Next add the crushed tomatoes, ½ can of water and the bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens and the meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente. Then drain.

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.) Plate the pasta, top with a few meatballs and spoonfuls of sauce, garnish with some grated Parmesan, and eat.

Zucchini Linguine

roasted vegetable linguine

pasta party

My summer romance with zucchini is heating up again. I think corn is starting to get jealous.

This time I’ve roasted some zucchini slices along with fresh asparagus and combined them with stewed tomatoes to make a very rustic sauce. (It would have been more rustic if I used fresh tomatoes too. Oh well. Next time.) I then tossed the sauce with linguine for a truly summer-y supper. It’ll fill you up but not in that heavy-brick-in-the-stomach type of way that’s not very fun to have on a warm evening.

Roasted Vegetable Linguine
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced ½ inch thick
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed & cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of cracked red pepper flakes
1 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
½ cup of grated pecorino romano cheese plus more for garnish
½ lb of linguine
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt

Heat your oven to 425º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Toss the zucchini and asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with sea salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat another tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase to medium-heat, add the stewed tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Cook the linguine until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of cooking liquid and drain. Add the linguine to the skillet with the sauce. Add the roasted vegetables and a little of the reserved cooking liquid (more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce) and toss to combine. Garnish with additional cheese and basil, and then eat.

Kiss My Grits

cheesy grits with roasted tomatoes

tomatoes? bacon? does it really matter?

This really isn’t a recipe about tomatoes I got at the tomato festival last weekend. I mean, it is, because I roasted a mixed medley of cherry tomatoes that I got. (They were gorgeous, and varied in color from bright red to a striped, deep purple.) No, it’s really about grits. Cheesy grits in fact. Cheesy grits topped with roasted tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Just wait until you try it. Then you can apologize for thinking: “Man, this guy adds bacon to everything!” You’ll see.

Cheesy Grits with Roasted Tomatoes
– 1 pint of mixed medley cherry tomatoes, cut in half
– 1 ½ cups of milk
– 1 ½ cups of water
– 1 cup of stone ground white grits
– ¾ cup of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
– 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– 3 slices of bacon
– ¼ cup of diced scallions
– Olive oil
– Garlic salt
– Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400º.

Toss the tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet cut side up and bake for 45 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft, shriveled and brown around the edges.

Meanwhile, bring the milk and water to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the grits. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of salt (or more depending on taste). Slightly cover and cook, whisking frequently, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.

At the same time, fry the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool and then crumble and set aside. Reserve 2 teaspoons of bacon grease.

Whisk the cheese into the grits until melted and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the bacon grease. (If the grits are too thick, add a splash of milk.) Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Add a few spoonfuls of grits to a plate. Top with a handful of roasted tomatoes, bacon crumbles and diced scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and then eat.


tomato casserole

look on the bright side

So, it’s not all bacon and chicken in my kitchen. Or ice cream for that matter. Vegetables turn up quite often. This week, I’m surrounded by tomatoes, thanks to a tomato festival at a local farm. They had everything: cherry, grape, heirloom, sungold. I got a bunch of varieties, plus this amazing new seasoning called Camp Mix. This tomato casserole was one of the samples they were handing out, and I instantly said: I’m making this tonight. And I did. I diced up a few of their large jet star tomatoes and combined them with some fresh mozzarella (also from the farm!), breadcrumbs and a good amount of Camp Mix. It made for a great, easy side dish, or I suppose it could be a meal if you want a light-ish summer supper.

Tomato Casserole
– 4 large ripe tomatoes
– ½ lb of fresh mozzarella, diced
– 2 teaspoons of Camp Mix seasoning
– ¼ cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded
– ½ cup of breadcrumbs
– ¼ cup of olive oil

Heat your oven to 400º.

Core and de-seed the tomatoes, and then dice. Mix the diced tomatoes with the mozzarella, Camp Mix and half of Pecorino Romano cheese. Add the mixture to the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish. In another bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, the remaining cheese and olive oil. Add this mixture on top of the tomatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes until the top turns golden brown and the cheese melts.

tomato casserole

there are tomatoes under all those breadcrumbs, i promise

Chicken Comes Home to Roast

chicken with herb-roasted tomatoes

the force is strong with this one

As soon as I saw this in the latest issue of Bon Appétit, I had to make it. Literally. I grabbed the magazine out of my mailbox, flipped thru and landed on this recipe and said: I MUST MAKE THIS. I would have that very instant too, but I didn’t have chicken breasts or cherry tomatoes, two key ingredients. So, does absence make taste buds grow fonder? Totally. I made a few adjustments, but the dish was hearty and flavorful, and made good use of fresh summer tomatoes. It’s already been filed in my “go-to chicken recipes” notebook.

Chicken with Herb-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb of cherry tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
– 2 tablespoons of chipotle-infused olive oil
– 4 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
– 1 to 1 ½ lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts
– 1 small shallot, finely diced
– 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
– 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano
– Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 450º.

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, chipotle-infused olive oil and Italian seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add the tomatoes (the oil may splatter). Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast, stirring once, until tomatoes burst and give off some juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce.

Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in another large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast chicken until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate or cutting board to rest for at least 5 minutes.

In the same skillet that was used to roast the chicken, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook about 1 minute. Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits from the bottom. Add the tomatoes and any juices and simmer until sauce is just starting to thicken, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Slice the chicken and plate. Spoon tomatoes and sauce over each piece and garnish with the freshly chopped oregano. Then eat.

Tart It Up

mozzarella & tomato tart slice

would you like a slice of Parm?

Okay, you’ll notice that it’s Monday and there’s no ice cream. I’m changing it up this week. But don’t worry – hopefully you’ll have a midweek meltdown in a few days.

Last week was so hot, that other than rushing into my freezer to eat chocolate hazelnut gelato, I spent very little time in my kitchen. So when it momentarily cooled down this weekend, I took that opportunity to fire up my oven and make something that I’ve been thinking about for weeks: a tomato and mozzarella tart. You’re probably thinking “A tart? That’s it?” But listen to what’s in the crust: 2 full cups of Parmesan. If that doesn’t get your taste buds excited, I don’t know what will. I liken this tart to a fancied up pizza because it’s got fresh tomatoes, fresh oregano and yummy mozzarella. And allll that tasty Parm in the crust. When paired with a salad, it made for a great, simple supper.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
For the crust:
– ¾ cup of flour
– ¼ teaspoon of salt
– ½ teaspoon of pepper
– 2 cups of gated Parmesan cheese
– ½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, chilled and diced
– 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:
– 8 campari tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
– 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped oregano
– 1 tablespoon of chopped scallions
– Garlic salt
– Pepper
– Cracked red pepper
– Olive oil

To make the crust, place the flour, salt, pepper, Parmesan and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles coarse meal. Then with the processor running, drizzle in the water until the dough starts to stick together. Press the dough into a tart dish or pie plate and chill for at least 15 minutes.

Heat your oven to 375º.

Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried, uncooked beans (or pie weights) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and beans and bake an additional 10 minutes until the crust is golden. Let it cool completely.

Reduce your oven to 350º. Cover the bottom of the crust with mozzarella cheese. Arrange tomato slices in an even layer on top of the cheese and then season with garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 ½ teaspoons of oregano and half a tablespoon of scallions. Repeat with another layer, adding cracked red pepper to taste. Top with a sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

mozzarella & tomato tart

pizza(-like) pie

Bake until the cheese has melted and tomatoes are slightly bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and then eat.