Sunday, November 06, 2016

Lunch at home

Now that the Little Prince is in daycare three days a week, this gives me more time to make nice lunches for myself (and occasionally eat leftovers with him the next day). Admittedly, this isn’t necessarily the best use of my time, because it would be nice to do things like get caught up on my sewing projects or my reading, but hey, a gal’s gotta eat. Sometimes, I make meals that I know my kid wouldn’t enjoy as much, like soups or salads. He wasn’t big on Greek salad, although sliced apple salad was a different story. I was just happy that I got to use a 1 ½-pound heirloom tomato in a salad! I should also mention that I made croutons by pan-frying cubes of bread in olive oil, with some herbes de Provence and truffled salt, and they were the best ever! Even better than what the Greek salad actually called for.

I also made guacamole deviled eggs for the Engineer’s birthday. I had to cook two batches of eggs, because the directions they gave for boiled eggs were an absolute disaster, so I ended up making them again my go-to way (hard-baked for 30 minutes at 325 °F). They were good, but deviled eggs are such a hassle to make pretty! Actually, they are a hassle, period, considering how much effort goes into just a few bites… Vegan pho was alright, though the broth was a bit too concentrated for my taste. I really enjoyed Minimalist Baker’s vegan omelet, made with silken tofu, tahini, and nutritional yeast and filled with vegetables – but sadly, I didn’t get any appetizing pictures of that. It was obviously more involved than an omelet using eggs, but it was really good! And it’s a great way to use up vegetables and herbs that might go bad otherwise.

The lack of good pictures is also true of Molly Wizenberg’s herbed chicken meatballs in broth with peas and parmesan, although I liked that one so much that I’m going to share the recipe anyway. It’s basically a soup, except that if you store the leftovers in one pot, with the meatballs right in the broth, the latter gets cloudy – the taste is the same, but it’s a little less aesthetically pleasing. It would be great served with buttered, toasted bread (maybe garlic bread?). Note that the original recipe called for 10 cups of chicken broth, but I found that to be a little too much, so I recommend 8 cups (2 liters / 2 quarts). If you don’t use low-sodium broth, consider maybe using 6 or 7 cups of broth and making the rest water.

3 oz. (85 g.) rustic, country-style bread
¼ cup lactose-free whole milk
18 oz. (540 g.) ground chicken or turkey (ideally dark meat)
6 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves finely chopped and stems discarded
4 sprigs marjoram, leaves finely chopped and stems discarded (I omitted that)
salt and pepper, to taste
8 cups chicken stock (see note above)
12 oz. (340 g.) fresh or frozen peas
grana padano or parmesan, for grating

Cut the crusts off the bread. Cut the bread into roughly ½-inch cubes and put it into a large bowl. Add the milk, toss to coat, and leave to soak for about 20 minutes. Then squish the bread into a mush, and add the ground chicken. Add 1 tablespoon each of the chopped parsley and marjoram, a few grinds of black pepper, and a couple of very generous pinches of salt. (If you’re using table salt or fine sea salt, about 1 teaspoon should be right.) Mix with a fork, or with your hand, until evenly combined. (If you’re unsure of the seasoning, at this point you can fry off a little bit of the meat mixture and taste for salt.) With damp hands, form the meat into 1-inch balls. You should get approximately 25. Chill the meatballs for 30 minutes before cooking.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a wide pot, such as a Dutch oven. (This is a good time to taste the stock for seasoning.) Gently drop the meatballs into the simmering stock, and cook for 5 minutes (I cooked mine longer, to make sure they were cooked all the way through – you’re looking for their internal temperature to reach 165 °F). Remove the meatballs from the stock, and set aside. If the broth is cloudy, you can strain it, or just continue on. You can now go one of two ways:
1. If you plan to serve the soup immediately, add the peas to the simmering stock, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pot, and stir in the remaining chopped herbs. Serve with freshly grated grana padano or parmesan.
2. If you plan to eat the soup later, chill the meatballs and the stock separately. When you’re ready to eat, bring the broth back to a simmer, add the meatballs and peas, and cook until everything is warm and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining chopped herbs. Serve with freshly grated grana padano or parmesan.

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