Made for each other
Chocolate and peanut butter, grilled cheese and tomato soup, ketchup and French fries ... many food pairings seem to be made for each other. My favorite duo, spaghetti and meatballs, comes together in a bowl, sprinkled with cheese, and is perfect for sharing. Remember that classic scene in “Lady and the Tramp”? This Valentine’s Day, slurp some noodles with your own sweetheart.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4 (or 2, with leftovers)
Whip up this romantic dinner, including the sauce, in no time. You also can make the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them; just thaw them completely before proceeding with step 3.
3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cans (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg
1 pound ground beef (chuck)
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 cup lukewarm water
12 ounces spaghetti
1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil, the red pepper flakes, onion and half of the garlic over medium heat until garlic is sizzling, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.
2. In a bowl, combine cheese, parsley, egg, remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add beef, breadcrumbs and water; mix gently, until just combined, with your hands. Form into 16 balls.
3. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 8-10 minutes. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente. Drain, add to the sauce pot and toss gently. Serve, topped with grated cheese.
During the winter months, dark leafy greens abound. We have been hearing about kale for the past year or so (it’s hard to leaf through a cooking magazine without finding a kale salad), but there are numerous other “super greens” that are quite healthy and easy to prepare. As an added bonus, these hearty greens have a pretty long shelf life, making them ideal to keep around during the bleak winter months.
Collard greens: A variety of cabbage, these dark greens provide lavish, plump and crisp leaves. Store collards unwashed and wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. Boiling is the traditional cooking method for collards, but they also are great blanched, sautéed or roasted.
To braise, heat 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in a large pot. Sauté half of a chopped onion until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add 1 large bunch of collards, that have been stemmed and shredded, and cook another minute. Add 3 cups vegetable stock and simmer until greens are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons each of brown sugar and cider vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
Swiss chard: This rainbow-stemmed green is used often in Mediterranean cooking. The leaves can be green or reddish and pack most of the nutritional punch, but I like to chop up the stems, as well.
Try this delicious warm salad: chop 2 slices thick-cut bacon and sauté in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving fat. Add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to pan, whisking until combined. Pour over 6 cups chopped Swiss chard and toss.
When the weather turns frigid, the first thing my son, Liam, asks for is a mug of hot cocoa. As I am writing this, snow is falling, and it looks as if we are settling in to several more months of frigid temperatures. We have flown through several boxes of ready-made cocoa packets already (love the tiny colored marshmallows), and instead of trekking to the supermarket, I plan to make up a batch of hot cocoa mix to keep in the pantry all winter long. With only three ingredients — sugar, cocoa and salt — I know what I’m getting (not a bunch of preservatives and artificial flavors). To spice it up a bit, feel free to add a few pinches of cinnamon to your mix or your mug.
To make about 6 cups of hot chocolate mix, whisk together in a large bowl 3 1/2 cups sugar, 2 1/2 cups cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon salt. Store mixture in an airtight container for several months.
To make a mug of cocoa, heat 1 cup of milk in a microwave-safe mug until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of mix and stir well to dissolve. To make a larger batch, warm milk in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Stir in 2 tablespoons of mix for each cup of milk.
New and noteworthy
Melinda and Zach Curren (son of Biga chef/owner Tuck Curren), opened Trenchers Delicatessen in the former home of Sproutz. Their goal is to offer distinctive sandwiches with fresh ingredients, most of which are made in-house, including roasted and smoked deli meats, breads, pastries, desserts and condiments. Create your own sandwich or choose from dozens of menu selections — I love the namesake “Trencher”: wine-braised pork shoulder and spicy mustard served on a large slice of toasted Italian bread.
For you food history buffs out there: in Medieval times a “trencher” was a large piece of stale bread, used as a plate, upon which food was placed. At the end of the meal the trencher could be eaten, with whatever juices it had soaked up, but was often given as alms to the poor. 2602 S. Harvard Ave., 918-949-3788, www.trencherstulsa.com