Monday, August 24, 2009

Around The World Tasting Meatballs..... Really Great!

Thinking about economical meals while still providing lots of flavor and zest, giving lots of options for different takes on a theme in case you need to add this dish to your monthly menu list but don't want to tire everyone out with "what?.... that again" syndrome?..... Meatballs fit the bill perfectly since you can fancy them up or just make them adjust not only to your particular tastes but your budget as well. You can also get the kids to help make them.....

Plus, did you know that most countries have their own version? We'll take a mini tour and show you some of the options this dish offers from Mexico, Italy or Eastern Europe, they're all really great and can be adapted for lunches, snacks, family night or even a great offering for guests!

Whether you like them made from beef, pork, turkey, chicken, even vegetarian ones you won't believe! Easy to make, great flavors and a help for your food budget... pretty great, huh?
I've also simplified some of the recipes to make them either more economical or easier to make. But first things first......

Basic Meatball Recipe.- Here's a beginning recipe for meatballs, add or substitute ingredients to suit your taste. You can also use pre-made meatballs available at places like Sam's Club or Costco if you like (you bake these and they're ready):

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs (either plain or seasoned)
1/2 onion, chopped finely
2-3 garlic cloves, from garlic press
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into the size of meatballs you need. In a large pan, put about 1/4 cup of oil in pan and bring to temperature on med-high heat. Cook meatballs and turn to cook well. Don't crowd the pan too much or they won't cook well. Lay on paper towels and then you can use them either in sauce or in your chosen dish.
Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Basil Sauce.- Here's a change of pace you might want to try. You can also use this preparation for turkey meatballs too:

1 (16 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or you can use all fresh tomatoes and make your own sauce)
1 (8 oz) can diced tomatoes (just add all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and
3 (6 oz) cans tomato paste (cook until thick and ready) about 2 lbs Roma tomatoes
2 1/4 cups water (you can also use 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken broth)
1 tbl dried basil (or 2 tbl fresh)
1 tsp oregano
3-4 garlic cloves, from garlic press
1/2-1 tb sugar (optional, but will balance the tomato's acidity)
salt and pepper, to taste

2 lb ground chicken
1 cup dry bread crumbs (you can omit the cheese and add more bread crumbs)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, but adds more taste or substitute Cotija cheese)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 garlic cloves, from garlic press
2 tbl Italian seasoning (or 1 tsp each: oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf)
salt and pepper, to taste
cooking spray

Stir together the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and basil in a large saucepan over med heat. Salt and pepper to taste. If using fresh tomatoes then chop them in quarters, add all ingredients, press down tomatoes as they cook. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 min. (at least 30 min for fresh tomatoes or more) while preparing meatballs.

Mix together the ground chicken, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, eggs, seasonings, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Roll into 1 inch balls. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray (or use a little oil). Brown the meatballs on all sides. Add meatballs to the simmering pasta sauce and cook about 30 minutes.
NOTE: You can use over pasta, rice or as a meatball sub..... make meatballs smaller and have them as an appetizer.
Albondigas en Chipotle (Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce).- These are spicy good; if made small make great appetizers or make plenty of sauce and have fabulous Meatball Subs, but make large meatballs instead!

Make meatballs you choose, I usually make beef ones, have them cooked, drained and ready to place in the sauce. If you use store bought ones, you can have dinner ready in 30 min. or less if you've made the sauce in advance! This sauce improves with age too, so leftovers are great!

2 lbs Roma tomatoes, roasted (or 1-2 large cans of tomatoes)
1 med onion, cut in half and roasted
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and roasted
3-5 canned Chipotle peppers + some of the sauce in the can too
1 med onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Roast the tomatoes (unless using canned),onion, garlic until begins to char. Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic and Chipotle peppers in blender and process until smooth sauce. TIP: Unless you like really spicy sauce, begin putting 1 pepper and blending, then taste and determine if you want more heat until you reach your desired taste. We love these really spicy!
Once you've got the sauce, in a large pot add some oil and fry the chopped onion for 2-3 min.
add the sauce and heat through, taste sauce and add 1/2 the sugar, salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasonings. Should be slightly sweet and hot. Add more sugar or salt and pepper if needed. Once sauce is set, lower heat to simmer, add the meatballs and allow to come together for 10-15 min, then turn off heat and let rest for at least 10 min before serving.
Vegetarian Meatballs with Sweat and Sour Sauce.- Another version worth trying:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp salt
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (wholewheat are best)
1 tsp mixed herbs seasoning
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
5 eggs
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 clove garlic

1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can pineapple pieces and juice (or use fresh and conserve juice as you cut up)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbl cornstarch

Make the vegetarian meatballs. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Fry the balls in oil. Set aside to cool. If you would like to use them at this step, feel free also go ahead and substitute meatballs in a different recipe.

Make the sauce. Sauté the onion, then add the red pepper flakes. Add the pineapple pieces and juice. Add water, lemon juice, brown sugar and ketchup. Dilute the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add the diluted cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch becomes clear.

Arrange the meatballs in an ovenproof dish. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Bake for 30 min in a 350 F oven.
Koftays (Pakistani Meatballs) .- Full of spices and great flavor, how about these for an exotic change of pace!

1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, finely diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, from garlic press
1 tsp ginger, cut very fine
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 tbl vegetable oil
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup dry lentils
1 tsp ginger paste (cut fine then pound with back of spoon)
1 tsp garlic paste (from garlic press)
1 tsp crushed coriander seed (or ground coriander seed)
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt to taste
1 sprig cilantro, leaves chopped fine

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir the thinly sliced onion in the vegetable oil until caramelized. Mix in the ginger paste, garlic paste, coriander seed, red pepper flakes and stir for 1-2 min. Add 2 cups of water (reserve the rest) and lentils. Cover and simmer until the lentils are tender about 30 min. You can add the 1/2 cup water reserved if you need to cook them but if you don't it's alright.

In a medium bowl, mix lean ground beef, finely diced onion, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, salt, cumin and cardamom. Shape the mixture into meatballs. Fry in some oil until golden. Once lentils are tender, add the salt and taste. Add the yogurt and mix well.
Place the meatballs into the lentil mixture. Reduce heat and just mix to combine, don't let it boil or it will curdle. Serve topped with chopped cilantro.
Keftedes (Cyprus Styled - Greek) Meatballs.- Lovely flavors in these!

oil for frying
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
5 white potatoes, peeled
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, grated
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup dried mint, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
zest from 1 lemon
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tbl salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
lemon wedges

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan. Place the lemon juice in a large bowl. Coarsely grate the potatoes into the lemon juice, stirring well to prevent browning. Stir in the ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, mint, cinnamon, lemon zest, eggs, and salt and pepper. Mix well, and shape into balls. Place meatballs in hot oil in batches; do not crowd. Fry until golden brown, and cooked through, about 6 to 7 min per batch, turning to cook all sides. Serve with lemon wedges and great with this Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce.-
1 (16 oz) container Greek yogurt (or regular plain yogurt)
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 tbl roasted garlic puree (you'll need 1 whole garlic head for this)
2 tbl lemon juice
10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tbl olive oil
salt to taste

Place yogurt in a paper coffee filter, paper towel or 4 layers of cheesecloth set in a strainer or colander, and then set over a bowl to catch the liquid. Allow yogurt to strain for 24 hours in the refrigerator. In 350 F oven, take garlic head and cut off the bottom part of the head (don't peel or anything) exposing the cloves but leaving them in place, put 1-2 tbl olive oil in a square of aluminum foil, place the cut part of the garlic head on top of the oil and seal the foil. Put in the over and bake for 1/2-1 hour or until the garlic is very soft. Peel and grate the cucumber, squeeze out excess water; place into a bowl. Add strained yogurt, garlic puree, lemon juice, mint, and olive oil; mix until combined. Season to taste with salt; chill before serving. YUM!
Swedish Meatballs .- Creamy and smooth, great for company too! Serve over noodles or rice for a complete dinner:

2 slices fresh white bread
1/4 cup milk
3 tbl butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
A pinch plus 1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 lb ground chuck
3/4 lb ground pork
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth

Preheat oven to 200 F. Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside. In a straight sided saute pan over med heat, melt 1 tbl of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and fry until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a mixer bowl, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 tsp of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on med speed for 1 to 2 min.

Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds and reserve. Heat the remaining butter in a pan over med-low heat. Add the meatballs and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 min. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven. Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 min. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.
NOTE: I've also just used sour cream as the sauce base.
There are so many more versions of meatballs I only scratched the surface with these, but at least you've got a running start.... also, meatballs freeze really well so make lots, use some and freeze some and next time you're looking for a quick dinner you're all set! Go ahead and make a sauce in advance too and use with pasta, meatballs (or both) or a good crusty bread (for subs) and dinner will be done quicker still.

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