Ina Garten is my culinary hero
And she has been since 2001
When I bought her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, at Costco
and shortly thereafter her, Barefoot Contessa Parties
I was smitten!
Shortly, thereafter in 2002, I got her Barefoot Contessa Family Style
and faithfully, every two years she publishes another
And every two years, I either order them from Amazon
so that they will arrive on the release date
I trek north to the city and buy them at Costco!
I've seen in her person twice
And I was elated!
On Monday, her tenth cookbook is released
Alas, it has not been preordered on Amazon
Alas, I will not be making a trip north to buy my copy
I have to wait patiently for November 10
When I'll be in Minnesota
to see Ina live!
And get her cookbook!
I found her television show shortly after I found her cookbooks
And as smitten as I was with her cookbooks, I was equally smitten with her television show
After a lengthy absence of new shows, last Sunday, there was finally a new episode
As everyone who watches knows, Jeffrey is adorable
And a book written about cooking for him, is perfect for us Ina groupies!
Sunday, she made a birthday dinner for Jeffrey
which included an appetizer of bruschetta with sautéed kale,
roasted meatballs and cheesy polenta
and a green salad
Ina's recipes never fail . . .
And they're simple which fit this time in my life.
I like really good food but I don't like to spend a really long time in the kitchen!
It was a busy Saturday which included planting my tubs of daffodils
(I always order way too many -- a dozen of this, a dozen of that doesn't seem like much,
but when they arrive and there are hundreds, sigh!)
Dinner came together quickly, even after all that bulb planting
And we ate at a decent hour
Roasted meatballs in marinara sauce
(she used jarred -- so did I --
there are good ready made products out there -- use them!)
The meatballs and marinara served with the cheesy polenta
sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese.
I've neglected Jim and dinner the last week . . .
canned soup or a sandwich or even take out
for I had way too many evening meetings
And they seem to be always at 6 p.m.
(We can eat at 4:30 or we can eat after -- we chose after.
But after sitting in a long meeting, I don't feel like preparing dinner)
I got out a bottle of Chianti
And lit the candles in the breakfast room
And added a salad to the menu as Ina did . . .
No appetizer, though, although it looked good!
We ate, talked about our day
And planned which Netflix movie we'd watch tonight after dinner.
ROASTED MEATBALLS AND CHEESY POLENTA
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 3/4 cups dry seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly ground Italian Pecorino cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly ground Italian Parmesan cheese (2 ounces), plus extra for serving
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dry red wine, such as Chianti
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 (32-ounce) jars good marinara sauce, such as Rao's
Creamy Parmesan Polenta (recipe follows) or cooked spaghetti, for serving
Creamy Parmesan Polenta:
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Place the sirloin, pork, and veal in a large mixing bowl and lightly break up the meats with a fork and your fingertips. Add the bread crumbs, Pecorino, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Add the eggs, wine, and 3/4 cup water and combine lightly but thoroughly.
Measure out 2-ounce portions of the mixture (I use a rounded 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop) and roll each lightly into a ball. Place one inch apart on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the meatballs with the olive oil.
Bake the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Pour the marinara into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Carefully add the meatballs and simmer for 10 minutes, until heated through.
To serve with polenta, spoon a puddle of creamy Parmesan polenta on one side of each dinner plate. Spoon 1 or 2 meatballs plus a puddle of tomato sauce on the other side, allowing them to combine in the center of the plate. To serve with spaghetti, distribute among shallow pasta bowls. Spoon the meatballs and sauce onto the pasta. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan and serve hot.
Creamy Parmesan Polenta:
Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the stock comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon, add the salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring almost constantly, for 10 minutes, until thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you're stirring. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, creme fraiche, and butter. Taste for seasonings and serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.
Yield: 6 servings
NOTE: I must admit that I've baked meatballs "forever". I don't think I've fried a meatball in 25 years or more. But I've never roasted them. They were good, had more of a crust than a baked meatball and take no more time. I think roasting will be my preferred method of meatball cooking.
Also, you cannot find ground veal here. EVER! You can't even find ANY kind of veal! So I used equal amounts of ground pork and ground sirloin. The meatballs were very tasty!