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Meatballs with tomato asiago sauce
By ELIZABETH BAIRD, Special to QMI Agency
CANOE - Lifewise Updated: addthis

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(QMI Agency files)

    Meatballs – yum!

    A kid – a boy, about eight years old – came up to the stage of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto recently where I was about to do a cooking demonstration, and asked what I was going to cook. “Meatballs,” I answered. And his reply? “Hurray!” He sat down, watched the demo and ate, a big smile on his face.

    While not always expressed with such exuberance, meatballs are a wonderful addition to a cook’s repertoire of pleasing recipes.

    What’s great about meatballs is their adaptability. Big, and glazed with tomato sauce atop spaghetti – a real crowd pleaser. In barbecue sauce over mashed potatoes – what a welcome home. And bathed in a dilly mushroom sauce, why not invite friends over to share their deliciousness?

    It all starts with a master meatball recipe, with an egg to bind together the seasonings. Some recipes direct the cook to brown the meatballs in a skillet – a spattery messy task that requires the cook’s full attention. Better to bake them all at once in the oven – a peek or two is all the attention the cook has to devote to them. Then pop them into your sauce of choice – or chill and freeze them ready for a busy day later in the week or month.


    MEATBALLS MANY WAYS

    A master recipe is wonderful with beef, but for the Royal presentation, I took advantage of bison from Grey Walk Buffalo and grass-fed Golden Beef, and used half beef and half bison. Both of these products come from the Clay Belt agricultural area around New Liskeard, Ontario. Serve over spaghetti – 1 lb (450 g) is plenty, or penne, or even rice or barley.

    MASTER MEATBALLSM

    1 large egg

    1 medium onion, finely diced or grated

    1 large clove garlic, minced or grated

    1/4 cup (50 ml) dry bread crumbs

    1 tsp. (5 ml) each Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce

    1/4 tsp. (1 ml) each salt and freshly ground pepper

    1 lb. (500g) lean ground beef

    In a bowl, whisk egg; mix in onion, garlic, bread crumbs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix in beef. Shape by heaping tablespoons (15 ml) into balls.

    Place 1-inch (2.5 cm) apart on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; bake in 450F (230C) oven until no longer pink inside, about 10 to 15 minutes.

    Make-ahead: Let cool on baking sheet on rack. Refrigerate until chilled. Transfer to freezer bags; freeze in single layer until solid for up to 1 month.

    Makes about 18 meatballs, enough for 4 to 5 servings.

    TIP: An ice cream scoop, often called a “disher” by chefs, is a handy way to scoop raw meatball mixture. The scoops are not perfect rounds, so you can go the next step, rolling them gently between your palms to smooth and round edges. Dip you hands into cold water if they become sticky.

    MEATBALLS IN BARBECUE SAUCE

    Meatballs in this sauce are terrific in a sub sandwich, over mashed potatoes, rice, barley, cornbread or a split baked potato. Consider topping the saucy meatballs with a dab of sour cream or grated Cheddar.

    1 Tbsp. (15 ml) canola oil

    1 medium onion, minced

    1/2 cup (125 ml) finely diced Cubanelle pepper or sweet red pepper

    1 large clove garlic, minced

    2 tsp. (10 ml) chili powder

    1 tsp. (5 ml) ground cumin

    3/4 cup (175 ml) ketchup or smooth salsa

    1/3 cup (75 ml) water

    1/4 cup (50 ml) packed brown sugar

    1/4 cup (50 ml) cider vinegar

    1 Tbsp. (15 ml) each Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce

    Dash (or more) hot pepper sauce

    Master Meatballs (recipe above)

    In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; fry onion, pepper, garlic, chili powder and cumin, stirring often, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in ketchup, water, sugar, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce; bring to simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add meatballs, simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until glazed and hot.

    Makes 4 to 5 servings.

    TIP: You can make the meatballs and sauce a day ahead and reheat gently on top of the stove, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

    MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO ASIAGO SAUCE

    When making the Master Meatballs recipe, above, for this tomato sauce, add 1/4 cup (50 ml) grated Asiago cheese and 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each dried basil and oregano. At the Royal, I used the excellent Thornloe Asiago, made in Thornloe, Ontario. Serve over cooked spaghetti – about 1 lb. (500 g) is plenty for 4 to 5 servings.

    1 Tbsp. (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil

    1 medium onion, finely diced

    2 large cloves garlic, minced

    1/2 tsp. (2 ml) dried basil or oregano

    1/4 tsp (1 ml) each salt and hot pepper flakes

    1 can (28 oz./796 ml) crushed tomatoes

    1/2 cup (125 ml) water

    1/4 cup (50 ml) freshly grated Asiago cheese

    Master Meatballs, recipe above

    1/4 cup (50 ml) minced fresh parsley

    Extra freshly grated Asiago cheese

    In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat; fry onion, garlic, basil, salt and hot pepper flakes, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

    Stir in tomatoes. Pour water into empty tomato can; swish around to loosen crushed tomatoes. Pour into pan. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup (50 ml) cheese. Add meatballs; simmer, stirring often, until meatballs are hot, about 10 minutes.

    Sprinkle each serving with parsley and an extra sprinkle of Asiago cheese.

    Makes 4 to 5 servings.

    MUSHROOM MEATBALLS WITH DILL

    Wide noodles are the ideal bed on which to serve these creamy meatballs.

    1 Tbsp. (15 ml) canola oil

    1 medium onion, finely diced

    1 large clove garlic, minced

    4 cups (1 L) sliced mushrooms

    1/4 tsp. (1 ml) each salt and freshly ground pepper

    2 Tbsp. (30 ml) all-purpose flour

    1 cup (250 ml) chicken broth, approximate

    1 cup (250 ml) 18% cream or evaporated milk

    2 Tbsp. (30 ml) chopped fresh dill

    2 tsp. (10 ml) lemon juice

    2 Tbsp. (30 ml) minced fresh parsley

    Master Meatballs, recipe above

    In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; add onion, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Saute until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour, stirring to coat the mushroom mixture.

    Stir in broth and cream. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill and lemon juice. Add meatballs, stirring gently to coat all sides.

    Simmer until meatballs are hot, about 10 minutes, adding a little more broth if desired to thin sauce. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

    Makes 4 to 5 servings.

    TIP: Fresh dill can be a frustrating herb, not the fault of the dill, but rather it’s often sold in large bunches, much to much to use before the fresh sprigs transform into crisper slime. If you do buy one of these bunches, spare the decay by chopping and freezing dill in convenient amounts for future dishes. Some cooks like to pack the chopped dill into ice cube trays and fill them with water. For a dish like the meatball sauce, just add the dill ice cube with the broth and garnish with parsley alone.

    This story was posted on Wed, November 17, 2010

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