Gettin' My Greens On with Chef Louisa Shafia


easily understood; completely intelligible or comprehensible:a lucid explanation.
characterized by clear perception or understanding; rational or sane: a lucid moment in his madness.
shining or bright.
clear; pellucid; transparent.

This week I worked with fellow Penn Alum Louisa Shafia at a class called "Get Your Greens On", which was held at The Brooklyn Kitchen and Meat Hook in Williamsburg. It was a vegetarian class (except for a wee bit of chicken stock used in desperation) that focused on locally grown springtime vegetables and unusual greens. 

I first heard of Louisa Shafia via an alumni news letter. After two careers in unrelated industries, she decided to enroll in the Natural Gourmet Institute here in NYC. With a few years experience working in a handful of health conscious restaurants, both here in NYC and San Francisco, Louisa decided to start her own company called Lucid Food. Starting off as a blog and catering company, Louisa has grown her company to include cooking classes, consulting gigs and most recently, her first cookbook. 

Her recipes are veg-heavy and eco-conscious, but not in a restrictive way. Quite the contrary actually. She's more about adding - greens, legumes, weird little herbs that she found on a bike ride in Prospect Park (true story). And that's the reason I can get jiggy with Louisa's cooking style: she's not here to criticize - more to promote better choices...and I for one can afford to make some more of those.

In Lucid Food, I try to show you how to make earth-friendly food choices by sourcing animal products ethically and responsibly, supporting local food, and reducing your carbon footprint through urban gardening, preserving, composting, and more.

I reached out to Louisa to see if she needed any help with her catering, classes, book signings...and voila!, I found myself donning a chef's coat in an industrial kitchen wielding a multitude of insanely sharp knives. To say I was nervous is a serious understatement. I didn't even know the proper way to put on my apron (and yes, apparently there is a proper way to put on an apron). My first task was to peel and slice potatoes in preparation for our Lamb's Quarters and Pea Shoots Soup (wait, I thought you said it was vegetarian?!) Well, it turns out Lamb's Quarters are a leafy green - news to me as well. Also new to my plate were radish greens (spicy, just like their roots), shepherd's purse (used frequently in Asian recipes), and maitake mushrooms (a grill-able meat substitute). The potatoes went well, no cuts, no missing body parts. And then came the sugar snap peas for our Almond Tofu with Snap Peas and Soba Noodles. I had to delicately slice off the barely visible center string with a machete and NOT cut my finger off. "Red tinge? Oh, that's uh, tomato paste. Last minute addition." Cucumbers and garlic, ginger, mushrooms, radishes - chop, slice, mince! I had sweat on my brow and a rumble in my tummy. I tried not to sneak a snack mid class and risk getting yelled at by a particular over-caffinated hipster in our class. 

Four hours and many a slop bucket later, the class was gone, kitchen cleaned and two lonely jars leftover of Louisa's soon-to-be-famous Rhubarb and Pistachios over Thick Yogurt just waiting for my spoon. I'll enjoy this simple, rustic dessert for breakfast, in lieu of my regular yogurt/berries/granola routine. The rhubarb is slightly sweet with a hint of cardamom, the yogurt tart and the pistachios add the perfect hit of crunch:

Rhubarb and Pistachios over Thick Yogurt (from Lucid Foods)
Serves 4

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, ends and leaves trimmed
  • 1/2t. cardamom
  • 1/4t. ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup light-colored honey
  • 1t. vanilla extract
  • 1t. rose water
  • 2cups Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

  1. Cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pices and put in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the rhubarb starts to soften, about 5minutes, stir in the cardamom, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Break up any large pieces of rhubarb with a wooden spoon.
  4. Continue to simmer, covered, until the rhubarb is completely softened, about 4 minutes more.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in honey and vanilla extract. Let cool. Add the rose water.
  6. To serve, put 1/2 cup yogurt in each bowl, top with a few tablespoons of rhubarb. Scatter with a few tablespoons of pistachios over the top.
Besides the dessert, I also scored some sick swag thanks to The Meat Hook - which will be donned next time I visit my brother in the Heights to avoid getting yelled at to 'get back on my island!' 

Manhattanites; the new 'bridge and tunnel' crowd,
- The Heat

Thanks to Louisa and staff at The Brooklyn Kitchen!


Recalling Everything I Ate at Age 28

This past weekend was a whirlwind of birthday activity. It has taken me until today to recover from it.  I spent my birthday exactly how I pictured it: with Friends, Family and Food. And maybe a few drinks...

Friday night was supposed to be a quiet night in anticipation of Saturday night's festivities. Dinner, wine, and a movie if I could stay awake that long. So you understand my surprise when at 4am I found myself elbow deep in two grandma slices from Bleeker Street Pizza. What the heck happened? Lets rewind the tape:

Our first stop was Cafe Katja, a tiny, unassuming gem that serves upscale Austrian fare with an array of rare imported beers. It started off innocent - a glass of a biodynamic white wine (I'm so in vogue) and a hot soft pretzel (okay, maybe not). It was a solid start. The problems arose when the pretzel came served with what can only be described as the lovechild of Butter and Cheese. Hold on it actually gets better - it's whipped and lightly dusted with chives! Okay, now you can breathe. This heavenly concoction was called Liptauer Cheese - and thankfully they don't call it Liptauer Butter, because it sounds more socially acceptable to eat an entire bowl of cheese than an entire bowl of butter, right? Right?!

Next up was an enormous platter of cured meats, spreads and pickles, which is what I imagine I'll encounter when I walk through the Pearly Gates. Low and behold, guess what it was served with? Oh hello, little bowl of creamy goodness. I spread Liptauer cheese on everything in sight - bread, pork belly, pickles, directly on my tongue (hey, it was my birthday!).  It was getting out of hand. Luckily our entrees arrived: an apple/cabbage slaw in a light lingonberry dressing and a hefty serving of brats and kraut to really put the nail in the coffin - well and the various 'nightcaps', celebratory shots of tequila and two slices of late night 'za. Sigh.

But what DID help matters was the incredible breakfast I woke up to. A little elf ran about the West Village and gathered up some of my favorite pre-noon eats:

Soft scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and the best croissant in the city from Out of the Kitchen
The featured brew from Joe's Coffee - smooth and dark
Dipped Fruit Bouquet from Edible Arrangements (the perfect hangover aid and as it turns out, late night snack)

In a state of sugar, fat, and caffeine induced bliss, I launched into a day of shopping in Soho with a long lost girlfriend who came to town for the weekend (lost to the world of marriage in Michigan, but couldn't be happier for her!) Eventually we needed to rev our engines, so we ducked into Faicco's Pork Store on Bleeker Street for fried risotto balls, broccoli rabe with sausage bread, and one of the best Italian subs I have had to date. We chased down our lunch with a bottle of Brunello, which was given to me as a gift from the friend I visited the actual vineyard with, called Fattoria dei Barbi.  Alongside the vino, she also gave me a vintage 1946 edition Le Cordon Bleu cookbook, which I will report back on as soon as I can see straight next week:

With a solid foundation of booze and food, we took a quick nap to prepare ourselves for the night ahead. Dinner was at Lil' Frankie's, the (larger, louder) offspring of Frank's in the east village. Known for it's brick oven pizzas and hearty pastas, Lil' Frankie's had me at hello with their burrata cheese appetizer. Next up was an array of pizzas, though the showstopper was more of a focaccia with robiola cheese, procuitto di parma and a drizzle of truffle oil stuck in between two thin pizza crusts. It must be shared or be prepared to sweat truffle oil all night - unless you're into that sort of thing, (which I could kind of get into too). For an entree, I chose a light dish of spaghetti limone: butter, parmigiano reggiano and a squirt of lemon juice, which I will undoubtedly recreate at home.

Based on the remnants of red sauce on my plate, it appears I made my way around the table testing everyone else's dishes before diving into my own (typical). And after all of my extensive research, the polpettini ragu (mini meatballs) takes the cake:
Speaking of cake...it was chocolate, it was decadent and it was shared 10 ways:
You'd think I'd be full, but yee have little faith in the Heat! Sunday I was treated to a homemade Bo-saam at my sibling's abode. What is Bo-saam you ask? Basically it's the Asian answer to bbq pulled pork. Except this time you wrap it in lettuce leaves with sticky white rice, a slathering of ginger scallion relish and dollop of hot sauce. We used David Chang's recipe off NYMAG.com, and while time consuming (you slow roast the pork for hours), it is a fairly easy recipe to master and perfect for a hungry crowd. For sides we had home pickled red cabbage, jalapenos, and skewered hoisen shrimp with pineapple.

And it's not a birthday party without a cake! Angel food with fresh berries to be exact - washed down with our last drops of Prosecco and lulling me into the deepest of birthday slumbers.

Thanks to all for the warm birthday wishes! And for those that forgot, I'd like a bucket of Liptauer cheese, please,

- The Heat


Who Cut The Cheese?

Er, actually...I did. But only in the literal sense (as far as they know). Last night I assisted at an educational class at Murray's Cheese on Bleeker Street. The class was titled "Unfiltered Wines and Raw Milk Cheeses" and was taught by two impossibly thin hipsters, Murray's Wholesale Manager Elizabeth Kubbuck and wine expert Alex Alan. I am perplexed at how they stay so thin with the jobs they hold. I was at Murray's one night and already my face has swollen three times it's normal size.

You know the saying, never trust a skinny chef. How about a fat cheeked food-blogger? Nonetheless, I have to hand it to the two toothpicks, they were entertaining, knowledgeable and on the cutting edge of wine and cheese. I, on the other hand, was on the cutting edge of a serrated knife, cutting a half dozen baguettes into paper thin slices for our 45 students. And I have the bruises on my hands to show for it. I was also in charge of wiping, setting, cleaning, and putting away of a mere 266 wine glasses (I did the math). Standing over a steaming industrial-strength dishwasher for five hours isn't exactly glamorous, but I tried to think of it as a really cheap facial. Plus I got to take home the leftover cheese and wine, which I will attack with glee after work. At this point, no amount of salt could make me bloat any further - I hope.

But I got more out of last night's class than a moon face and bad gas (wait, what?). But be warned: once you go raw, you'll never go back. What exactly is raw cheese? I hesitate to answer, for fear of being digitally flogged by some blogospheric frommagier - but for those not growing their own cheese in Brooklyn, raw means cheese that it unpasteurized and less than 60 days old. The law of the land is that any unpasteurized cheese entering the US must be aged at least 60 days to - in theory - protect us from bacterial infections. Some argue that this is in fact an antiquated and unnecessary regulation, and many have been known to casually ignore it. Either way you slice it (queue laughter), Americans therefore miss out on the gloriousness that is young, European cheese.  Anyone that has traveled through Europe is nodding their head in agreement.

Last night we tasted some of the best, 'don't ask, don't tell', raw cheese imported into the United States. I used a highly technical rating system to keep track of my favorites: ✓-, ✓, ✓+. I tried to be critical and I tried to stay sober, though I can't help but notice how many ✓+'s I had towards the end. All the cheeses are available at Murray's and the 'fromagiers' specifically said NOT be shy about pronunciation when you're in their store. Feel free to point, grunt or gesticulate your way to good cheese.

The favorites of the night, with my own quirky descriptions, in descending order:
  1. Tomme Fleurette: this one wins the 'most likely to be confiscated at customs' award. May or may not be under 2 weeks old, it tasted like melted butter. And who doesn't like butter?!
  2. La Serena: A cheese made alongside the sweaters I wear (Merino sheep) with a name from one of my favorite television shows (hint: xoxo). What's not to love? Soft and delicate like their wool.
  3. Tomme Crayeuse: We called this the 'Tom Cruise' of cheese, but more 'Top Gun' Tom than 'jumping on Oprah's couch' Tom. Earthy and creamy.
  4. Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar: far from the Cabot cheese we know and love, this cheddar tasted like horseradish biscuits to my untrained palate (say what?). The rind tasted like my Grandma's dank basement. And in some twisted way, I really really liked it.
  5. Jura Erguel: A Swiss made cheese that tasted like pineapple? that will definitely be in my next grilled cheese.

The cheeses were paired with variety of unfiltered wines, which is raw cheese's alcoholic counterpart. I learned that unfiltered wine, in short, means that the yeast used to ferment the grapes is the naturally occurring yeast of the plant, rather than that which is cultivated in a petri dish. The wines were therefore rather intense and actually tasted crude. While I didn't love them all, I found it amazing that I was drinking wine the way it was drank by kings and queens hundreds of years ago. Needless to say, I got drunk and felt quite courtly.

My favorites, all in the $20-25 per bottle range:
  1. Thierry Puzelat Ko "In Cot We Trust" 2007: a French Malbec from the Loire Valley. Alex described this as having a smoked bacon taste, which I liked, but admittedly didn't 'get'.
  2. Domaine Leon Barral Faugeres 2006: a smooth, deep red that tasted even better when I learned the grapes were grown biodynamically (which basically means naturally, whilst respecting the earth around it).
  3. Don Chisciotte Campania Fiano IGT 2007: This tasted more like a cider or a hefeweizen to me, though he swore it came from grapes. I don't believe him, but I liked it. Fool your friends.
The Heat


The Weekend Scramble

This is my brain:

This is my brain after the weekend:

Any questions?

I’m sure you do. There are parts of my weekend I have questions about too. Mainly where all of our bruises came from and how I lost my voice – bull-riding being the likely answer to both. You see, it was my girlfriend’s bachelorette party in NYC this weekend. And for those of you that have ever been bombarded by or involved with a bachelorette party, God help you, you know the extent of damage that can be caused. It’s like a pack of hyenas coming upon a fresh kill - “First the pack spreads out, surrounding its prey in a impenetrable circle. Watch, as they slowly close in, warding off all unwanted visitors with blood curdling yelps and screams”. It’s eerily similar actually. And it was a blast!

I laid the foundation for my weekend at Choptank Friday night, where I gorged myself on Old Bay chips and crab dip, fluke ceviche with corn nuts, Maryland style peel and eat shrimp and a big old crab cake. My foundation was served to me by a handful of Georgetown Prep guys, or so they appeared, all of who had delightful manners, provided excellent service and fit their whole Maryland theme quite well. I almost didn’t mind their double popped collars. I also didn’t mind their spacious back deck, which will be perfect for a weekend brunch of their Chesapeake Benedict: jumbo lump crabmeat, artichokes, and spicy hollandaise sauce with a side of boardwalk fries. Yum. I’ll leave the Meathook’s Scrapple served with Anson Mill grits and a fried egg to an indigenous Marylander. Yee haw!

The rest of the night was spent on various dance floors in the Lower East Side. It was fun, it was drunk and it’s a blur. What wasn’t fun was the smell of Mt. Gay rum at 11am the next day while I made a Rum Raisin Tiramisu. Normally, cooking is my therapy - a source of peace and love. And while I am not a dessert person, I was excited to try my hand at this particular dish, as it’s the bachelorette’s favorite and it required no baking. Because I don’t bake. I don’t like to measure things, I rarely follow directions and I think rules are meant to be broken – which doesn’t bode well for baking, a science more than an art. This dessert is more a compilation of ingredients than anything. It’s easy and probably pretty fun to make if you’re not holding back the pukies. My only criticism could be a result of my tender state, but I think the recipe calls for too much rum. When the bachelorette party finally got interested in dessert, circa 4:30am, we were overwhelmed by the rum flavor, to say the very least. Granted, we were eating it in fist full’s (hence the carnage in picture two, above) and in between bites of meatball pizza from Vezzo, but next time I will cut the rum in half. I loved the addition of semi-sweet chocolate curls on top, but recommend microwaving the chocolate before shaving – and being sober while using your Titan Peeler. Yikes.

Rum Raisin Tiramisu (adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup Mount Gay rum, divided in half, 2 tablespoons set aside
  • 6 extra large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 16oz marscapone cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, divided
  • 1 1/2t. good vanilla extract 
  • 1 vanilla bean (thanks to Gourmet Garage for charging me $17 for one)
  • 24 to 30 ladyfingers
  • semi sweet chocolate, shaved

  1. Place the raisins and 2 tablespoons of rum in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Uncover and set aside to cool.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 5 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Lower the speed to low and mix in the mascarpone until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add 1/4 cup of rum, 1/4 cup of orange juice, the vanilla extract, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of rum and remaining 1/2 cup of orange juice in a shallow bowl. Dip one side of each ladyfinger quickly in the rum mixture and place them in one layer in a 9 by 11 by 2-inch rectangular or oval dish. Break the ladyfingers in smaller pieces and dip them in the rum mixture to fill the spaces. 
  4. Sprinkle half the rum-soaked raisins evenly on top. Pour half the mascarpone mixture over and spread evenly. 
  5. Repeat the layers of dipped ladyfingers, rum-soaked raisins, and mascarpone mixture. 
  6. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
  7. Before serving, sprinkle the top with the shaved chocolate and serve cold.
  8. Splash a little soda water in with the remaining Mount Gay and a squeeze of lime and have yourself a cocktail. 

Tastes best with friends,
- The Heat


Sunny with a Chance of Meatballs

This week I've been on a mission to pile on the food blogger scrum - Motorino, Num Pang, Shake Shack - all of which are absolute hits, and relatively inexpensive ones at that. Last night I added The Meatball Shop to the mix. At this point I'm sure the buzz of this Lower East Side storefront has hit your radar, as it did mine, so I won't bore you with a four page review, especially when the menu is really only made up of two items - meatballs and chipwiches. Okay, a salad was thrown on for good measure, but that's like ordering a veggie burger at a steakhouse - purely for looks. And while we're on the topic, I'd like to throw a flag for the Meatball Shop having a veggie meatball on the menu. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against vegetarians, but I find it poor logic that one would choose to eat at a place that prides itself on pan-fried animal products. Don't yell at me please.

That being said, my official review of The Meatball Shop is this (queue trumpets): there are better balls out there, most notably at Frankie Spuntino's down the block, but I guess it's a fun, casual spot if you're in the neighborhood. So, don't all you Upper East Siders jump on the 6 train just yet - there are plenty of good meatballs right where you are (Ottomanelli's). Please just stay where you belong.

All joking aside, I enjoyed the less traditional options the most - like the special of the night, lamb with mint and raisins as well as their chicken meatballs. But, more so because they were just different than kick-your-chair-out delicious (it's happened). The Meatball Shop is a fun stop for a quick bite at the bar. Try all their meatball combinations with a plate of their sliders and wash them down with a Brooklyn Lager or a glass of wine from their short and sweet list. However, the unfortunate thing is that the place is so perpetually jammed thanks to people like me who can't keep their damn mouth shut, that a timely experience is rare. We waited an hour on a Tuesday night, though our food only took 10 minutes to come out, and were then rushed to relinquish our seats 15 minutes later. My advice is to give it a few months - maybe in July when the beautiful people migrate West you'll be able to eat your balls in peace.

Speaking of migrating West, some of the best meatballs I've ever eaten are about halfway between NYC and the Hamptons, in the lovely town of Northport.  Maroni's is a gem of a restaurant, seating only about 20 and offering an exclusive tasting menu at $110/person - not exactly an easy or cheap way to satisfy your hankering, but I found a loophole or two. The first is the discovery that they will run over a pot (literally) of their famous meatballs to the neighboring, but unrelated Wine Bar. It comes steaming and aromatic in a keepsake hotpot loaded with 16 meatballs for $27 - amazing. The other loophole being their recipe, which I just discovered on Bobby Flay's Meatball Throwdown and subsequently posted on the Food Network website. I'll be giving this recipe a test run - perhaps only making one small change - reducing the garlic. Though I enjoyed the meatballs tremendously, I didn't enjoy the severe dragon breath it anointed me and my party with. Comfort in numbers I guess.
My favorite recipe for meatballs, however, comes from my favorite Italian Nonna, whom I've written about before, Lidia Bastianich. I have made these at least a half dozen times. The process is not quick, but it is easy. And it is a tried and true favorite. There are two meatballs recipes: Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins OR Sausage Meatballs with Fresh Fennel and Orange. Both are pan fried to form a crust that will hold the ball together and then added to a long-cooking Sugo. The recipe for the sugo is the same for either meatballs, except one ingredient - if making the turkey meatballs, add a cinnamon stick to the sauce. If making the sausage, a few tablespoons of orange zest will give it a little somethin' somethin' that'll keep you comin' back for more. Mangia!

Long-Cooked Sugo and Meatballs (adapted from Lidia's Family Table)
Makes a boatload - 2 quarts of Sugo and 3 dozen meatballs!

For the Sofritto: (this is a cinch in a food processor)
  • 6T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 3 plump shallots, minced
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 2 large stalks of celery, minced
  • 5 fresh bay leaves (or 3 dried)
  • 1/4 tomato paste

For the Sugo:
  • One 35oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes and juices, sieved or passed thru a food mill
  • 8-12 cups broth or hot water (Lidia uses Turkey - I used Chicken)
  • 1/2t. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 2T. finely grated orange zest depending on meatball type
  • 1T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4t. hot red pepper flakes (peperoncino), or to taste

For Turkey Meatballs:
  • 1.5T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2t. salt
  • 4 slices white bread from a sandwich or big loaf
  • 1-2 cups of milk
  • 3lbs ground turkey meat
  • 3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 2T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1.5T. porcini powder
  • 1/2t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins, plumed in warm water and drained
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet

For Sausage Meatballs:
  • 2T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/3 of a small fennel, minced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4t. salt
  • 3lbs. Sweet Italian Sausage (w/o fennel seeds)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 3T chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2t. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 heaping cup fine dry bread crumbs

For cooking both kinds of meatballs:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable oil 
  • Salt for sprinkling
  • Spread the flour about 1/4 inch deep in the center of a baking sheet

Directions for Frying the Soffritto and Starting the Sugo:
  1. Pour oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven with 8qt. capacity and drop in onions, shallots. Set over med-high heat for 1-2 minutes, until onions sizzle.
  2. Drop garlic, carrots, celery and bay leaves and cook for 4 minutes. Lower heat to prevent burning.
  3. Add tomato paste to an empty spot and 'toast' for a minute. Stir in plum tomatoes and their juices, raise heat and bring the sauce to a quick boil for 5 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Pour in 4 cups of the hot broth and take note of the liquid level - try and maintain that level throughout cooking by adding more broth or water throughout simmering process.
  5. Submerge cinnamon stick or add orange zest at this time, depending on which balls you're making.
  6. Cover and let cook for at least an hour, checking the pot every 20min. It should be reducing steadily, adding broth to maintain the level you want.
Making the Meatballs while your Sugo simmers:

  1. Pour olive oil in medium skillet and drop in minced onions, sprinkle with salt and set over med-high heat until they sizzle. Lower heat and cook for 5min., stirring occasionally until they are wilted and slightly dry, but not colored. Set aside.
  2. Break up bread slices into rough inch long pieces and submerge in milk. When fully saturated, remove and squeeze out excess milk with your hands. You should have about 1 cup densely packed bread.
  3. Loosen turkey meat and add to a large mixing bowl with beaten eggs, raisins, pine nuts, wilted onions, bread, parsley, porcini powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold and squeeze the ingredients together and form into balls, flouring the outside of the balls lightly.
  1. Pour olive oil in med skillet, drop in minced onion and fennel over med-high heat. Cook for 2min then add garlic for another minute. Sprinkle on half the salt, stir and reduce heat, cooking for 5 more minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove from pan and let cool.
  2. Take sausage out of casing if packed in links, crumble in mixing bowl and add eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, orange zest, thyme leaves and cooled fennel, onions, garlic and the bread crumbs. Fold and form meatballs, dusting with flour.
Frying the Meatballs and Adding to Sugo:
  1. Pour vegetable oil in med skillet about 1/3 inch and set over high heat until oil begins to ripple. Transfer meatballs to skillet with tongs, being careful to leave enough room between each ball so they don't touch and allow to cook for a minute or two until they begin to brown. Brown them on all sides and remove to a paper towel to drain.
  2. Add meatballs slowly to your sugo with a slotted spoon, placing a few on the bottom with room between each, more on top, creating layers of spaced out meatballs, so you can carefully stir the sauce later. Bring back to a simmer and cook for an additional 40 minutes for golf ball sized meatballs - longer if larger.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow to cool so the meatballs absorb more of the flavor of the sugo. Carefully remove meatballs and return your sauce to a boil to thicken it to whatever consistency you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!
When storing, make sure to use enough sauce to cover the meatballs completely. 

My other favorite Meatballs - a must see:
- The Heat


My Custom Easter

I was not raised religious - a fact my parents blush at, but the truth nonetheless. I was raised with love, faith, and a sense of spirituality, just not within the confines of a Church. Easter therefore, is the holiday of eternal candy - not a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. I bet I'm not alone in this admission. Walk up to most kids these days and ask them what they think of when they hear 'Easter' - I guarantee it has more to do with gelatinous, tooth decaying candy than the miracle of Christ. My point is not the disappearance of religion - I'll leave that topic to someone more educated on the subject - it's that I still think of the holiday in this childish way. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm on level with a 5yr. old - fudge.

The only thing that sets me apart from the toothless, candy loving crowd is that I'd rather eat lamb chops with a mint roumalade than a carton of Peeps. And I'll trade a chocolate bunny for the bunny baguette from Amy's Bread anyday. But it's not that I'm suddenly too mature for candy - I've always been this way. When I was a child I'd trade my jelly beans to my brother for the promise of fewer public ass whoopings (it was a good trade). Then I'd hide my chocolate bunny from it's grisly death, to be discovered months later by my Mother who would find it by smell, behind the curtains in the living room, next to the radiator. I changed locations annually, creating an annual Easter egg hunt in November when my parents turned the heat on. This also happened after Halloween. It was a real knee slapper.

I simply do not have a sweet tooth - a fact that made Easter drop below Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of a July on the holiday scale. Regardless, any excuse for family and food excites me. And by excites me, I mean occupies every corner of my brain - coming up with multiple, varied, and sometimes faux menus for the day. If it were up to me, I'd be cooking an Easter feast for 30+ of varying ages and tastes - with a house, kitchen and staff equipped for such a task. Instead I will likely be cooking for one in a kitchen the size of an outhouse. I therefore have provided two menus with recipes from some of my favorite blogs, forums and shows:

My Big Fat Fake Easter:

Sweet Pea Crostini I love pretty much everything Giada De Laurentis does. Even if I don't love peas.
Ham & Dill Deviled Eggs Deviled eggs made with the dyed eggs from the morning hunt yields a rainbow of colored egg whites with creepy colored yolks and it freaks enough people out to leave them for me!
Shaved Artichoke Salad Combine two of my favorite foods, artichokes and Parmesan, and call it a salad.
Peas with Olive Oil and Mint Simple, fresh and the perfect accompaniment for lamb.
Leek and Potato Gratin A grown up version of a childhood classic.
Fig and Orange Glazed Honey Ham Laughably easy and great leftover (midnight snack).
Slow Cooked Rack of Lamb Try a mint sauce like this one instead of the cloyingly sweet mint jelly.
Rhubarb Roasted with Wine and Vanilla: Wine and dessert in one - killing two birds with one dish.

Easter for a Girl and her "Little" Lamb:

Fresh Ricotta and a drizzle of honey on the floury little bum of my Bunny Baguette. Love me some rump.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Garlic, Fresh Thyme, and Grilled Lemons I will cut down this recipe for one and use a stovetop grill pan - a good option when living in a propane-less city.
Steamed Artichokes with Herb-Caper Mayonnaise: I like to eat my artichokes and my mayo alone, without judgement.
Sweet Potato Gratin with Creme Fraiche, Chives and Bacon: Listen, I don't eat dessert, okay?
Glass (bottle) of Bordeaux for me and the leftover bone for my little lamb (with supervision of course)!

Have a Sweet Easter!
- The Heat