Couch Day 2014, featuring Meatballs and Plum Cake

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It's hard to believe that next Couch Day there will be a baby in these photos. Where will he sit? Will he make funny faces? Will he enjoy lounging on couches? With so much up in the air, we made the most of our last babyless Couch Day this year, with friends old and new, delicious meatballs and even a dessert.
The husband recently splurged on a massive, electric grinder. Something you see in butcher shops. At first I didn't get it, now I don't care. It's impressive and amazing, and makes activities like sausage-making a breeze. We used the new toy to experiment with meatballs. Never having made meatballs before, we ended up making a lot. Giant ones for Couch Day festivities to be served over creamy and cheesy polenta, and smaller ones for post-baby times. Here's what I learned, giant meatballs are harder to cook, so next time, I think I'll make them smaller.

Along with meatballs, I also made a lot of marinara sauce.

Finished product, served over polenta. I can't wait for cooler weather and more polenta meals!
After seeing this amazing plum cake/torte on my favorite blog, I decided to bake! And guess what? It turned out delicious, and was super easy. It didn't convince me I need to do this regularly, but, I did enjoy this almost effortless process.

Here we are trying to be normal, except for one friend, who decided to lean back and disappeared.
And, normal didn't last ...

Italian Meatballs
via www.simplyrecipes.com 
Makes 16 large meatballs

1 pound ground beef (at least 16 percent fat)
1 pound ground pork
2/3 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
About 1 cup of flour for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups (24 ounces) of tomato sauce

Tomato Sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1) Start with the tomato sauce, which will simmer while you prepare the meatballs. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and parsley. Stir to coat with the oil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Remove the cover, add the garlic, and increase the heat to medium high. Cook the garlic for half a minute, then add the tomatoes (if using whole canned, break up with your fingers as you add them to the pan.) Add the tomato paste and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and let cook uncovered until thickened while you prepare the meatballs, 15 to 30 minutes. Purée in a blender, or push through a food mill for a smooth consistency. Adjust seasonings.

2) Heat the milk in a small pot until steamy. Turn off the heat, tear the bread into little pieces and soak it in the milk until it partially dissolves. Mash it until you get something that resembles a paste. Turn it out onto a plate to let it cool.

3) In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, ricotta cheese, grated parmesan, eggs, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, garlic cloves and the bread-milk mixture. Mix it well with your hands until it barely combines. Don't overwork the mixture or it will become tough.

4) Wet your hands and form the meatballs. A traditional size for this sort of meatball is 2-3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. Once you roll the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating (I skipped this step since they went into the freezer). Rinse your hands a few times as you make the meatballs for easy rolling.

5) When all the meatballs are formed, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on at least two sides.

6) Once all the meatballs are browned, arrange them in the sauce, turning each one over in the sauce to coat. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley or basil for garnish.

Purple Plum Torte
via www.bonappetempt.com (and many other places)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Large pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted (I used pluots here, they just looked better at the market)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) Heat over to 350°F. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time , scraping down the bowl.
2) Add your dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

3) Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan (but if you’re worried, you can always lightly coat it first with butter or a nonstick spray) and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

4) Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

Leave it covered at room temperature overnight as this cake is better the next day.

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