Monday, February 16, 2009

All Thoughts Turn Back to Gardening

Now that the worst of the ice storm catch-up (laundry, carpet cleaning, general housekeeping, cords, generators) is behind me, my thoughts can once again turn to seeds and gardens. Of course, I am now way behind on seed ordering.
Right before the ice storm, I ordered some fruit trees including some varieties of pawpaws which I am the most curious about. Hubby advised me to order "tall trees", none of those "6" varieties that won't fruit in our lifetime". I agreed with that even though older trees cost more, I did want to see the "fruits of my labor" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). Anyway, in my research I learned that pawpaw trees are very difficult to transplant if they are above a certain height so the ones I ordered are all around 12" tall. I have commented about the interesting pawpaw trivia to hubs, but still, there will be shock and a loud "didn't I tell you to buy the big ones" comment. Oh well... I have researched optimal growing conditions and I'm a little concerned. I wanted to plant them orchard-style, but really, they like water and would probably do better down by the creek so I'm thinking of just planting them along the wood's edge. I need to think about that a little more.
The elderberry bushes are going along the wood's edge when they come in. I found a source for wild strawberries in VA. This is so sad, I cannot remember exactly where, as a child, I picked the wild strawberries. Was it in the field above the house? Or, was it at the edge of the woods? I think it was the edge of the field before the shale path that led to the cemetery. Wild strawberries are so scarce, in fact, I cannot recall seeing one plant since I've lived in Kentucky. Now when we lived in Indiana, there were wild strawberries on the banks along my bike route, as well as lily of the valley and tiny wild irises. As much as I disliked the area we lived in, I loved the natural surroundings. Garden-wise, I am way behind; not even the first potato or onion has been ordered. Must do that today.
One garden will be devoted to all things allium. I think it will be pretty to see the very orderly rows of red onions, yellow onions, Egyptian walking onions, leeks, and several other varieties. This will be the first year for potatoes. I am a bit nervous about them because of the potato beetles. Since I try to grow everything organically, I don't want to Sevin the potatoes, so I will have to find a catch crop or something because they will be there. And, it's not just potatoes they love, the beetles really like eggplants too. I killed so many potato beetles, that it grossed me out and I didn't eat any of the eggplants! I know the genus for potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes is the same, I just can't think of it at this moment. In fact, the little larvae were on the tomato leaves, but for some reason, didn't make that big of a dent in them. Talking about tomatoes, I made fresh tomato sauce a few weeks ago, and it took me back to summer, really nice. But, it was the meatball recipe that made that sauce.
I have been searching for 10 years (my married life) for a good meatball recipe. Growing up, we didn't eat much Italian cooking, so it wasn't like Mom could pass down a decent Italian meatball recipe. My husband and I, through the years, felt like the three bears when they were criticizing the porridge, "too compacted, too spicy, too fatty". None were just right that is until the January 2009 Gourmet arrived in our mailbox. On page 30 is the best meatball recipe, ever. Hubby was eating them without sauce straight off the baking sheet! And, I ate a couple for breakfast the next day!

Best-ever Meatballs
(Gourmet, January 2009)

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 cups torn day-old Italian bread
3 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 lb)
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley'
1/4 cup finely chopped oregano or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
1 TB grated lemon zest
1-1/2 lb ground veal
1-1/2 lb ground pork
1-1/2 lb ground beef (not lean)
1 cup olive or veg. oil
Cook onions in olive oil in a 12" heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Soak bread in milk in another bowl until soft, about 5 minutes. Firmly squeeze bread to remove excess milk, discarding milk.
Stir together cooled onion mixture, bread, eggs, parmesan, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, 5-1/2 tsp salt, and 1-1/2 tsp pepper until combined. Add meats to bread mixture, gently mixing with your hand until just combined (do not overmix).
Here is where I deviated from the recipe:
I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.
I patted out the meat mixture into roughly a 12 x 14 rectangle. Then using a long knife blade, I cut length-wise and cross-wise, about 1-1/2" x 1-1/2", to create squares. Then, I picked up each square, one by one, and formed meatballs. I placed the meatballs on a foil-lined baking sheet and once the sheet was full, I put it in the preheated oven and baked for about 45 minutes, or until the balls were browned on top.
Meanwhile, I made my sauce. You can make your own or use a really good jarred sauce. Once the meatballs come out of the oven, put as many as you want into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Freeze the extra meatballs for future meals.
Recipe says it makes 70 meatballs.

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