The poor meatball. So often relegated to childrens’ menus and questionable smorgasbords at discount furniture chains, the meatball is rarely given a real chance to shine. But we know the truth – that with the right ingredients and a little respect, meatballs can be complex, delicate, immensely satisfying and borderline elegant.
Clearly, we are a family of meatball enthusiasts, from Middle Eastern kofta, heavy with green herbs and deep spices to dreamy Swedish köttbullar, smothered in peppery cream sauce. And, of course, there’s the classic Italian-American; three meats, breadcrumbs, and some parmesan, all rolled into a covetable package. Jake has perfected his version which, when sauteed in just enough butter (a lot), and finished off in a pan of saucy tomatoes, manages to couple a toothsome crust and a melt-in-your-mouth center. Poured over a bowl of bucatini or creamy polenta, this classic peasant dish will make you feel like well-fed royalty.
Make the meatballs:
+ ½ cup milk
+ ½ cup bread crumbs
+ 2 eggs
+ 2 tbsp parmesan
+ ½ lb veal
+ ½ lb beef
+ ½ lb hot Italian pork sausage
+ 2 tbsp olive oil
+ 2 tbsp butter
1. Combine milk and bread crumbs in a small bowl until the all of the milk is absorbed.
2. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix the three meats with the eggs, parmesan, and bread and milk mixture. Make sure it is well blended but don’t over mix, as the meatballs will lose their fluffiness.
3. Place a large saute pan on high heat with the oil and butter.
4. Form the meat mixture into 1.5 – 2 inch rounds, and brown in small batches. Do not overcrowd pan.
5. Brown meatballs until they have a deep brown crusty exterior, a couple minutes on each side. One whole batch should take about 5-7 minutes – the balls don’t need to be 100 percent cooked at this point. When done, put meatballs aside.
Make the sauce:
+ (2) 28 oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes
+ 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
+ 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1. Using the drippings from the meatballs, saute the onions and garlic in the same pan until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, roughly crushing each tomato with your hand or a large wooden spoon.
3. Bring sauce to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the meatballs back into the sauce and cook for another 15 minutes.
5. Pour over pasta or polenta and serve with some grated parmesan and pepper.
Note: This recipe originally appeared on RuralIntelligence.com on Dec 7, 2014. It's been back-dated here on our blog so that it falls, seasonally, in the right place.
Nobody’s perfect all the time. We do our best to stick to a seasonal produce schedule, buying locally when we can and often amending recipes or changing culinary tacks when we can’t. But there’s one night, almost weekly, when we fill our grocery carts with abandon, and that’s taco night.
Sure, we do our best. We buy our steak from North Plain Farm and our radishes, cabbage, tomatoes, even jalapeños, from farms around the county. But we just can’t let go of our beloved guacamole, and the avocados and limes that it calls for. It’s a deliciously rebellious treat that we relish—so much so that we often over-buy for our table of two and happily gorge on leftovers for a few extra days.
But we’re always striving to bring it back to the Berkshires. The last couple taco nights we’ve been enjoying these delicious and easy corn fritters. They’re a quick way to get a little more local produce on our plates, and a great off-the-cob vehicle for the corn which is so bountiful and sweet this year. Serve with lime, avo and creme fraiche as a starter, or skip the tortillas all together and pile your taco fillings on top, torta-style. However you do it, you’ll be doing your local farmer a favor while enjoying more global flavor.
Corn and Jalapeño Fritters
+ 2 beaten large eggs
+ 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
+ 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
+ 1 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 2 cups fresh corn kernels
+ 1 thinly sliced scallion
+ 1 finely chopped seeded jalapeño
+ 2 tablespoons safflower oil (canola will work, too)
+ Flake salt
+ Creme fraiche, avocado and lime, for serving
1. Combine eggs, flour, grated Parmesan, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix well.
2. Add corn kernels, scallion, and jalapeño; pulse 2–3 times.
3. Heat oil in pan. When hot, cook heaping tablespoonfuls of batter until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Season patties with flake salt and serve with creme fraiche, avocado and lime.
Note: This recipe originally appeared on RuralIntelligence.com on August 17, 2014. It's been back-dated here on our blog so that it falls, seasonally, in the right place.
Given our particular affinity for berries, we are lucky to have inherited Jake’s grandmother’s home surrounded by raspberry, currant and gooseberry bushes. This year we added to the patch with hearty low and high-bush blueberries, lingonberries, huckleberries and elderberries sourced from Project Native. And now, we’re smack-dab in the middle of high berry season, with perfectly ripe blueberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries shouting out for our attention.
Most evenings before dinner, we grab a container and go out to mine our precious jewels from their shrubs. Snacking as we go, we never seem to tire of foraging from own backyard. What makes it back inside is often gobbled up that evening as is, by the handful. Occasionally, with a little extra time and energy, we’ll spoon them over biscuits with cream.
No matter how fast we chomp, though, we always get to a point where we cant keep up with the supply and we have to start preserving. One of our favorite ways to prolong our enjoyment is by making syrups. They are a super-quick and incredibly versatile way to stretch the season — and super yummy as a base for cocktails. Here’s our recipe for a simple currant syrup, which is just as good in a currant Cosmo as it is over vanilla ice cream.
+ 2 cups currants
+ 2/3 cup water
+ 4 tablespoons sugar
1. Place all of the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil.
2. Once the berries have reached a hard boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and walk away for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the syrup into a jar and, with a spoon, push the remains of the berries through the sieve.
+ 2 oz. vodka
+ 2 oz. currant syrup
+ 1 oz. vermouth
+ juice of one lime
1. Combine ingredients together in a cocktail shaker, shake until cold, and serve with a lime wedge or fresh berries.
Note: This recipe originally appeared on RuralIntelligence.com on July 21, 2014. It's been back-dated here on our blog so that it falls, seasonally, in the right place.
The Berkshires boasts many things, but nothing beats the incredibly strong feeling of community. Whatever you’re into, there’s a group of people waiting to welcome you—and whether it’s music and performing arts, or yoga and mediation, each community contributes to that harmonious local buzz we all love. It’s probably no surprise that we find ourselves most involved in the food community. And at every turn we smack into like-minded souls—in organizations like Berkshire Farm & Table, at restaurants like Prairie Whale, and with farms like Indian Line and its enthusiastic and knowledgeable Market crews.
This weekend, at the bustling Great Barrington Farmers Market, we stopped by the ILF stand to see what was ready for the cooking. Manning the stand was none other than Alana Chernila, local author and our partner in bi-weekly RI recipe-writing crime, who insisted that we bring home a bunch of bright green (a.k.a. spring) garlic. “Here!” she said, “Make a soup! I wanted to write about it but by the time it’s my week again, it’ll be too late!” We love that kind of rushed, eat it while you can and then wait another year, kind of seasonal local eating. So, of course, we said “Why not?”
We had a bunch of asparagus and stinging nettle waiting at home, along with some sorrel that sorely needed harvesting. So, with the addition of our spring garlic bundle, this simple, pureed soup pretty much came together on its own. It’s cooling, light, quick and very, very green – perfect for a light lunch, a casual dinner party kick-off, or a community potluck.
Spring Garden Soup
Serves 8 as a first course
+ olive oil
+ 2 lbs asparagus, tips removed and stalks chopped into 1” pieces
+ 1/4 lb green garlic, cut into 1/4” rounds, green and white parts separated (if you can’t get any, use an onion instead)
+ 8 cups rich, homemade chicken stock
+ 1/4 lb fresh sorrel leaves, sliced into slivers
+ 1/4 lb stinging nettle leaves (if you can’t get any, make up for it with more asparagus or sorrel)
+ 1/2 cup minced chives
+ 1 cup heavy cream
1. Saute the white part of the green garlic with some oil in a pot.
2. Pour in the chicken stock and simmer the asparagus in it for 10 minutes, or until tender.
3. Meanwhile, roast the asparagus tips and the green part of the green garlic in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
4. Once the asparagus is tender, put the sorrel and stinging nettles into the stock.
5. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the cream and bring the soup to just short of a boil.
6. In a blender, or with an immersion blender, puree and let soup cool.
7. Serve in small bowls with a few chives, roasted asparagus tips, green garlic and a spoonful of goat’s milk yogurt scattered over the top.
Note: This recipe originally appeared on RuralIntelligence.com on May 27, 2014. It's been back-dated here on our blog so that it falls, seasonally, in the right place.
We thought we might not make it, but here we are. This past weekend really felt like the first of a new, warmer season. Of course, with these newly warm days, our impulse is to buy up all the lettuce plants we can carry, and fill our carts with asparagus and peas. But unfortunately, despite what the recent bursts of sunshine might imply, it’s still a little too early to be planting our patches, let alone expect much in the local produce aisle (aside from a few foraged treats and hothouse goodies, of course).
While we hold out just a few more weeks for truly local veggies, there are a few green things we can always count on to pop up bright and early in our own backyard – spring herbs. Chives, tarragon, parsley… as soon as they start showing, we chop them right back down, sprinkling them in soups, salads and pastas as fast as we can. And, as though they relish the challenge, they spring right back up, ready for more. One of our favorite vehicles is an easy, rustic and forever yummy potato salad we call our Potato Mash-Up with Spring Herbs. It’s perfect next to a grilled steak or chop, and even better when shared with friends at a pot-luck or picnic.
Potato Mash-Up with Spring Herbs
+ 2 lbs red potatoes – washed with skin left on (you can also use Yukon Gold if you prefer)
+ 3 tablespoons butter
+ 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
+ 1 tablespoon olive oil
+ 1 loosely packed cup of your choice of chopped herbs, plus more for garnish
+ salt and pepper
1. Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Throw in a few tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. 2. In the meantime, bring out a large serving bowl. In the bottom, mix the oil and mayonnaise until they’ve combined. Add the butter and herbs, plus a few dashes of salt and pepper. 3. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and add to the serving bowl. Toss to cover with butter, oil and herbs, artfully smashing a few potatoes while leaving some whole. 4. Add a garnish of extra herbs, salt and pepper, and maybe another pat of butter for good measure. Enjoy!
Note: This recipe originally appeared on RuralIntelligence.com on May 13, 2014. It's been back-dated here on our blog so that it falls, seasonally, in the right place.
We tend to be a bit South County-centric in our food shopping and field trips, but there is one NoCo destination that we make an exception for, and that's Cricket Creek Farm.
CCF is a dairy farm in Williamstown, MA, that produces amazing cheeses, raw milk and butter, as well as fantastic beef, veal, and pork products. At their charming farm store, which is within eyesight of the milking parlor and cheese-making room, you can also pick up a host of yummy local food products like Hosta Hill kraut, Fire Cider, eggs, maple syrup, whole grains, and bread.
Our love and admiration for Cricket Creek started with the products themselves. Whenever we put together a cheese plate, we always serve their unctuous Tobasi, gooey and creamy Berkshire Bloom, and delicate alpine Maggie's Round. But then we visited the farm! We couldn’t get over how beautiful and transparent the whole operation was - the cows grazing, the young apprentices carefully forming cheese, the pigs slurping up whey, a stray cat, and smiles everywhere. At the helm is the lovely Suzy Konecky, farm manager, who enthusiastically works everyday toward building a stronger, thriving agricultural community in the Berkshires.
In our view, Cricket Creek is a model for the future of sustainable local food production - a vertically-integrated farm that focuses on the production of a well-made value-added product. While the farm's focus is on high-quality artisanal cheese production, they need to make good use of their waste products to remain sustainable. So they feed their whey to a small herd of heritage breed pigs, which are then processed and sold frozen from the store. They also sell fantastic beef, which comes from their culled cows and male calves. And looking toward the future, CCF is constantly experimenting with their herd, introducing different genetics and working towards finding the perfect cow for their operation.
But, of course, they don't stop there! Cricket Creek is also exceptionally community oriented. Between the community potlucks they host every Thursday, the farm's generous public open hours, the work they do with several other farms in the area to provide full diet CSA’s, and the educational workshops they host with organizations like NOFA, there's always something going on.
It's a dizzying array of systems and yet, through all of it, Suzy and her team maintain incredibly welcoming smiles - while buying eggs from local farmers, instructing apprentices on when to add rennet, experimenting on cheeses washed in Fire Cider, herding some mischievous calves, getting ready to open an all-local cheese counter at Berkshire Organics, putting together an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, and taking the time to explain how they make our favorite cheeses. It is so exciting to watch this visionary farm grow, and we are so lucky to be a part of its support system.
There is nothing that captures the essence of a season quite like ripe fruit. Sweet berries in the spring, juicy stone-fruit in the summer, crisp apples in the fall, and tangy citrus in the winter. We always have an overflowing bowl of seasonal fruit sitting on our kitchen table, lest we waste one single moment of the limited-time-only bounty.
This is a bit of a new revelation for us, though. When we were living in New York City, doing the bulk of our shopping at the Union Square Farmers Market, we never bought much citrus – as you know it doesn't exactly thrive in the Hudson Valley or Northern Pennsylvania. But now, with Jake working at the Berkshire Co-op, we have fully embraced winter citrus, and all of the refreshing flavors and vibrant colors that come with it. Just because it's not in season here in the Berkshires doesn't mean it's not in season, and grown organically, somewhere else!
Along with our new love affair with winter citrus, we've taking up a healthy obsessed with making citrus curds. After much experimentation, and with a rainbow of curds sitting in our fridge, we realized we had to do something to show them, and our hard work, off. So off we went to make a open-sided, citrus curd layer cake. Using Smitten Kitchen's 1-2-3-4 Cake as a base, we stacked up stripes of Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange curds, and whipped cream. Finished off with a Pomello-Lime glaze and a sprig of mint, we created a show-stopper of a cake. If we do say so ourselves.
+ 3 to 4 Meyer lemons or 1 to 2 blood oranges
+ ½ cup sugar
+ 2 large eggs
+ 1 stick unsalted butter
1. Finely grate 2 teaspoons of zest and squeeze ½ cup of your chosen citrus juice.
2. Melt the butter, and let cool.
3. Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, butter, and eggs in a metal bowl and set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth.
4. Force curd through a fine sieve into another bowl. Cool, covered, in the refrigerator.
+ 1 cup of confectioner's sugar
+ ½ cup citrus juice (we used Pomelo and Lime)
+ 1 tsp citrus zest
1. Whisk ingredients together until smooth
1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake
Adapted From Smitten Kitchen
+ 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
+ 2 cups sugar
+ 4 eggs
+ 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
+ 1 cup milk
+ 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy.
3. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
6. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed.
7. Divide batter equally between two 10-inch greased round pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and to get a more level top.
8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Constructing the Cake
1. Allow all elements to cool to room temperature. Cut both cakes in half horizontally with a long knife. A bread knife works well here!
2. Here's where it gets fun! Over a cooling rack, or right on top of a serving plate, place the first layer of cake. Cover generously with a layer of curd, then place another cake on top. Cover with whipped cream, another cake, the remaining curd, then the last cake. Pour the glaze over top and allow to drip over the edges. Top with a few mint sprigs and you're done!
This can be a hard time of year to get excited about local, seasonal, sustainably-sourced food in New England. You can only eat so many grains and root veggies before you start thinking about bending your food rules. But then, just in the nick of time, winter's saving grace pours into the grocer's case.
That's right, we're talking about citrus! American citrus is at it's peak right about now, and while oranges and lemons aren't exactly local, they can can easily be sourced from responsible organic farmers throughout the country. And man oh man, does it add some zing and zest to our browning plates and greying days.
On our honeymoon this fall, we visited Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Along with azure Caribbean waters and spring breakers, the Yucatan has a vibrant farming community with a rich agricultural history. In every market we visited (and trust us, we sought out quite a few) we were stunned by the towering piles of limes, sweet and sour oranges, grapefruits and lemons. And in every restaurant we visited, we found ourselves coming back to the classic Yucatan dish: Puerco Pibil.
Peurco Pibil is pork shoulder which is marinated in sour orange and ground achiote then slow roasted in banana leaves, over an open fire. A prime example of Yucatan flavor and technique, the pork becomes soft and velvety, with a deep orange hue and a unique tang. If that wasn't enough, it's then served with fresh corn tortillas and bright red onions, pickled in sour orange and salt.
We've been reminiscing about this dish and decided to try our best to recreate the experience, taking advantage of all the great available citrus. Of course, we made a few substitutions to keep the meal as local as possible. Rather than buy tortillas we served the pork over polenta, and we used a mix of US organic Hamlin oranges and limes instead of the traditional Mexican sour orange. The pork came from Great Barrington's North Plain Farm, and the spices from El Punto De Encuentro Latin Market. And because it's winter and we don't have banana leaves, we tried to emulate the effect by doing a slow-and-low roast in a covered enamel pot.
+ 5 tbs Achiote seed
+ 1 ½ tbs of dried Mexican oregano
+ 1 ½ black peppercorns
+ 1 ¼ tsp cumin seeds
+ ½ tsp whole cloves
+ 6 inches of roughly ½ inch thick Mexican cinnamon (canela) or 1 1.2 tbs of ground cinnamon
+ 1 tbs spoon of Salt
+ 14 garlic cloves, peeled
+ 1/2 cup of fresh oranges- 3 Hamlin oranges
+ 1 cup of fresh lime juice- 10 limes
+ 12 pounds of bone in pork butt (cam be split into two or three pieces)
Pickled Red Onion
+ 3 large red onions
+ 1 1/3 cups fresh lime juice- 12 limes
+ 2/3 fresh orange juice- 4 Hamlin oranges
1. Grind the spices together. You can use a spice grinder, a coffee grinder or a good old mortar and pestle – or just use pre-ground spices and herbs.
2. In a blender mix the spices, garlic and juice until the marinade has a slightly chalky texture between your fingers.
3. Place the meat in an enamel or cast iron pot and pour marinade over it. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Heat the over to 200. Cook the pork, with marinate still on it, in the pot for at least 6 hours, or until it pulls apart easily.
5. While meat is cooking slice onion thinly, and place in a bowl. Bring a pot of water to boil and pour over onions for 10 seconds then drain. Place onions in a small bowl with juice and salt.
6. Take the meat out of the oven and shred. Serve with pickled onion and corn tortillas or polenta.
This recipe can also be found on Rural Intelligence.