Salad Days with the Meadballs

More than half of the Meadballs gathered this weekend in Erie for the annual Camp Cousins. My daughter was born during one of these gatherings 15 years ago.

But as the kids get older, their schedules become more complicated. The eldest is 18 and the youngest is 13. They live in New York, Virginia, and St. Louis, Mo. You can’t just haul them around wherever and whenever you want to go anymore.

I’m thankful for any opportunity to see the Meadballs, v2 (we are the originals) have a blast in Lake Erie and catch up. Although with SnapChat, etc., they stay in touch with one another pretty regularly.

As a result, I was also thankful for a slow start to Meadballs Meals. But now I’m ready to serve.

A couple of people have commented that this seems like work.

Indeed, it is work. But it is work I enjoy. It is work to go on vacation – you need to plan, pack, and do. Then you come home and pay the bills and do laundry. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to go on vacation. Sometimes doing what you love requires a little hard work.

Are there parts I do not like? You bet. I do not like the dishes. I do not like that I do not have a mechanical dishwasher. The dishwasher is me. Why? Because commercial dishwashers are expensive and complicated. And I am neither (some ex-boyfriends may disagree, but that’s another issue).

Are there parts I adore? Absolutely. I love the challenge of going to the farms and seeing what is seasonal – and then having to come up with a plan. This engages both the math side of my brain (portions, measurements, multiplying, etc) and the creative side (will it taste good, be pretty). And then there are the logistics. Some recipes I know from experience must be made and served immediately. There’s nothing like a poached egg served on a bed of roasted vegetables and topped with hot peppers and cheese – now that’s comfort food. But it won’t make it out of the kitchen, into the cooler, and to your doorstep.

That’s the experience I have from cooking for the past 45 years.

That’s a lot of cooking. But I”m always intrigued by new possibilities and combinations. Twenty years ago I never would have made an Asian chicken salad with tahini and toasted ramen. Yet that was on the menu last week. This week I will feature a flank steak with nectarines; and a flatbread with figs.

Some of these inspirations come from traveling to Italy, Greece, France, and Spain. Some are courtesy of the millions of experimental cooks sharing recipes on the Web.

The possibilities are endless. And that’s what I’m loving right now.

That – and all those little Meadballs growing up.

Didi and Pater surrounded by (clockwise from top) Jack Mead, William Hickey, Nicole Mead Oberle, Emily Mead, and David Mead. Missing are James Hickey, Michael Mead, and Alexandra Mead.

XOXOXO

Order soon!

Marnie

Marnie@Meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Thai Chicken Salad
The original recipe calls for almonds and peanut butter, but because of nut allergies in my family, I substituted toasted ramen noodles or sunflower seeds for the almond topping and tahini paste for the peanut butter.
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add oil to a small skillet over medium heat. Add the broken up (really break these up) ramen noodles. Cook, stirring, until toasted. Remove from heat. If you are going to make this dish ahead, store cooked ramen in an airtight container, and add them just before serving.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, tahini, soy suace, honey, fish sauce or Braggs, rice vinegar, and chili garlic sauce. If you are just using hot sauce, I suggest you mince a clove or 2 of garlic and add that. Mix well. If it is too thick, add a little water. Taste and adjust seasonings (like more soy or lime).
  3. Toss chicken with about 1/3 of the dressing.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cabbages, carrot, onion, and cilantro. Pour the remaining dressing over this and toss to combine. Serve on plates. Top with chicken, and then ramen noodles. If you have any leftover cilantro, use it to garnish.
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CSA Challenge with Meadballs

If you follow my Facebook page, either Marnie Mead or Meadballs Meals, my Instagram account, or Twitter account, m_meadballs   then you have seen some of my postings labeled #CSAchallenge or #Meadballs.

The point of these is to show what produce is arriving weekly at Erie County’s farms, or at least the farms I shop, and how I cook with it. This is to give you a taste of what Meadballs will be all about.

So on the first week that Post Farm’s CSA had produce, this is what I cooked:

The most fun was turning collard greens into wraps for enchiladas. Plus I learned to make a red enchilada sauce from scratch, which tastes a lot better than the canned stuff.

Each week there are some of the same products as the week before, scapes and kale, for example, have been consistent. But as the season progresses, more color starts coming into the basket.

This past week I turned bok choy into a noodle bowl topped with Alaskan salmon. While the salmon isn’t local, I do buy from local sellers. And the dish is built around the bok choy, with the salmon as a complement. For the garlic scapes and the lettuces, I created a grilled steak salad topped with chimichurri sauce, which is a sauce made with garlic, cilantro, parsley, other herbs, a dash of lemon, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Quiche is one of my favorites for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially when it is warm out. The greens come together nicely with some garlic, olive oil, and hot pepper. They get a swirl of kale pesto and land in a homemade crust with local eggs (Taylor Farms just down the street) and cream.

The final dish, bottom right, was a grilled pizza with caramelized cabbage and onions, which I finished with with some cognac-soaked golden raisins and some vinegar. This created a dish that had the right notes of sweet, sour, crunch, melty. The homemade crust was topped with smoked gouda and mozzarella cheeses and then finished with the onion/cabbage. Cabbage is divine this way, developing a rich flavor and sweetness. I have no idea why my Irish relatives insisted on boiling cabbage when they could do this.

Good thing I didn’t learn to cook from my Irish family. The Italians (by marriage) and my Jewish neighbors were much more influential. I’ll credit a college boyfriend for introducing me to real Chinese food in Boston, where I also learned how to prepare fresh seafood.

What this all stirs up are meals from Meadballs, which will be priced at about $10 to $12 per person for dinner and delivered either to your home or to a central drop spot. There will be three meals each week in a cooler bag. All of them will be prepared in my new kitchen, which currently is under construction. The plumber was here this week putting in the lines for the sinks; the electrician added the lighting and the outlets. Next up – paint and a polished concrete floor. Then the equipment will be delivered from A. Caplan in Waterford, which will be hooked up by Dobrich Electric and Longo Plumbing. If all goes according to schedule, I will clear the Health Department by the first week in August.

I have to admit, it was pretty frightening dipping into my savings to do this. While a relatively simple renovation, wiring, plumbing and equipment add up. My research showed anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 – depending.

That’s a pretty wide swing – but when you are talking about a kitchen exhaust hood costing $25,000 or more, it does add up. Since I’m not frying food, nor cooking over open flame indoors, that was an expense I could avoid. I still wound up on the lower side of the middle of that figure.

This is a no-loan operation. That is one thing I get from the Irish family. Invest in yourself first – don’t grow beyond what you can afford. That’s what started my grandfather in the newspaper business in 1888, and that’s what I’m doing nearly 130 years later. Although his investment was more like $250.

I digress. What if you want dinner from me?

Well there will be a couple of ways to do this:

I will post on Facebook what the weekly menus on Wednesdays or Thursdays. You can PM me, call me, e-mail me, or come to http://Meadballs.com and place an order. I will be able to take credit card/debit card orders using Square. You will be able to sign up for a flight of 6 or 12 weeks of meals (to take a break, just let me know), or 1 week at a time. Prices will be lower for those who sign up for multiple weeks. I’ll have an introductory

Some friends will be testing meals out over the next month. I’ll expand sampling beyond immediate friends and family once I have my license. You’ll be able to contact me and we can make arrangements to try out a sample meal then.

I’ll keep blogging details. And photos of the construction, as it comes along.

In the meantime, I picked up week 4 from Gordon Post’s farm in North East. Lots more greens, but more colorful veggies are coming soon; the tomatoes are between golf balls and baseballs. Blueberries from Conn’s Blueberry farm just down the road from Post should be ripe next week too. I picked up cherries from Mobilia Farms in North East and will be working with pork chops in a cherry sauce.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cabbage and onion pizza, which was inspired by Blue Apron.

Enjoy

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Caramelized Cabbage and Onion Pizza with Smoked Cheese
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring dough to room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit or prepare grill.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt butter with the olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add onion and cabbage, along with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until the cabbage and onions have turned a golden color and lost all of their liquid. Stir in raisins in cognac, vinegar, red pepper flakes (start with half and add more if you like), and thyme leaves. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the cognac's alcohol has cooked off. Allow to cool. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. While the cabbage cooks, lightly oil a rimmed cookie sheet. Or prepare your grill with a pizza stone.
  5. On a clean counter, use your hands or a rolling pin to gradually stretch your pizza dough to the desired shape (either the size of the sheet pan or your pizza stone). If it springs back while you are stretching/rolling - give it a 5 minute rest, and roll or stretch again. Repeat until the dough is the right size. Transfer to the sheet pan or to a pizza peel coated with cornmeal.
  6. Top the dough with the two shredded cheeses, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Top with the cooked cabbage combo. Brush exposed edges with olive oil.
  7. Bake or put on the grill either in the pan or on the stone, and cook for about 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through, Remove from the heat and brush crush edges with more olive oil. Let stand about 5 minutes before cutting.
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Breakfast in Paris

J’adore Paris. It’s as simple as that. After my first trip, 27 years ago, not so much. But we’ve both mellowed a bit, Paris and I. She is more accepting of visitors, especially if you make an attempt at being polite in her language – bon jour madame or monsieur goes a long way. As does s’il vous plait, or please. I am more tolerant of her idiosyncratic bureaucracy – things open and close according to forces that are not in my control; if someone can’t help you, wait 10 minutes or 24 hours, and, often, they can or will. I don’t know why. C’est la vie.

Terrorism has changed a lot of life. There are now threat alerts posted at major locations. There are armed – as in machine gun armed, military personnel in the subway checking ID and at attractions patrolling. The Eiffel Tower base is now barricaded do prevent explosive vans from blowing the whole thing, along with the people visiting, up.

But a lot hasn’t changed. Parisians get up. Get on the subway. Stop at cafés. And have croissants – some much better than others. But nearly all better than what we can buy here.  Our guide noted, however, that doctors recommend eating no more than 3 per week.

We weren’t there to listen to doctors. We were there to eat and drink in all things Paris – from the croissants, to the metro, to the churches, to the museums, to the shops, restaurants, cafés, and, to even have a picnic dinner in the park watching the Eiffel Tower put on its nightly light show while men with green plastic bags hawked Champagne, wine, and beer to fellow visitors. It was heavenly. Where else could you buy a salted caramel and chocolate Pot de Crème in a supermarket.

This visit, in addition to buying the Seine River cruise and the Catacombs tickets (if you buy in advance the line is only about 30 minutes instead of the normal 90 minutes to 2 hours or more), I booked a 3-hour croissant class at La Cuisine Paris. The cooking school, which offers classes in English and was highly recommended in a New York Times review of cooking classes.

It certainly lived up to its reputation. La Cuisine Paris offers many classes, including a market shopping class that includes making lunch or dinner, macaroons, baguette, etc. But, for my daughter and I, learning to make the basic French pastry was the ultimate experience.

Our teacher, Guillaume, was from Marseilles and trained in Lyon – the epicenter of French cooking. His English was perfect, as was his ability to teach to all levels in our class, which included a Canadian student who had spent the year in Paris and whose mother told him to come home having learned how to cook something. There were several amateur pastry makers – American and Canadian, two novices (including my daughter, 14), and a Paris dweller.

We learned the three keys to the perfect pastry – butter (must be at least 82 percent butterfat which is typically found in European butters but not American, which requires 80 percent), technique, and time.

About the butter – this is really crucial. Guillaume recommended we buy President in the United States. Or basically any French butter. I didn’t really understand until I read Dorie Greenspan’s article on the difference in how the French make their butter.  Here is an article on the various types of butter you can usually find in American grocery stores and how they stack up. They aren’t cheap – you are going to pay about 150 percent more for half the butter. If you are going to make pastry, this is not the time to go cheap. I’ve done it. You will regret it. Because you will have about 24 hours invested in the process of rising, rolling, laminating, baking, etc. If you are going to do all of this, don’t try to save $2.

This goes back to the basics of cooking. When you have one star ingredient – in this case butter – make sure it shines.

I’m giving it a shot here in my U.S. kitchen. I bought butter yesterday – and I’m being daring using a U.S. butter cultured in the European fashion (the ratings are recommended, but not as high as Plugra, which is the best and I couldn’t find). The dough is rising as I write.

Right now, though, the best ingredient you can find in our area is strawberries. I went out on Sunday – complete with jet lag and 84 degrees – and picked 8 quarts. I will be back this afternoon because all of those berries are turning into fancy little shortcake cakes. Not the biscuit kind, but the ones made with a sponge cake, a lemon simple syrup, lots of whipped cream, and berries. Lots and lots of berries.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. And I’ll keep you posted on the croissants.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line with parchment and grease parchment. Or use mini paper cake pans that you have coated in cooking spray.
  2. Cut off tops of strawberries and thinly slice half of them, leaving remaining berries whole. Mix sliced strawberries with superfine sugar and half the lemon zest and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs and egg white on high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually pour in 1 1/4 cups sugar. Whip on high speed until mixture is a pale yellow and thick, 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in milk, vanilla and butter until completely combined. (I melt the butter in the milk when warming in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds).
  5. Gently pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and peel off baking paper. Let cool completely. If you are using mini cake pans, bake for 15 minutes, then check, and turn to evenly distribute heat. Check again after 5 minutes.
  6. To make syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup) sugar, 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and optional pepper. Simmer on medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining lemon zest.
  7. Whip heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  8. Using a serrated knife, horizontally slice cake in half. Generously brush each cut side with lemon syrup. Place the bottom half, cut side up, on a cake plate. Spoon sliced strawberries and any juices over it. Spread half the whipped cream over strawberries. Place the other cake half on top. Spread remaining whipped cream on top. Garnish with whole strawberries and drizzle with more lemon syrup for serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cooking at New York Times. Recipe by Melissa Clark with some modifications by Marnie Mead.

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Tacos are on the Money

There’s a certain weirdness to going on the air of a radio station and knowing that the listeners are going to hate you. And getting up really early to do it. And doing it – voluntarily – for 3 hours.

Yet, Pam Parker – editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle magazine and Her Times magazine – and I have been joining Tom New, president of WQLN Public Media, for the spring fundraising drive for nearly a decade.

Yep. Nearly 10 years of begging for money on the air.

It’s a privilege and a pain.

Privilege because even though I spent most of my adult life in the for-profit end of the media business, I have been a supporter of public media since shortly after I had enough left from my paycheck to support something other than myself. I know that bringing news and entertainment to the public is not free – even thought listeners and watchers don’t pay for it like they do for the newspaper (my prior employers).

So if you listen or watch this bright, smart, sometimes funny, often interesting, programming – then I think you should pay for it. The government does not fund your local public radio station or TV station – more than 85 percent of that money comes directly from you. So, if you don’t listen or watch, then don’t give.

I get it.

But if you do, then go to WQLN.org.

Enough preaching.

While you are listening to Pam, Tom, and I ask you for money on Monday morning, we know you don’t like us to interrupt your programming. So we know we have to be chirpy and bright despite knowing you really don’t like us.

And we like to be liked.

So we get really enthusiastic when the phone rings. Or donations come in through the web site. Some years, the phones ring – especially after 7 a.m. (we start at 6 a.m.). Other years, it’s so quiet we can hear the spring peepers outside.

This year was a little on the peeper side. But we also came into the campaign with about $47,000 already in the bank courtesy of people in the sustainer category – they commit to annual giving via a credit or debit card in monthly installments. It’s easy for both the giver and WQLN. I think of it like my Netflix subscription. I pay for that each month on my bank card – why not public media. Plus it gives me access to past programming.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan. Plus I serve on the WQLN board of directors.

But it’s pretty exhausting on the air begging for money from 6 to 9 a.m. Even if you love the people you are on the air with.

By 5 p.m., all I wanted to do was take a nap. But, that’s the dinner hour. And I have a 14-year-old to feed healthy food.

Tacos are friend to moms everywhere. They can be a nutritional nightmare of grease, cheese, and sour cream. Or you can replace the ground beef with chicken thighs, and add more fruits and veggies.

This recipe takes advantage of things i keep in the house. I always have some chicken thighs in the freezer because they cook quickly when chopped, are protein heavy, and are very versatile. Taco seasoning is in my cupboard always, as are pineapple fruit cups, because they are easy to pack for lunch, add to a salad, or mix with yogurt or cottage cheese. In this recipe, you’ll use the pineapple liquid to cook the chicken.

Salsa verde is in the fridge, as are some form of tortilla or flatbread wrap. Peppers and onions are usually hanging out in the crisper.

I also keep avocados around because they add a vegetable to a sandwich or snack — making them just a little healthier.

In less than 25 minutes, you’ll wind up with this beauty – which is a whole lot tastier than takeout tacos.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

After dinner, I took the dog for a stroll and then hit the sack.

Dreaming, all the night, about selling tacos to raise money for public broadcasting.

Please give. I need to sleep.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Chicken Thigh Tacos with Pineapple Avocado Salsa
Course dinner
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Drain and reserve pineapple juice. In a small bowl, mash avocado. Add pineapple bits, salsa verde, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of minced red onion. Set aside.
  2. In a medium to large saute pan, add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. Add sliced onion and red peppers. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Saute until onion is soft and slightly caramelized. This will take about 10 minutes or longer. Add more oil if needed. Remove from heat and place into a bowl.
  3. Toss chicken thighs with taco seasoning.
  4. Add remaining oil to pan and, over medium heat, add chicken thighs. Cook until done, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved pineapple juice. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until juice is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. To prepare: Arrange tortillas on plates (1 or 2 per plate, depending on size). Top with each with equal amounts of radish slices, chicken, onion and pepper mixture, then pineapple salsa. Serve. divide equally among the tortilla shells.
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