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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Fridge Monster Spits out Cherries from Freezer

My excuse is I have a very small kitchen. That’s my excuse for just about everything. Like why when you open the fridge door does it look like a wall of food. The same with the pantry door.

My excuse is I can stand in the middle of my kitchen and touch the sink, stove, counter island, and fridge (but not the pantry).

But the truth is, if the kitchen was bigger, it would still be the same. I’d just have a bigger fridge with even more stuff in it. And a bigger pantry with more things in it.

My daughter opens the fridge door, stares at all the full shelves and declares there is nothing to eat.

Of course there’s nothing to eat because the fridge is full of fruits, vegetables, and condiments, like four kinds of mustard and a similar number of hot sauces. There are jars of green, and red curry pastes; red, and white miso; chili sauce, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce; ketchup, regular mustard, and pickle relish; red salsa, green salsa, guacamole; Worcestershire sauce, horseradish; and enough jams to host the queen’s birthday tea party.

There are multiple varieties of carrots, bok choy, Napa cabbage, lettuce, peppers, leeks, onions, cucumbers, a mango, oranges, lemons, limes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple in there.

And, of course, there is butter, creamers, coconut milk, anchovies, preserved lemons, various bouillon, waters, and lots of homemade salad dressings in various quantities.

There is no milk.

I need to get some.

The pantry has no fewer than four types of rice noodles; five kinds of rice; various pastas too numerous to list; most kinds of flour; vinegars of various countries; every kind of food coloring; golden syrup, molasses, Karo; nuts, lots of nuts; baking chips of many flavors; brownie mixes; and half a bag of chips. And a bunch of other stuff that I have to use a flashlight to find.

My daughter likes to stand in front of the cupboard and shake her head in disgust.

She does not bake.

I have all of these things because I grew up in a house with two brothers. Food barely made it into the refrigerator before it disappeared. I baked because cookies lasted a nanosecond in our house.  I baked when I went to college because it was cheaper than going to the bakery. The same with cooking. By my sophomore year, I lived in an apartment. In Boston. It is not cheap to eat out in Boston. But Boston had great markets. I would take the T (public transport) to the North End and come home with bags (also on the T) filled with fresh vegetables, bread, and meats. And shove them into an apartment-sized refrigerator. Sometimes I had more than fit into the refrigerator, which meant I would go on a cooking binge. Of course, the freezer wasn’t very large either. But it only usually had ice and ice cream.

So, clearly I have a problem. This summer, when I start Meadballs as a dinner service, I will have to use a rented commercial kitchen. The concept is fresh seasonal foods. My pantry will need to be minimal, since space will be at a premium. That won’t be too difficult since the fresh vegetables will be the star, condiments will be in supporting roles.

There are times when you can turn take fresh fruits and preserve their natural flavors to use at other times of the year. This week I made some room in my freezer by pulling out a bag of frozen local sour cherries. Instead of something sweet, I turned them into an accompaniment to a pork loin roast that I had grilled. In my case, I roasted the cherries to concentrate the natural sugars, then adapted a recipe from Laurel in Philadelphia to create a conserve by adding them to a mixture of brown sugar, vinegar, miso, mustard, garlic, and port to kick dinner’s butt. Combined with roasted broccoli, this dinner was a great.

You don’t have to have sour cherries in the freezer to make this – all you need is some sour cherry preserves, which is in most grocery stores either with the jams and jellies or in the specialty food aisle.

This will turn grilled pork chops or chicken into a special dinner on a weeknight.

It will certainly be on my menu when the cherry season arrives.

Tastefully yours,

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Sour Cherry Sauce with Mustard and Miso
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the jam, vinegar, miso, mustard, water, and Port. Bring to a simmer,k stirring until all of the water and Pork have been reduced and all you have is a thick jam - 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Stir in 
a a tablepoon water if too thick.

  2. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
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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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Pumped for Pumpkin Season

img_4703I am unabashedly a fan of pumpkin in all things except hot drinks (PSL). I’ve made pumpkin brownies, cakes, pies, scones, cookies and chili.

My love affair began years and years ago when I baked my first pumpkin to make a pie. I wondered why I couldn’t just use a regular pumpkin to make pumpkin pie. I was young and there was no Internet then, so I used a regular pumpkin – the type you carve for jack-o-lanterns. Those carving pumpkins, however, aren’t for pies. They have a high water content and not much flavor.

As my baking experience developed, I learned about sugar pumpkin. This is smaller pumpkin with much more flavor than your Halloween variety. But, for reasons I didn’t understand, it didn’t match the flavor of what is in the can of pure “pumpkin.” Plus, I adore the fall Italian specialty of a pumpkin sauce, used over pasta and to make lasagna. But the Italian pumpkin I’ve tasted is much more flavorful than American pumpkin.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that Italian pumpkin isn’t the same as the American variety. It looks more like a Hubbard squash than a pumpkin.

And, it turns out that what’s in those cans of Libby’s pumpkin is actually Dickinson squash, according to various foodie news outlets. Indeed, according to the FDA’s own regulations,  any type of golden-fleshed orange-type squash may be labeled as pumpkin. This would explain why, even if you cook at sugar pumpkin, it still doesn’t have the taste and consistency of canned pumpkin. Anyone who has eaten a butternut squash, a close relative of the Dickinson squash, can tell you that it is sweeter than even a sugar pumpkin.

img_4685
Roasted butternut squash, bottom, and pumpkin, top.

So when my CSA includes both a sugar pumpkin and butternut squash, you can bet I cook them both up (cut in half, scoop out seeds and bake at 375 degrees for about 90 minutes to 2 hours or until a knife can easily pierce the squash). When they are cool enough, I scoop both out into a bowl and allow to finish cooking. You will find some water in the bottom (that’s usually from the sugar pumpkin), which I drain out. I then puree the two together and use that as my squash mixture for baking. If that sounds like too much work, just buy the canned pumpkin, but not the canned pumpkin pie mix. Why not the blend? Because I like to control the sugar and the spices that go into my food.

If you have a taste for pumpkin, you are probably craving those sweeter squashes, such as the Hubbard, Kabocha, or butternut.

The cooking times for these squash may make working with them tiresome, but you could also cook them in your slow cooker instead of the oven. I just discovered this for a butternut squash. There is no peeling, piercing, or attempting to split lengthwise while taking one of your fingers off.

Just put a whole butternut in your slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours. Allow to cool, slice in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. It’s never been so easy or so good.

 

Enjoy squash season.

 

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Gingerbread
Cook Time 55 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Glaze
Cook Time 55 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Glaze
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.
  2. To make the cake, cream butter, vegetable oil and sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and crystalized ginger.
  4. In another bowl, combine eggs, molasses, pumpkin and pie spice.
  5. Mix in the flour and the squash into the creamed butter, alternating in thirds. So first, add one-third of flour mixture to creamed butter and combine until incorporated, Stir in one-third of pumpkin. Repeat with flour and pumpkin until all are mixed.
  6. Pour into loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. If you make muffins, this will be about 17 to 20 minutes baking time.
  7. In the meantime, make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, butter, orange extract, cream, and salt.
  8. Remove pumpkin gingerbread from oven. Brush with glaze while still warm if you want a shiny finish. Allow to cool and drizzle over top for a white finish.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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