Friday, May 4, 2007

To Feed the Hungry

I was speaking with Sarah Jane last night. She used to teach at our old school and has since moved way on up to Alaska. I used to marvel at this woman's resourcefulness and her cookbooks. Before they left, she imparted to me Fannie Farmer's Book of Baking, all their single-malt Scotch, and a lamb's breast. Lamb's breast was to make Navarin of Lamb.

Lamb is an interesting food for me. Mainly because I am a girl and therefore I have girly, emotional silliness when faced with cooking lamb. Recipes or dishes that have done me to death at the mere mention of their name: Warm Lamb's Tongue Salad (a Napa invention to be sure) or Laban Ummo. Navarin of Lamb killed me with its recipe. And the answer to your question is: no, I do not want to know from where my food comes. Laban Ummo means something like, in his mother's milk. It is an ancient dish that predates Judaism and is thought to go all the way back to Canaanite sacrifice. It was a young lamb, who was slaughtered and cooked in yogurt made from his mother's milk. I cried my eyes out when I read that in my cookbook (and I haven't cooked from it yet).

OK, so where was I? AH! So, Sarah Jane was telling me that she had made her meatloaf and now she was making her meatballs. To which I replied aren't you doing that backwards? See, I like meatballs, meatloaf is what happens to the leftover ground chuck after I have filled the pot full of meatballs.

I'll have to see if she will post her meatloaf recipe. Maybe it'll change my mind about meatloaf.

Here is a fail-proof recipe for meatballs (and no left overs):

The Sauce:

olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic minced
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon flaked red pepper
1 can (28 oz) Whole Tomatoes, drained and pulsed in the blender (yes, it does make a difference)
1 small can of plain tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup Merlot or burgundy wine
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
some fresh basil finely chopped
a bunch fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley finely chopped

In a heavy sauce pan or pot (I use Grandmother's cast iron dutch oven), pour a generous amount of olive oil and heat until you see the shimmer of heat and a whisper of smoke. Turn the heat down to med-high. Put your onion in the pot, stir. After a minute add the gaic and the red flake pepper. Saute. Do not let it brown or burn. Turn the heat down to med if needed. When the onion mixture is beginning to look translucent. Add to the pot: the pulsed can of tomatoes, the can of tomato sauce, and the whole can of tomato paste. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the wine, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning. Stir. Taste. Add more a little more wine if needed, adjust seasonings to taste. Lower heat to simmer and cover. Move on to the meatballs (we're not done with the sauce yet).

The Meatballs:

vegetable oil
1lbs ground beef 7% fat
1lb ground chuck 20% fat
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 pieces of bread soaked in milk (1/4 cup), torn and squeezed out
2 eggs
2-3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Put everything in a large bowl EXCEPT the bread. Evenly cover the ground meat with seasoning so that it doesn't have any unseasoned pockets when you mix it. Now, take the milk -sopped- bread and scatter it over the meat and dig in. (Alternately, you could use a stand mixer, but really? Be a woman!) Mix until combined. Using a tablespoon or a cookie scoop or you hands make 1 1/2 - 2 in balls and put them into a large skillet with hot vegetable oil (it must be hot or it will wreck the meatballs). Brown the meatballs on all sides on high heat and transfer them to your pot of simmering sauce to finish cooking (remember keep it covered between batches). It can take as many as 3 batches depending on the size of your skillet. when you are done, let the meatballs cook another 10 minutes in the gently simmering sauce. Then add your basil and parsley to your sauce giving it a final quick stir, turn down to low and now start your pasta.

I always serve this with plenty of Parmesan, French bread and green salad. Yummy, enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Adventure: Clothing the Naked

This is the face of a whole work of mercy.

Meet D. This is my clothing optional child. This is also my sneaky-quick-getaway child. This is child number three. Do you see that narrow strip of fence in the background? That fence is six feet of rough-hewn wood which he scaled bare-hinnied.

Josephus's favorite joke recently? What do you call D when he is standing in the street? D-flat.

The police have been called three? four? At least, four times to aid in the search for my child (who may very well possess mystical abilities such as levitation and/or bi location ). All of those times he was home safe, sleeping: in a book box or under a crib or in the bottom of the linen closet covered by immaculately laid blankets, et cetera. And every time I call 911, there is this moment as I am frantically trying to recall what he was wearing (stripey green shirt? blue penguin slidey shirt? Oh, Lord! Please! Tell me I got clothes on this child today and I didn't leave him in his pajamas . . .) when I find . . . his pants. And every time, there is this humiliating, but equally horrifying moment when I have to tell the operator, "Ma'am? Um, I'm sorry, uh - - he's not wearing any pants . . ."
The humiliation part is easy. Horrifying because, as a mother, I have this terrible image that there are extra-opportune predators cruising neighborhoods looking for my pant-less kid. Sort of like looking for a fast-food joint . . .

OK, so, this is where I take heart. Even our most Blessed Mother, Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven lost her son for three whole days in a giant city during Passover. And I am pretty sure, she was thinking the whole time: How did this happen? We've lost the Son of God! What horrible things could happen! And then probably not, but maybe she looked at St. Joseph with one of those: What do you mean? I thought he was with you! Three days. I know when D. was lost for more than 3 hours once the seconds fell away like drops of blood and the longer we went on not finding him the more hopeless I became that I would ever see my little boy again. It took me six weeks to recover from the fact that he had taken a nap under a bunch of pillows and was so small and so still that even the police, who ransacked my house,, could not believe that he had been in the house the entire time.

So, I take heart in the Gospel, that even given DIVINE intervention we cannot always be certain that our little ones are where we left them. But nothing drives home the importance of clothing the naked like looking for your child and finding his crumpled little pants on the floor near his escape route while speaking with a 911 operator. At least Mary wasn't thinking, "but Lord, was he wearing any pants?!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


(why I am telling you my business)

I am a wife of nearly 8 years, a mother of five, and a Roman Catholic convert. All of which is to say, that most of my vocation is about telling you, someone, anyone what they ought to be about and what plain isn't their concern. This blog is about my business, my life, and mostly my opinions. I opine; therefore I blog.

Mothers work.

That is a statement, not a grammatical error. I will not take the time or space here to chastise the ignorant with my pile of laundry or stacks of dirty dishes or soggy hinneys. Most women know that someone has to do this stuff. All I will add to the conversation right now is this: to raise your own children is more noble than any other occupation around save maybe holy orders.

Our work cover the bounds of the myriad of the acts of mercy. For you who are not familiar with
the traditional enumeration of the corporal works of mercy is as follows:
  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead

The spiritual works of mercy are:

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.
I will have to leave you now so that I can go back to that work.