Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spaghetti squash with meatballs

This is another idea I stole from Kids Magazine. You actually use the spaghetti squash as the pasta (hence the name). For meatballs they suggest simply slicing sausage. But I've never made meatballs so I decided to make the real things.

Start by steaming a large spaghetti squash for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, slice in half, scoop out the seeds, remove the peel, and then separate into noodles with your hands.

Meatballs are traditionally made with a few different kinds of ground meat, but there's no reason why you can't simplify. I made mine by mixing a pound of ground beef with a quarter cup of bread crumbs, a little dried oregano, one egg, salt, and pepper. The bread I used had caraway seeds, which added a little more flavor. You could also add fresh chopped or dried herbs. Mix everything together and then form into 1-inch balls. Fry these in a little olive oil and then add them to your tomato sauce while you're cooking it. I used my usual tomato sauce.* By the way, I usually keep stale bread in the freezer for breadcrumbs. I take out a slice and grate it.

I'm usually at least moderately happy with dinner, but this one was a big hit with all three of us -- even Jasper. It's a bit lighter than pasta spaghetti and meatballs, which means you can eat more (I served some rosemary bread on the side). The squash is actually closer to capellini than spaghetti. It's not as sweet as most squashes, so it went well with the sauce.

While I was making dinner I also worked on another project. We all keep little treasures for special occasions. For some women it's a pair of Chanel pumps, or a hand-made silk dress, or a pair of emerald earrings. For me it was 1.83 pounds of pork fat.

We're approaching Thanksgiving, which is the only time of the year when I bake pies. The reason I bake pies only once a year is because I feel compelled to do it the hard way or not at all. And I can only stand to bake pies the hard way once a year.

I render my own lard for the pie crusts. Not content with all butter or even with the perfectly successful shortening, I need the savory flavor and flakiness that home-rendered lard brings (not the dubious lard in the green box at the grocery store, either). For this you need good pig fat, preferably back fat. I got lucky this year and found some at the farmer's market from The Flying Pigs Farm. Flying Pigs specializes in hierloom pigs. Pie crusts made from lard rendered from hierloom pigs -- it's all so slow foods I want to puke.

But anyway, to render your own, lovely, luscious lard, put two (or so) pounds of pig back fat into a heavy pot along with a cup of water. Simmer for a few hours, remove the little crust that remains, strain into a glass jar, and there you have it. Be careful to watch that the fat does not stick to the bottom of your pot and burn. This happened to me today, and I'm now anticipating that my pies will have a slightly burnt flavor. Fortunately much of the carbon will separate from the fat as it cools. Oh well. I'm cooking dinner and chasing after a toddler and rendering fat all at the same time -- something has to give. I'll post again soon as I move on to step two, making the crusts.

*sautee some chopped garlic in olive oil. Add one and a half cans of crushed tomatoes, quarter cup balsamic vinegar or red wine, chopped herbs like basil or rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about fifteen minutes. For this dish I used only one can of tomatoes. This sauce is so easy there really is no reason to buy the stuff in a jar, which has too much sugar anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You render your own lard? [kowtowing] I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy. [/kowtowing]

I've thought about trying to find some leaf lard for my own pie crusts, but I wasn't meaning to go any further than asking at my favorite gourmet butcher or my favorite farmers' market pork purveyor.