So that was the end of the vacation photos. Sigh. And now it’s just a rainy, humid day in the Midwest without a hermit crab in sight.
What’s left to talk about? We’ve been busy this summer, busy in that fun, summer kind of way, but still not nearly enough berry picking or pool splashing to call the summer done. Here we are rolling into August, a seventh!?! birthday to plan and celebrate, school supplies to purchase, last year’s jeans to try on again. We have a few late summer tricks up our sleeves in the coming weeks, but the rain is keeping us in on this Friday and out of the yard and the garden and the pool.
One thing we’ve certainly mastered this summer is eating. We’ve been eating well, and plenty of it. The sun and the rain and the stars have aligned to produce some of the best produce I’ve tasted in awhile. We may find ourselves eating some things that have traveled a bit to get here, but for the most part we’ve been able to feast, Kingsolver-style, from the fruits of our region quite well.
This shot will never be seen in a gourmet magazine, but it does sort of represent the love of food around these parts. Occasionally I post a beloved recipe on this blog, and this one has definitely become one. It is technically a “kid” recipe, but that’s laughable. You are looking at the poster child for the one-size-fits-all menu. If you can eat it, she’ll take it, thank you very much. This recipe seems a bit hearty for summer, but really, it’s full of summer goodies, and if you serve it a bit on the cooler side of hot, it’s delish.
Meatballs with Polenta
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil and spray with oil.
In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup oat bran and 1/4 cup whole milk. Add 1 lb ground beef, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 T dried dill, 1/8 t fresh grated nutmeg, 1/1 t salt, 1/4 t pepper and 1 egg, lightly beaten. You can substitute your own favorite spices in place of those listed above…oregano, fennel seeds, etc. We used grass-fed beef from a nearby farm and bought the oat bran in bulk. Combine ingredients with your hands until just blended but not over worked. Roll into mini-meatballs (45-50 of them) and place on prepared sheets. Bake until browned and cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Spoon over polenta and top with sauce.
Bring 2 cups water and 1/2 t salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup polenta. Cook, stirring frequently with a whisk to prevent lumps and sticking, until polenta is thickened and has absorbed all the water, 15-30 minutes. Stir in 1 t unsalted butter and let cool. Stir in a handful of grated Parmesan if you like.
Hidden Veggie Sauce
Heat 2 T olive oil in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup finely diced onion and cook until translucent, 4 minutes. Add 1 clove minced garlic and cook 1 minute more. Reduce heat to low, add 1/4 cup of spinach puree, 1/4 cup of sweet potato puree, 1 T tomato paste, 1/4 t dried oregano, 1/4 t pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Increase heat to high, add 2 cups of chopped tomatoes (or one 26 oz can of strained tomatoes if not in season) and 1 T of blackstrap molasses and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Layer polenta in bowl, add a few meatballs on top, ladle a scoop of sauce over the top and add a dollop of ricotta cheese if you like. Prepare for a delicious mess and lots of ‘”mmm’s” from the high chair crowd. The meatballs and sauce freeze. The polenta keeps in fridge for 3-4 days. Great for lunch leftovers. Use veggie meatballs if so inclined. This may involve more stovetop work than you care for on a hot summer day, but it’s really not hard at all. We still use our Babycook daily to steam and puree, so that makes the spinach and the sweet potato purees a breeze. You could experiment with other veggies to throw in – these just give you a power packed, vitamin-rich sauce for the effort. Plus, we still have a few frozen purees leftover from the baby food stage that we are incorporating into sauces. The molasses adds iron, but I suppose you could skip that as well. I vote for buying some – it gives you a quick excuse to make delicious gingerbread when you keep it as a pantry staple. (Recipe from Cooking for Baby, Williams Sonoma)
The sun’s out again, so maybe we’ll make our way into the humid outdoors this afternoon. I’ll share pictures of last weekend’s adventures tomorrow, and then set about with the camera some more – trying to capture the last of these summer days. Happy Friday!