Archives for posts with tag: Main Course

It was my dad’s birthday last month and my mom and sister organized a fabulous cocktail party for him.  It’s almost a month later and I’m still thinking about the spread they put together.  I wasn’t even there to taste anything, but the pictures of the food I saw have left a lasting impression. My sister and I brainstormed a menu together.  I think I can attribute that session of feeding off each other and coming up with ideas to my push to be more active on my blog again.  While we were discussing I became inspired,  I came up with some pretty good appetizer ideas if I say so myself!

While my sister went shopping for the ingredients I would be on Whatsapp receiving pictures of everything and giving my feedback.  If was a lot of fun and it would have been even more enjoyable if we could have done it together.  See, my whole family is obsessed with food and eating.  We always have been and always will be.  We take pride in having people over and entertaining them.  It’s our goal that people remember the food, ambiance and company.  I’m not being a hater, but I’ve been to way too many gatherings where food is just plopped into foil trays with no thought and no presentation.  I would rather curl up and retire in a cave than serve anything in such a manner.

I think it might have something to do with my upbringing.  If somebody comes over at the last-minute I get super stressed out if I don’t have fresh flowers in the house, if I don’t have anything to feed them.  I will go into panic mode and clean my already clean place and get everything I need as quickly as I can.  I’m sure my guest wouldn’t have noticed, but when I have people over I like to entertain in a certain way .  I also wish more people were into it, but when I see all these beautiful blogs and websites I get really happy inside to find people who think the same way as me. 🙂

As I was saying, my sister and mom did a fabulous job at arranging the birthday party.  One of the appetizers we all came up with was  Moroccan meatballs.  My sister and I made a variation together when I visited my family over the summer and they were delicious.  So I suggested she make a cocktail party style meatball.  Apparently they were a hit and everyone loved them.  I have been thinking about making them since the birthday party, but I made a dinner version with a tomato-based sauce.  My husband being my husband (not one to pick up on details!), thought they were Italian-style meatballs at first, but when he tasted them he said that they were just like the ones we had on our trip to Marrakesh.  Score.  🙂

These meatballs are lovely with some crusty Moroccan bread, couscous, or rice.  Enjoy!

Lamb and Harissa Meatballs

Serves 4

Ingredients

for the tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 onion chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of harissa paste

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies, optional

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and pepper, to taste

for the meatballs:

oil for frying

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

2 gloves garlic, minced finely

fresh parsley and cilantro, about 1/2 cup, chopped

1 Serrano chili, chopped and deseeded, if you like

1/4 cup dried golden raisins and dried cranberries

1 egg

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup harissa paste (you can find it in most grocery stores or Middle Eastern markets, if you want to make your own you can use my friend Sara’s recipe)

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

salt and black pepper, to taste

for garnishing:

fresh parsley, scallions, cilantro (or whatever you like)

toasted almonds

lemon wedges

olive oil, for drizzling

Method

To make the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat and add the onions and allow them to get translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the harissa, ground coriander, ground cumin, and crushed red chilies (optional) and let them cook for a minute.  Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir so that everything is combined.  Season with salt and pepper and after 10 minutes turn the heat down to low and leave the sauce to cook for about an hour.

To make the meatballs:

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix together with your hands.  Shape the meat mixture into balls (not too big and not too small) and let them marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

After they have marinated, heat a large frying pan with a good amount (about 4-5 tablespoons) of oil (I used olive oil) and fry until the meatballs are golden on all sides and mostly cooked through.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the meatballs from the pan and add into the tomato sauce.  Make sure you drain most of the grease from the meatballs.

Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with parsley, cilantro, scallions, toasted almonds, lemon wedges and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread, couscous, or rice.

My dad’s birthday spread prepared my my mom and sister!

I miss the ocean.  Even though I live right on (literally) Lake Ontario, I miss the ocean.  The lake isn’t the same.  There aren’t any seafood shacks like Champlin’s or Iggy’s.  Every summer in Rhode Island, we order clam cakes, lobster rolls, whole lobsters with fresh drawn butter.  The meat of the lobster is so sweet and succulent.  I always tell my husband that I hate being “landlocked,” that I need to be living on a coastline.  As usual he rolls his eyes and ignores me.  Don’t worry, one day I’ll get my way and we’ll be close to the ocean.

Trying to appease me somewhat, my husband brought lobsters from Halifax after an interview at Dalhousie University.  (Not my first choice of places to live.)  Last year, he was in Cape Breton Island on an elective and did I give him an earful for not bringing back lobsters that time.  This time, I didn’t even mention anything about lobsters and he brought them.

The Rhode Islander in me immediately thought to make lobster ravioli.  Federal Hill, our Little Italy, is the place for lobster ravioli.  Venda Ravioli makes amazing lobster ravioli.  What I wouldn’t give for a heaping plate of those beautiful pillows of flavor right now.  Once when I was at home in Rhode Island, I went to Trader Joe’s and noticed they had some prepackaged lobster ravioli.  I decided to try it out and the guy at the checkout told me that he couldn’t believe how popular the lobster ravioli was in Rhode Island and that he worked in several Trader Joe’s throughout the US and never even noticed them before coming to Rhode Island.

A pasta dish is never complete without a side of bread and garlic and herb infused olive oil.

As much as I wanted to make lobster ravioli, I deemed it as too much work.   My husband brought whole lobsters, he wasn’t bright enough to just get me the meat.  One step at a time.  I had to clean the meat out of the shell, and after that messy ordeal, we were lucky I didn’t just melt some butter and have us eat the lobster plain (even though this way is delicious in its own right).  I decided go with the Federal Hill idea and simply make an egg pasta with lobster that you could find almost anywhere on Federal Hill.  We enjoyed it and it brought me back to my Rhode Island roots and the lobster meat tasted like the ocean, almost making me feel as though I was near the coast.

Federal Hill Style Lobster with Pasta

inspired and adapted from Food and Wine and Gourmet

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

2 1 1/2 pound lobsters, cooked, meat removed and cut into large chunks, and shells reserved

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

1 bay leaf

3/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies, or to taste

5 canned plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands

1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Vermouth, Pinot Grigio)

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

heavy cream, as much or as little as you like, I used 1/4 cup but you can go up to 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lemon cut into slices or wedges

1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

sea salt, to taste

3/4 a 500 g box of De Cecco pappardelle, or any egg pasta of your choice, cooked to al dente, 1/2 cup cooking liquid reserved

Method

In a large sauté pan on medium heat, heat the oil and add the chopped shallot and let it soften for a minute or two.  Next, add in the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red chilies, and allow them to infuse the oil for a minute.  Add in the shells (from the tails and claws) and sauté them for two minutes.  Add in the tomatoes and crush them further with a cooking spoon.  Season with salt.  Pour in the wine and 1 cup of water and let the liquid reduce by half, about 10-15 minutes

Once the liquid is reduced, turn the heat to low, and add the saffron and let it infuse into the broth for five minutes. After five minutes, pour in the cream and whisk it so that it does not curdle.  Let the cream reduce for two minutes.  Once the cream has reduced slightly put the cooked lobster meat into the pan and let it warm through for a few minutes.  Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid until the sauce reaches a consistency you like.

Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Sprinkle in the parsley and drop in the dab of butter and allow it to melt into the sauce.  Remove the bay leaf.  Next, toss in the cooked pasta and place the lemon wedges into the pasta for some brightness in color and flavor.  Drizzle with olive oil and use shells as a garnish, serve hot. You can also carb-load and serve some nice focaccia with olive oil on the side.

If anyone is interested, here’s an article on the “seafood shack” culture in Rhode Island.