As the summer wanes and cooking begins to move indoors, comfort food is what will get your family and friends to gather around the table once again. Back from their far-flung journeys and sand-covered explorations, no longer are they yearning for traditional summer food. Here we have two recipes that will do the trick. They look like old standbys, but they put a spin on the usual meatball-and-sauce dinner. Simple to make (and freeze for later), so you can still get out there and enjoy what’s left of the whisper of summer. Suzanne Goin’s “The A.O.C. Cookbook” is where I found these small, crispy meatballs that are submerged in a thick sauce with hints of warm North African flavors and the citrusy bite of orange juice. A sprinkling of crumbled feta and sliced mint take the dish across the globe. The original recipe calls for ground lamb, but I substituted ground turkey. If you like lamb, by all means, go for it! A great accompaniment would be couscous or farro. The Chipotle Meatballs are from Rick Bayless’ “Mexican Everyday” cookbook. The chipotle and bacon lend an earthy smokiness and a nice go-with would be rice or fideo (vermicelli). Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce (adapted from “The A.O.C. Cookbook”) For the Meatballs:
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
- ¼ cup heavy cream (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 2 egg yolks, extra-large
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch red-pepper flakes
- Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
For the Sauce:
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small sprig rosemary
- Red-pepper flakes to taste
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon white sugar
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 3-inch strip of orange peel, pith removed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Topping:
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves
- 1. Preheat broiler. In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne. Put the lamb in the bowl, and season it aggressively with salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and parsley, and combine the mixture well. Shape the meat into balls that are a little larger than golf balls.
- 2. Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and put the meatballs onto it, spaced evenly. Place beneath the broiler, and cook, turning once or twice, until the meatballs are well browned, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, then set meatballs aside. Turn oven to 400.
- 3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, or whizz them quickly in a food processor. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine. Cook for another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel, along with salt and pepper.
- 4. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third. Adjust seasoning.
- 5. Remove bay leaf. Pour the tomato sauce into a large baking dish that you can put on the table. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, putting them about ½ inch from each other. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.
- 6. Top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.
- YIELD: 4 servings
3 slices bacon in 1-inch pieces 3 garlic cloves, peeled 2 large eggs ½ cup bread crumbs (¾ cup if coarse-textured panko) Salt 1¼ pounds ground pork ½ cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped mint leaves, more for garnish 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), drained of all but ¼ cup juice 1 or 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, stemmed, seeded and sauce reserved 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican About 1½ cups beef or chicken broth.
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, combine bacon and 1 garlic clove. Process until finely chopped. Add eggs, bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse several times to combine thoroughly, then add pork and mint. Pulse a few more times until well combined but not a paste. Remove meat from processor.
2. With wet hands, form meat into about 16 plum-size balls and space them out in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
3. While meatballs bake, combine tomatoes, ¼ cup tomato juice, chipotles, 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce, oregano, remaining garlic cloves (cut in half) and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor. Process to a smooth purée.
4. When meatballs are ready, spoon off rendered fat from baking dish, then pour tomato mixture on top, covering meatballs evenly. Bake until sauce has thickened somewhat, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Heat broth in a small saucepan. Divide meatballs among four dinner plates, leaving sauce behind. Stir enough broth into sauce to give it a spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Spoon sauce over meatballs, decorate with extra mint leaves, if you wish, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.