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Single (and cooking) in the City

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squash

Sliders and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Every month, for reasons too crude to discuss (but I’m sure the bright ones out there can probably figure out), there are about 3 or 4 consecutive days where my mind just seems to want to focus on nothing but comfort foods. And I usually cave in. Tonight was one of those nights where a clean plate of sauteed veggies was just not going to do.

I had saved some leftover meatballs for the exact purpose of trying to make meatball sliders. I had planned this days in advance, that’s how excited I was to prepare this absolutely adorable miniature version of a hamburger. (Is there anything girls love more than mini things??) I sought out a recipe for the buns, which I found on Smitten Kitchen, and set off to half-ass it the way I usually half-ass things. No roasted garlic, no molasses, and no cheese. (And probably no good.) The buns on their own tasted delicious. A bit sweet (I substituted honey for the molasses), and had a nice crisp shell and a tender interior. But with the meatballs, the taste was too sweet.

I don’t recommend following my recipe, but this is what I did. Analyze away and feel free to criticize me on the many things I did wrong. That’ll make me feel good… not! (Just kidding, I could use some help.)

Meatball Sliders

  • 3/4 cup of warm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of flour

I used half measurements of the above ingredients, and in a stand mixer (with dough hook attachment) combined the water, yeast, honey and oil. Mix flour and salt together, and add to mixer with the wet ingredients. When the dough comes together, take it out, knead it on a floured surface and let it rise in a well oiled bowl for 30 minutes. Shape to size, arrange on baking sheet, and let it rest a bit more before baking in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

The 2nd half of my dinner experiment was a butternut squash mac and cheese, to use up some of the leftover butternut squash. This was a disaster. Mostly because I learned I don’t like mushed up butternut squash. Tastes like mushed up pumpkin. Add that to the list of things I don’t like! Of course, this was by no means the fault of Martha Stewart. I just had to learn the hard way that there are some flavors I do not prefer.

Perhaps I should have just gone with the suggestion of What the Fuck Should I Make for Dinner.

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Red Sauce Night

I used to have more time at work, when I’m not running out to the Department of Buildings in the Bronx, and with that time, I used to do some pretty silly things like… planning out a week’s meal on a spreadsheet. It not only helped me keep track of using up the ingredients I had handy, but it also helped me make sure my week had a bit of variety. (And it was also fun to point out to other people how disgustingly anal I could be.)

Having not done that in a while, I mindlessly removed a chunk of ground beef from the freezer and left it in the fridge to defrost. The ground beef lived in the fridge for 1.5 days… long enough to become acquainted with what I am sure is it’s version of a nice tropics-like vacation, so I knew I had to do something with it today.

I need some good recipes for ground beef, because left to my own devices, I will almost always turn to some kind of pasta. Sloppy joes? (Too gross and fast foodish.) Hamburger? (See: sloppy joes.) Sauteed with some cabbage? (Not FUN!) What do people do with ground beef?!!!

I’d always wanted to try to make my own meatballs, especially after the whole meatball craze which left everyone clamoring for tickets to events like Meatball Madness and Meatball Slapdown. There were lamb meatballs at Locanda Verde, duck meatballs at A Voce, meatball sliders at The Little Owl… almost every restaurant now has some version of meatballs on the menu. One day I will visit The Meatball Shop to get my fill of real meatballs, but until then, my scrappy version will suffice!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Meatballs

Meatballs:

  • a baseball sized portion of ground beef
  • bread crumbs
  • onion powder
  • 1 egg white
  • grated parmesan
  • salt, pepper

I basically mixed all of the above, adding bread crumbs as needed so that the consistency was not too sticky, but sticky enough to hold its shape when formed into a small meatball, about the size of a ping pong ball. It turned out to be about 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. A sprinkling of everything else, and I was getting impatient. I heated up some olive oil in a pan, added the meatballs (there are about 6) and let them brown on all sides. (I have no idea how people do this. I ended up with some weird octagonal meatballs, each side turned and flattened by the pan.) After they are browned (they’ll continue cooking in the sauce) remove and set aside.

Red Sauce

  • 1 small can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, diced
  • basil

Using the same pan, I sauteed the onion, and then added the can of tomatoes and garlic. Then the meat octagons. Let it simmer away for a bit while the wheat pasta cooks in a pot of salted water, about 9 minutes. Add some finely chopped basil to the sauce, salt and pepper if needed. Drain pasta and top with sauce and meatballs. Add sprig of basil so you guys think I’m fancy.

Now the rest of dinner consisted of a warm roasted vegetable salad. Mostly inspired by Al Di La‘s incredible warm farro salad, I decided to make a version of it with what I had. Which was an unopened package of quinoa, purchased after falling in love with Public‘s quinoa hash brown, which I vowed to recreate… 2 years ago, cauliflower, the other 1/2 an onion, and carrots. Then I bought the cutest little butternut squash.

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Salad

  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot
  • cauliflower
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Toss all the vegetables with olive oil and salt, and roast in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until soft. Do some more tossing halfway, which I didn’t because I forgot. Rinse the quinoa and add water. After it boils, turn the heat down to a simmer and let it cook until the liquid is mostly gone, about 10-15 minutes. Add the vegetables to the quinoa and combine, then toss with the balsamic and olive oil dressing, adding salt and pepper as needed. Crumble some goat cheese on top. I love basil, so I added some for color and flavor.