I’ve been noticing lately that there are several necessary components for overcoming the dreary task known as “getting through winter.” Here’s an ever-changing but most current list of “what I need”.
1. Downton Abbey-I won’t be a spoiler but the last episode is still haunting me. Have you seen it yet?
2. A good long book to tuck into-This year it’s Ken Follett’s (ever the perv but, man, can he weave a historical tale) Winter of the World. Last year it was Fall of Giants and the year before, World Without End. I’m developing a pattern here. I don’t know what I’ll do if there isn’t a new one next year. War and Peace perhaps?
3. A snow day! Finally we were granted one on Monday. Well, really it was an ice day so it wasn’t so pretty, but still, I stayed home and did nothing but the above. And I made Deb’s ethereally smooth hummus. Ok, so, it was my hummus recipe but I took her advice and peeled the chickpeas and garnished with sumac. Yep, it was pretty smooth.
4. Music-Last weekend was Ann Arbor Folkfest and I discovered some new bands to follow: The Head and the Heart, Brown Bird and Delta Rae. And he’s not really new but now I know why Colin Hay sells out two nights in a row every year at the Ark. I’ve been missing out all this time. And there was Jill’s birthday earlier in the month. In two weeks, there’ll be my beloved Avett Brothers where I’ll likely scream like a teenager. Do you know these “roots-y” dudes from North Carolina? You should.
5. And comfort food. Obviously. On the aforementioned snow day, I made meatballs. What could be more comforting?
(And I’d like it to be known that on my computer, these food photos are far less yellow. I need to figure that out for future photos).
These are Giada’s. They’re so moist that the first time I made them I almost chucked them in the trash before they were done. As I was putting those wet globs (that sounds appetizing!) into the sizzling oil, I thought to myself “this is just not going to work.” Was I ever wrong. They are as succulent and delicate a version as one could wish for. I change them only slightly by adding crushed red pepper, swapping romano for parmesan and making a bit more than the recipe calls for. Pine nuts would be a welcome addition as well. I also make her marinara. I use half with the meatballs and freeze the rest for her chicken parmesan another night. You could use your favorite jarred marinara. Nobody will judge.
Serves 6. Adapted from Everyday Italian, Giada di Laurentiis.
For the marinara
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 2 peeled carrots, finely diced
- 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp. sea (or Kosher) salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high flame. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning the garlic.
Add the carrots and celery and sauté for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft (crunchy celery in sauce is the worst).
Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and stir. Simmer over low heat for at least an hour or until the sauce thickens some. Remove the bay leaves.
Cool before freezing if you intend to have leftovers.
For the meatballs
- 1 1.25 lb. package ground turkey
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used whole grain, but panko would be nice)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all ingredients, except olive oil, in a large bowl. It’s easiest to use your hands but try not to overmix. Just make sure all ingredients are incorporated throughout.
Make bite-sized meatballs by using a scant tablespoon of meat mixture and rolling them between your hands.
Place them in a large skillet preheated with 1/4 cup olive oil. Brown them in batches on all sides, approximately 3 minutes per side. They do not have to be cooked all the way through. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
Once the meatballs are done, add them back to the pan along with half the marinara (about 4 cups). If the marinara is too thick, add a bit of water at this point. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Cut into a meatball or two to make sure they are cooked through before serving.
Serve with a tossed green salad and crusty bread.
What gets you through winter?