This week’s menu involves a trip to Italy, via the local Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Meal No. 15: Spring Salad with Fresh Mozarella; Pasta with Mint Pesto and Fava; Turkey and Pancetta Meatballs; Coffee Ice Cream Affogato (From Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)
Prep schedule: Blanch and peel fava beans, make pesto and cover with oil; form and cook meatballs; boil pasta and assemble salad; toss pasta with pesto and beans, dress salad; prepare dessert just before serving.
The salad called for maché, radishes, scallions, and fresh buffalo mozzarella, dressed with just salt, pepper, and olive oil. I was happy to find the maché at Kroger, on sale, no less. The package label notes that it’s pronounced “mosh,” and everything is translated into French, as well as English, even though the stuff was grown right here in the US of A. Hee.
The maché had a slightly nutty flavor. Due to our lactose issues, we used slices of goat cheese instead of the mozzarella with good effect; it paired nicely with the scallions and the radishes. But the “dressing” was bland–it needed some acid. As he was eating, The Husband remarked, “You know, more people would eat salad if it actually tasted good.”
I don’t hate any of the ingredients, so that is at least something, but notice that this is the second meal in a row that calls for mint. As I said last week, I am meh for mint. Therefore, I was nervous about the pesto, but this wasn’t half bad, actually. The recipe calls for grinding up a half cup of unsalted roasted almonds, a half cup of Pecorino cheese, a garlic glove, 1/4 c plus 3 T olive oil, and 2.5 cups of mint. By the way, that is a lot of mint to procure. The little plastic packs of organic mint in the produce aisle run $3, and I would have needed several, so I didn’t want to go that route. The local Asian grocery store was the answer, with big bunches for sale for $1. Is it organic? Probably not. Was it grown out back of the store, and peed on by rats? Possibly. For that price, I washed it up and tried not to think about it.
The recipe also calls for fresh fava beans, which is some sort of spring thing? I have no idea because I have never seen them sold fresh anywhere. I picked up some frozen ones (the use of which is sanctioned by Martha) at a local Middle Eastern grocery store last week. They are kooky looking—giant green things, with a dark colored stripe on one end.
I’ve had fava beans before, in foul mudammas, but they were brown and covered in garlic, so they seem to be a whole other beast. These had to be thawed then blanched, and then the bean was squeezed out of the thick shell. Some looked disturbingly like fetuses. I didn’t take Martha for her word that they’d be done in two minutes, and ended up overcooking the beans. They were a bit mealy and mushy.
Once the pesto was made, and the beans were blanched and shelled, I boiled the angel hair pasta (actually, I made the meatballs, but let’s pretend we are doing this in a linear fashion), reserving some of the pasta water. The pesto was supposed to be mixed into a warmed bowl (no!) and enough of the pasta water was added to make it a thin sauce, then the pasta and beans were mixed in. Then it was served with the meatballs and more of the pecorino cheese grated on top.
I ate this hours ago yesterday and still don’t know what to think of it. It was ok–I didn’t love it or hate it. I thought it was a touch bland and a bit too dry; it probably needed more water mixed in. I couldn’t even taste the fava beans. The Husband, on the other hand, exclaimed so loudly, “Oh, my God! This is SO fun!” that I heard him from the other room. He LOVED it, and thought it was very flavorful. We both appreciated that the mint taste wasn’t too overwhelming.
These had a slightly different mix of ingredients than your typical meatball: ground turkey, pancetta (I used prosciutto because we had some on hand), onion, garlic, lemon zest, and fresh sage, plus bread crumbs. I had organic, Italian-seasoned bread crumbs hand ground by monkeys, so I used those instead of the fresh bread crumbs, after realizing too late that the only bread we had in the house was a moldy pumpkin cinnamon loaf. Yum! I also skimped on the eggs–Martha said to use one egg, plus one yolk. The extra egg seemed unnecessary, and since we have precious Polyface Farm eggs (did you see Food, Inc? Polyface Farm was the one with the kooky farmer), I didn’t want to waste a second egg just for a yolk. The meatballs held together just fine without it.
The meatballs were cooked in a skillet in olive oil. They turned out ok; they had too much bread crumbs in them, so that kind of took over flavor-wise and texture-wise, which is unfortunate since the turkey was free-range and probably pretty tasty on its own. I liked them better with the pasta, although The Husband thought the pasta totally overwhelmed the meatballs.
We had a French white wine that was delicious with it: Domaine La Hitaire Les Tours, and it can be found for just $6.99 at Total Wine. It has a nice lemony finish.
The dessert involved booze but it was optional this time, although I am sure Martha is somewhere watching and sneering at my teetotaler version. The ‘recipe’ is coffee ice cream or gelato, with espresso poured over it, as affogato means ‘drowned’ in Italian. Sambuca, Frangelico, or amaretto is added if desired. I was going to make homemade ice cream, to get around the lactose issue, but that seemed like an insane way to go about this, so I bought a lilliputian carton of coffee ice cream for us to share. Isn’t it cute?
We didn’t have the right kind of booze, and I didn’t feel like going to the liquor store (since I already had to visit two ethnic markets to make this menu) so we left it out.
We put the ice cream in a cup and poured espresso on it. Somehow, possibly by magic, it tasted like coffee ice cream with coffee on it!
The meal was ok, for me, but The Husband still is in love with the pasta, even left over. At least everything goes together well this time.
Salad: B Needs an actual dressing, not just oil
Pasta: A+ (The Husband) B (Squeaky P)
Dessert: Well, the ice cream was good, but she had nothing to do with that.