Meatball mavens can feed their mania here

February 04, 1996|By Robin Benzle | Robin Benzle,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Maybe I'm mad, but the mere mention of meatballs makes my mind meander with memories of magical moments. A mutation of meat loaf, a midget of meats, these miniature mounds might not be majestic, but my main mission here in my monologue is to muster a memorial to the master of munchies.

Make no mistake, meatballs are main magnets at merry affairs, with most of the masses munching multiples of these marvelous marbles while mingling. Meatball maniacs like myself might manage to muster a meatball museum or maybe a mammoth monument with a meatball motif, mentioning the motto, "Meatballs on every menu." But I muse that most likely more than a minimal amount of money might be mandatory. Maybe millions.

Moreover, worth mentioning, they melt in your mouth, don't make a mess, mix marvelously with macaroni and mesh with martinis. They're moister than muffins, meatier than mollusks and make memorable meals at morning, midday and midnight. But mind you, they're mobile.

More monotonous "m" words, you moan? Maybe you make me to be a major menace and miscast moron who should be muffled, muzzled, muted and mugged. (My mother and marriage mate might not mind.) But as for me, I'm always in the mood for making meatballs.

Miniature meatballs in raisin sauce

Makes about 60 meatballs for hors d'oeuvres

2 slices wheat or white bread

2 pounds lean ground chuck

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons minced onion

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (12-ounce) jar crab-apple jelly

2/3 cup ketchup

1/3 cup seedless raisins

1 (8-ounce) package mini pita bread, quartered

Soak bread slices in a little cold water 1 minute until softened, then squeeze dry. Place bread in large bowl along with ground chuck, egg, onion, cheese and cinnamon. Mix well with hands. Form into 1-inch balls.

Combine jelly, ketchup and raisins in large skillet and bring to simmer, stirring, over medium heat. Add meatballs to raisin sauce and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, until meat is done. Serve with toothpicks and wedges of pita bread.

*

This recipe includes a creamy tomato chaser for these square meatballs made for hot-food lovers.

Atomic meatballs

Makes about 75 hors d'oeuvres

MEATBALLS:

4 slices white bread

3 pounds ground beef sirloin

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

TOMATO CHASER:

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in puree

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon sour cream

To prepare meatballs, soften bread slices in a little water and squeeze dry. Place in large bowl along with ground sirloin; eggs; onion; white, black and cayenne peppers; and salt. Mix well with hands. Spread mixture evenly in 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees 45 minutes (meat will shrink slightly). Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut into 1-inch squares. Transfer to serving bowl or plate. Have toothpicks available.

Meanwhile, to prepare chaser, process tomatoes, lemon juice, sugars and sour cream in food processor until smooth. Serve in bowl to accompany meatballs.

*

Soft, garlic meatballs that require no rolling are smothered in a light sauce and tossed with macaroni.

Drop meatballs and macaroni

Makes 4 to 6 servings

MEATBALLS:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck or round

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

SAUCE:

2 cups dry white wine

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups beef stock or broth

1/2 cup half and half

8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

To prepare meatballs, mix together ground beef, tomato paste, garlic, cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, eggs and milk in large bowl. Mixture will be soft.

To prepare sauce, bring wine to simmer in large, deep skillet. With hands, pinch off teaspoonfuls of meat mixture and drop gently into wine (use both hands and do 2 at a time).

Do not crowd pan, but let meatballs simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, without touching. Gently turn meatballs and cook 10 to 15 minutes longer. Pour off most of remaining liquid.

Dissolve cornstarch in beef stock and add to skillet. Simmer about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add half and half and cooked macaroni. Stir well. Heat through and serve.

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