albondigas y arroz

When I lived in Argentina, I had dinner with my host family almost every night. It was at these dinners that I really learned how to speak Spanish, really fell in love with my host family and really learned to love meat (after 5 years of vegetarianism!). Like most moms, my host mom Josefina had a repertoire of dishes that we enjoyed on a regular basis. All of her food was good, but one of my favorites was her albondigas y arroz—meatballs and rice.

While I do enjoy spaghetti and meatballs (and may have claimed that they saved my life in the past), meatballs and rice have a really special place in my heart because of those many dinners with Josefina and my host brother Juan. Josefina—in true busy-working-mom form—would prepare the meal in advance and then heat it back up right before serving. She would reheat/saute the rice in plenty of delicious Argentine butter, ladle on tomato sauce and top that with beef meatballs. The dish was so satisfying, so comforting, so simple … perfection that transcended language barriers. This is my adaptation of her recipe.

Albondigas y Arroz
For the tomato sauce

1 onion, diced
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 T olive oil
2-16 oz cans of whole tomatoes
1/4 cup sugar
2 t red wine vinegar
salt, pepper, chili flake (a sizable pinch of each)

I think that tomato sauce pairs best with the meatiness of the meatballs if it is sweet and just slightly spicy. The kick from the chilis is not very Argentine, but sure is delicious.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, saute the onion in olive oil over low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic. Saute for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and chili flake. Simmer uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Puree until smooth with a blender or food processor taking care to not splash yourself with the molten liquid.

You can make this sauce in advance. It can also be frozen. This recipe makes a lot of sauce and a lot of meatballs, the idea being you can freeze half and whip that out for a quick meal when you’re feel nostalgic for albondigas y arroz. 

For the meatballs
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 large egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
salt, pepper, dried herbs of your choice

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine beef, pork, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and herbs. Mix with your hands to combine. Shape into 1 inch diameter balls and place them about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until firm to the touch.  Don’t worry too much about the doneness of the meatballs; they will cook for another 10 – 15 minutes in the sauce as you reheat it.

Put on a pot of rice. I used long grain white rice—1 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Bring the water and a little butter to a boil, add the rice, simmer for 20 minutes and then turn of the heat until ready to serve. If you make the rice in advance, fluff it with a fork and then saute in some butter over low heat until warm. Meanwhile, reheat the tomato sauce and meatballs over low heat until warmed through. To serve, pile on the rice and top with the meatballs and sauce.



potato hash with onion, tomato and egg

It feels good to pull of a satisfying dinner without putting in much thought or effort or really even grocery shopping. I threw this dish together on Tuesday night with the remaining contents of our CSA, plus some leftover produce from Monday night’s dinner. It was pretty awesome. And, when you feel like your haphazard dinner isn’t substantial enough, just throw an egg on it.

Potato Hash with Onions, Cherry Tomatoes and a Fried Egg
3 – 4 potatoes, cut into small cubes (we used a combo of yukon gold and purple potatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper, paprika or piment d’espelette
1/4 onion, sliced (we used 3 small bunching onions)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T parsley, chopped  (you could use any herb you have lying around – chives, basil, dill, cilantro)
2 eggs
butter, salt, pepper

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Cut the potatoes into small cubes and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. Spread into one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

When the potatoes have about 10 more minutes to cook, begin to saute the onions in a little olive oil over low heat. Saute until just translucent, about 7 – 8 minutes. Push the onions to the side of the pan and add a little butter. Once the foaming has subsided, add the eggs. Cook your eggs until the whites have set up and sprinkle them with some salt and pepper. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Place a layer of potatoes on the plate. Top with the onions and then the egg. Sprinkle with cherry tomatoes and herbs.

This dish is homey and satisfying. You hit almost all of the flavor bases … crunchy (potatoes), salty (potatoes again), creamy (egg yolk – yum!), tart (tomatoes). It is also filling, inexpensive and pretty low maintenance to cook.  Plus,  you could make a ton of variations on this same idea depending on what is lurking in your fridge or in your fruit bowl. Asparagus? Summer squash?  I don’t mind if I do!


Ps. Why oh why have I wanted sing some sort of bizarre variation on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” the entire time I’ve been writing this post … If you like it then you better put an egg on it!?! Oh boy, I need help.


a whole fish story

Before I get to the fish, let me just get something out in the open. I have not baked in two weeks. Two weeks! I think this might be a record since starting the blog. I have a pound of butter in my fridge, a new sourdough starter on my counter, but alas, I was away last weekend and I am running a corporate retreat through the end of this weekend. Withdraws, people, withdraws. Please tell me you’re missing it too …

Onto the fish. I love fish, but didn’t always. I was a reluctant fish-eater until my sweet love Jordan opened my eyes to the deliciousity of the underwater buffet, and now I am officially a convert. Despite our devotion to pork, most weeks we eat more fish than meat. But, those fishies can get expensive—hence our experiments with cheaper, more plentiful varieties like squid and sardines. Last week we splurged on a branzini, not as cheap as sardines, but not breaking the bank like salmon or halibut. Isn’t he a handsome devil?

Cooking a whole fish is amazingly easy. The most important thing is to not overcook it. Giving it a liberal dose of salt, pepper and lemon juice doesn’t hurt either.

Baked Whole Fish
1 whole fish, like branzi or rockfish (Several sardines per person would also work just as well in this method. Or if you can’t find a whole fish, a fillet can also be cooked this way)
1 lemon, sliced
salt, pepper, fresh herbs
olive oil

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Clean and descale your fish, or have your fishmonger do this for you. Lightly coat an oven-safe saute pan in olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of your fish with salt and pepper. Stuff the belly cavity with herbs and lemon slices. Put your fish in the pan and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until just cooked.

This is a great trick for checking doneness of fish. Jordan taught it to me, but it is originally from Eric Ripert. Insert a very thin knife (or better yet, a needle) into a fleshy part of the fish. Remove the needle and immediately touch it to your finger. If it feels room temperature to warm, the fish is done. If it is hot, you’ve overcooked the fish. If it is cold, give the fish a few more minutes.

We served the fish in the pan with an extra sprinkling of lemon juice and herbs. Whole fish is trickier to eat than fillets because it has a lot of bones, but if you’re careful, you can pretty easily extract the fillets from the skeleton. Whole fish appropriately baked are wonderfully succulent and the cooking method really honors the flavor of the fish. If you’ve never enjoyed a whole fish so simply prepared, dive in!

And don’t forget to eat the skin! It’s the best part!



buttermilk baked chicken

Everyone likes fried chicken, but actually frying said chicken is a big pain. With this recipe you end up with the perfect crunchy-crisp exterior and juicy chicken interior, but don’t have to deal with vats of oil.  We were actually blown away by how well this chicken turned out and how easy it was to prepare. Even after a few cocktails, the recipe when off without a hitch!

Buttermilk Baked Chicken 

2 chicken legs and thighs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
2 t paprika
salt and pepper
1 cup panko (japanese style breadcrumbs)
1 egg

Salt and pepper the chicken. Marinate it in the buttermilk and paprika for a few hours. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk is key and makes a huge difference in the moistness and flavor.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Strain the chicken from the buttermilk, dunk each piece in egg and coat in panko. Put on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the chicken is firm to the touch. If your chicken isn’t browned, throw it under the broiler for a minute or two.

The only update we’d make to this recipe the next time we prepare it is to mix the panko with a little melted butter to give the crust just a bit more flavor and color.

We served this chicken with some beautiful artichokes, but I imagine it would go great with cole slaw or mac and cheese!



baked potato soup

I like the idea of baked potatoes, but the dish in practice is really a let down. The first few cheesy, bacony, oniony bites are delicious and then it just tastes like dry diet food. Bummer.

Thankfully, Deb from Smitten Kitchen feels similarly. I followed her recipe for baked potato soup and it was awesome. This recipe combines all of the great flavors of a baked potato but skirts around all the boring parts. Perfect!

Baked Potato Soup

2 T butter
2 leeks, halved and sliced then rinsed of their grit
1 head garlic
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup sour cream
Salt, pepper
Bacon, green onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream for toppings

Halve the leeks and then thinly slice them. Rinse them of their grit. Cut the top 1/3 off the entire garlic head. Squeeze the cloves out of the top 1/3 and mince them. Peal the thin wispy layers off the bottom 2/3 of the garlic and set aside. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes, until softened. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add the broth, bay leaves, and head of garlic. Cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until the  garlic head is soft.

Add the cubed potatoes. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the garlic and bay leaves. Puree the soup for a minute or two with an immersion blender. I left some potato chunks, but you can puree it as smooth as you’d like. Add the sour cream and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Top with your favorite baked potato toppings and enjoy!