Recipe: Swedish Meatballs

I received a recipe for Swedish meatballs last year and made them earlier this year. It's a great party appetizer in the summer because they taste great at room temperature.

Swedish Meatballs

1 pound total ground pork and beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs - [the recipe calls for brown bread, but I didn't have any and used toasted and crumbled whole wheat bread, mixed with a teaspoon of honey]
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper, white pepper preferred but it doesn't kill the recipe to use black
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon grated onion, juices and all
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a small bowl or measuring cup, pour the milk over 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs and let stand for 10 minutes. If the crumbs are completely liquified after 10 minutes, add more crumbs and let stand again until you get a soft but soupy concoction.

Mix the minced meat with salt, spices, and onion. Add the milk and crumbs, and work with your hands until the mixture is rather smooth.

Crack in the egg, and continue to work the meat with your hands.

Slick your hands with cold water to keep the meat from sticking to them too much, and then form about 48 small balls, smaller than a golf ball, and set aside. I like to make about a dozen to start, then wash my hands and start frying. While the first batch fries, I continue to form more balls.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the first group of meatballs, turning them only when they are brown and beginning to crisp on one side. Lower the heat if they brown too quickly, but maintain a temperature that will allow them to crisp on the edges rather than absorb the oil. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.

Serve with toothpicks warm or at room temperature. You can serve these with a sauce on the side, too, such as honey cream sauce (that's what the Swedish person who gave me this recipe suggested) or pain yogurt mixed with fresh dill and salt to taste.

Salmon 'Bibimbap': An Innovative Dinner Made from Leftovers

Yesterday, we had a leftover hunk of salmon steak, broiled the night before with nothing more than salt and pepper.

Three of us are living together now: me, Boyfriend, and the sister whom I call The Eyes. The Eyes and I had a hankering for Korean-inspired food, so we cobbled together this little delicacy based on the concept of bibimbap. What we devised allowed us to stretch that one piece of salmon across three people for a comforting and delicious dinner.

The concept was bulgogi, a rice crisped in a hot stone bowl with pepper paste, sesame oil, and a smattering of julienned vegetables on top. We swapped out the beef with the leftover salmon, shredded and warmed through, and we scavenged in the fridge for whatever vegetables were tucked away in the crisper.

But there was a problem. We only had short-grain sushi rice. After a quick trip down the block to the Chinese take-out restaurant, we had a quart of white rice, hot and cooked and ready to eat.

We used a splash of sesame oil to coat the bottom of a skillet, then added the rice and let it crisp up over medium-high flame. Meanwhile, The Eyes cut cucumber slices and found the red pepper paste in the fridge. I set a few eggs to boil (there's nothing so good as a hot egg with rice), pulled some sesame seeds from the cupboard, and told Boyfriend to set the table.

The rice went into the bottom of each bowl. A scoop of sweet-hot red pepper paste was stirred into each one, the right amount for each person's tolerance for spiciness. On top we scattered the flaked salmon, sesame seeds, cucumbers, and an egg cut in half.

Then, the most fun part, the whole thing can be swirled together and eaten with whatever utensil you like: spoon, fork, chopsticks.

Recipe: Potato Salad

I'm not the biggest fan of potato salad, but my mom is. So for Mother's Day, I made a vibrant potato salad, filled with red potatoes, steamed carrots, chopped celery, and just a few other choice ingredients, including hard-cooked eggs.

Hard-cooked eggs are one of two things that take real care and experience in the kitchen to make. The other is rice. There are many very good cooks in this world, but until they master both rice and hard-cooked eggs, they aren't truly experts in the kitchen. (Coincidentally, I have yet to master rice!)

To make hard-cooked eggs that do not stink like sulfur or taste like powder, start with a cold pot of water, enough to cover the eggs. Turn the heat on medium-low, and think to yourself that you are warming the eggs until they set. It's this mentality that turns out a bright, soft, luscious yolk.

Heat the eggs and water gently until it comes to a slow boil. Keep your eye on a clock, and let the boil continue exactly 3 minutes. Remove the eggs and submerge them in a bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to handle (about 5 minutes in the cold water), but still warm (which is how I like to eat them) peel them with care. If they are difficult to peel, they are probably cooked right. However, the more overcooked they are, the easier they are to peel.

Gently hard-cooked eggs are delicious on toast with black pepper.

Once you've mastered the eggs, you can make this amazingly light potato salad, where they are showcased on top.

Vibrant Potato Salad for Mother's Day.
8-10 small red potatoes
2 large carrots
4 ribs of celery
3 to 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Hellmann's Mayonnaise (also known as Best Foods)
1 tablespoon Dijon or brown mustard
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
salt and pepper to taste
4 hard-cooked eggs
Optional additions and garnishes: fresh dill, parsley, chives.

Scrub the potatoes clean, then steam or boil them until they can be easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Remember, it's almost impossible to overcook red potatoes while they're in their skins, so don't worry about the cooking time too much.

When the potatoes are almost done, put the carrots into the same pot, and steam or boil them for about 5 minutes. They should turn a bright orange color, but not be soft.

Remove the carrots and potatoes and set aside until they are cool enough to handle, but still warm.

Meanwhile, chop the celery, and slice the eggs. Set aside.

While the potatoes are still warm, quarter them and splash them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar. The potatoes will absorb the vinegar. You don't need a pool at the bottom.

Peel the dice the carrots.

In a small dish, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of vinegar with the mayonnaise, mustard, and sugar or honey. Taste, and if you prefer your potato salad tangy, perhaps add a splash of red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar.

Toss together the celery, potatoes, and carrots. Dress with the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste. Lay the egg slices on top. Garnish with fresh herbs if you like, and enjoy at room temperature.