Monday, October 10, 2011

Meatballs with Spiced "Pumpkin"

In preparation for my newspaper column that will be published the Wednesday before Halloween, and which I will post to the blog after it's published in the Athens Banner-Herald, I was working with pumpkin (actually its close relatives, winter squash) and ginger.

The newspaper column will be on a gingered "pumpkin" soup along with a discussion of the origins of jack-o'-lanterns and Halloween and how pumpkins got involved.

In the process, I also came up with a savory dinner dish in which spiced meatballs are cooked in with squash or pumpkin.

This is a hearty dish that should be accompanied by noodles, brown rice, or roasted potatoes.

A spicy dry red wine, such as a Grenache or Garnacha, or a Syrah/Shiraz would accompany it well.

Spiced Meatballs braised with Butternut Squash and Apple

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground ground beef
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup quick oatmeal
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
-----

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large stick celery, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, in 1/2-inch cubes
1 large apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Make meatball mixture: Combine meats, eggs, breadcrumbs, oatmeal, salt and seasonings. Knead well. Set aside.

Make vegetable "sauce": Gently fry onion and celery in oil, until softened. Fry in ginger and garlic 1 minute.

Add butternut and apple, and fry in, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.

Add water , salt, and spices. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until squash and apple are becoming tender (test with toothpick).

Shape meat mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs, rolling them with moistened hands. Drop them as they are formed into the simmering vegetables. Cover and let simmer 10 minutes, gently shaking the pot from time to time.

Gently turn meatballs as they start to become firm, and when they are fully firm, stir under them to scrape bottom of pot. Simmer meatballs a total of 20 minutes.

Taste sauce, and add salt, if needed.

The flavors are best if chilled, then reheated. Serve with buttered noodles, salted brown rice, or roasted chunked potatoes.

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