Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Venerable Kitchen Sage gets Punk’ed

In fact, I probably am happy, once I get over being a little put off by someone out chef-ing me. In my own kitchen!

Not making demands so much. Simply causing menus to move in a different direction than I would have chosen. Just by being there.

It’s like we are all helpless to confront this new and growing kitchen force.

That I would have made some pasta? Irrelevant. Pasta is white flour. (Sigh!).

It turns out we no longer eat white flour. Or sugar. Or a number of other things.

And we apparently now eat wheat berries, quinoa, bulgar, and other whole grains. Plus only rice with the husks still on. Like brown rice, or red rice, or black rice.

All this new stuff appears daily in my kitchen pantry. With no effort at all on my part. Like magic. Except I still pay for it all. And our newly refined eating habits are spelled out to me with the firm authority of someone who has been doing this for 50 years. Along with some hints as to why (less fat, whole grain, complete protein, low glycemic index, iron, zinc, who knows what all).

So I can not really even participate fully in the menu discussion, as there are shelves full of stuff I don’t yet know about.

Hrumpf. There young punks! Think they know better.

But I ‘hrumpf’ to myself, because, as I mentioned, I’m actually happy that TeenGirl is interested not just in food, but in nutrition and health. And we are benefiting as well. Plus, as I can dimly recall, I was 16 once as well. Hard to believe!

However, the ground turkey is still a day older. And the red bell peppers are a day softer. So, pasta or no, we still have to figure something out quick.

Actually, though I wouldn’t admit it, it is sort of a fun challenge. Out with the same old same old. In with something.

My initial idea for today was a red pepper based pasta sauce. So minus the pasta, we decided to just go with a different grain. Since I have not really tried many of these grains, I figured to keep things simple, cook some up, and see how it worked.

We chose the quinoa. Although it looks like a grain, or a rice, it is actually a seed. Originating in South America, it was revered by the Incas and Aztecs. Even better, it contains a complete set of amino acids, making it a complete protein. So its nutritional factor is very high.

I made a simple red pepper sauce, adding some tomatoes as well, mainly to achieve enough volume and thickness of sauce.

And we put some sage meat balls on top. Sage! I kept the red pepper sauce simple as I wanted the sage meat balls to flavor the sauce as well. And they did! Nicely!

There should really be a better name for these things than meat balls. It sounds Neanderthal. Meat balls. Like someone took a giant scoop and dug out a hunk of wooly mammoth to gnaw on. But, hey! Everyone loves them! And heavily herbed up with sage, they really are delicious. We browned the meat balls first, finishing them in the red pepper sauce, letting them soak up the sauce for an hour.

The result was great! Simple, but very satisfying. The quinoa worked well with the sauce mainly because it is not a sticky, gummy sort of grain (no gluten). Rather, with just a bit of sauce, it keeps a nice light texture. Seems like it would work well in a lot of instances where a lighter looser texture is required.

And sage! I really love sage. Especially as the weather cools. It adds that depth to foods that touches you deep inside.

And all together? A very satisfying new combination.

Sage Meat Balls in Red Pepper Sauce on Quinoa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

4 red bell peppers, seeds removed, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
4-5 Roma tomatoes, peeled, chopped (or a 32 ounce can)
¼ to ½ cup red wine
4 pounds ground turkey
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (I used panko style)
4 tbsp chopped fresh sage
3 eggs
½ cup chopped parsley
salt, pepper
olive oil
1 ½ cups dry quinoa
Additional sage leaves, chopped, for garnish, if desired

In a food processor, puree the red peppers, onion and garlic. Add pureed mixture to a large, heavy pot, large enough to hold the sauce and the meat balls. Add the chopped tomatoes and wine. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly (note that the meat balls will absorb additional liquid).

While the sauce is cooking, in a large bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs, eggs, sage, parsley, and salt and pepper. Form into egg sized meat balls.

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Carefully place meatballs in skillet, and sautee, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. The meat balls do not have to be cooked through.

As the meat balls are browned, move them with a slotted spoon into the red pepper sauce. Let them simmer in the sauce for 30 to 60 minutes.

While the meat balls are simmering, place the quinoa along with 3 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.

To serve, scoop some quinoa onto a serving plate. Place a few meat balls on top. Spoon some red pepper sauce over the top, and sprinkle with chopped sage leaves. Enjoy!

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