Sunday, January 27, 2008

Now I’m stuck with the leftovers

In testing out the meatball recipe last week, I’d sort of forgotten that it makes quite a few, even when not almost-doubled to feed a family of eight plus any random cousins or friends who show up for dinner. So, I was left with quite a few extra, despite the fact that I’d packed up spaghetti and meatballs to take for lunch all last week. This left me with a few choices: I could freeze them for later or try to finish eating all of them.

It isn’t really such a chore to figure out what to do with these as they are so versatile. They can be broken into pieces, mixed with cooked pasta, folded with some ricotta, dusted with grated or thinly sliced, fresh mozzarella, and baked in the oven for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 4) to make a hearty main dish for a cold night. Or, just heat up some meatballs and sauce in the oven and melt a slice of Provolone on top. Toss together a pile of fresh greens with olive oil and vinegar and round out with some crusty bread and a glass of red wine.


What could be more heavenly? Even in my current sinus-medicine induced fogginess (the sinus infection is courtesy a co-worker who did not stay home when sick), this sounds absolutely wonderful, if only I had the appetite to try to tackle it. This also got me thinking about another menu classic that I haven't had in ages.

What could be better to go along with this Italo-American-style classic meal than garlic bread? Several years ago, a co-worker had asked me to give her a recipe for Garlic Bread. I guess I thought it was a sort of strange request because it is one of those things that is so simple to make, and I’ve had it at tons of potlucks or even cooked over a campfire on Girl Scout camping trips. This was a great exercise for me, however, as it was a good chance to actually start writing down those recipes that are just sitting in my head.

At the same time, I had to take a step back culturally, from my surprise at being asked to jot down the instructions for preparing this simple favorite. Garlic Knots, twists of bread, studded with white flecks of garlic and green speckles of parsley, were one of the foods I hadn’t encountered until I moved to New York. Their garlicy-oily aroma enticed me to buy them – once. Then, I found out that their flavor didn’t do justice to their sultry smell.

With these available at almost every pizzeria, why make garlic bread? Still, I definitely prefer peeling open the hot aluminum foil and tearing into a steaming, crusty, oven-fresh, gooey, garlicy, buttery, dripping, hunk of bread. Maybe it’s just that that is part of my childhood Italian meal experience. I definitely tried to snag a piece at every meal where it made an appearance.

So, for Superbowl Sunday next week, maybe the meatball recipe, with spaghetti or in a baked pasta dish, along with some home-made garlic bread, will satisfy the hungry crowd that's gathered around the TV set to watch the Giants bring home the trophy!

Garlic Bread

Serving size: 2-4 people
Prep Time:
20-30 minutes

Ingredients: (double if using full-sized loaf)
1 8-inch baguette
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) unsalted butter (about 100 grams), softened
2 large cloves garlic, crushed with garlic press
1/8 tsp olive oil (optional if using garlic press)
2 pinches salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh, curly-leaf parsley

Assembly:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 6). Slice baguette into 1-inch thick slices, taking care not to cut all the way through, so that the bread is still connected at the bottom.

If using garlic press, skip this step. If, like me, you don't own one of these utensils, as there would be limited opportunity to use it in comparison to the amount of space that it would take up in the kitchen, follow these steps: Mince garlic on cutting board. With it still on the board, drizzle garlic with olive oil and make sure it is all coated. Sprinkle one pinch of salt on it. Mash garlic and olive oil together to make a rough paste.


In bowl, with a fork, mash together butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley until combined completely. Put bread on sheet of aluminum foil. Scoop up a generous amount of the butter mixture, about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp and stuff it between each slit that you made in the bread.


Wrap bread in the foil and place in broiler. After 5-10 minutes, check to see if butter has melted completely. Open up foil and broil for 3-4 minutes more to toast the top of the bread. Re-cover with foil and keep warm until ready to serve.

Buon appetito!

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