Many apologies for my blogging absence. A couple other writing projects have suddenly filled my time and I’ve been forced to neglect my little blog and my favorite bloggers. Thanks to Aussie Adventurer, Baz at The Landy for making sure I was alive and kicking!
Now that it’s March there’s been a steady hint of spring in the air and our little local farmers market is beginning to have a larger weekly selection. I’m beginning to plan my early spring garden: lettuces, cabbages and rhubarb, which should go in the ground six weeks before our final frost date, April 15. They’ll provide company for my strawberry patch which survived the winter (and my forgetful neglect) surprisingly well, and for the volunteer arugula (rocket), cilantro (coriander), italian parsley and butter lettuce plants which are popping up from seed all over the place.
In addition I have a rainbow chard plant which has stubbornly produced frost bitten leaves throughout the winter, and so I’ve incorporated its colorful stems and velvety texture into this recipe.
· 2 lbs grass fed ground beef 85% lean
· 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
· 1 free range chicken egg
· 1/4 cup crushed pine nuts
· 1/3 cup chopped marinated red peppers
· 4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
· 1 handful chopped fresh oregano (about 1/3 cup loosely packed)
· grated zest of one large lemon (unwaxed)
· 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, loosely packed
· 2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
· 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
· 1 teaspoon sea salt (I use Celtic Brand)
· Black pepper
· 2 bunches of chard leaves, chopped
· 1 tablespoon bacon drippings
· 1 cup wild or brown rice
· 2 cups water
· pinch salt
I love pine nuts and lemon zest in meatballs. Reminds me of the cypress lined streets of Rome, basking under a warm, orange autumn sun… Maybe the wrong season, but never mind! Feel free to use various fresh herbs: basil, italian parsley, rosemary or marjoram would all be quite tasty.
Crush the pine nuts and fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. The finer you can get the fennel seeds the nicer the meatballs. If you have time to make my marinated red pepper recipe, please do; otherwise look for a quality jarred product. I find that peppers jarred in olive oil instead of water and vinegar are usually better quality.
Thoroughly rinse the rice to get rid of the starch used for dry storage. Boil two cups of water and add the rice and salt, then immediately lower the heat and cook on low for about 45 minutes, or until it’s soft and has absorbed all the water.
Heat the bacon drippings over a high heat and add the chard, sautéing furiously until all the leaves are coated, then lower the heat and allow the chard to wilt and the stems to soften. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Heat your oven to 350F (180C). Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, ensuring that the egg has been evenly distributed throughout. You may have noticed I omitted bread crumbs from this recipe — only because I’m somewhat of a low-carber. I’ve found that if you’re able to use a higher fat ground beef, such as 85% lean, the resulting meatballs will be nice and soft without the need for breadcrumbs (provided they’re not overcooked!). But if you prefer to use them, add 1/3-1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs to the mix.
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Roll into small balls of your preferred size, keeping in mind they’ll shrink slightly while cooking. Place them in rows on the cookie sheet, ensuring enough space between each one so that heat can evenly circulate. In fact, you might need two cookie sheets.
Cook them for about 15 minutes, then check for doneness by cutting open one sacrificial meatball. It should be just barely pink in the middle for a good medium-well doneness, which will guard against dryness. If you want it a little more done or browned, cook longer in three minute increments until you’re satisfied, bearing in mind that ground beef cooks very quickly.
When they’re done to your liking, serve them on a bed of chard leaves topped with a spoonful of rice and sprinkle over a little lemon zest and/or freshly grated parmesan cheese. Buon appetito!