THE PASTA EXPERIMENT
“You have to leave room for serendipity,” The Jeanne once told me. While Mom was no wordsmith, this may have been her most eloquent –and most sage— bit of advice. I interpret her philosophy as: Take risks! Act! If you plan every detail of your life, all you end up with is an incredibly boring, uninspired life. Or worse, you just plan and never do. Alas, this is exactly what has ailed my long-neglected blog.
About five or six months, I grew a bit bored with “Cooking With Jeanne.” Not only was my recipe box running low on meals, but the blog’s premise had grown stale. I was no longer riveted by Mom’s recipe box; Nor did I spend my down time discovering ways her cooking could inspire my everyday life. At its inception, Cooking With Jeanne felt like a magical passageway to connecting with my mother. Yet whenever I sat down to write this spring or summer, I was overwhelmed with the sense that I was just another self-indulgent mother blogging about herself –the epitomy of what I detest about blogs.
So I stopped. Instead, I told myself I would give poor Cooking With Jeanne a makeover. She would come back polished, smarter and certainly more marketable. (I have an image of my mother wearing gobs of makeup looking confused by her newfound glamour!) Yet no measure of researching, outlining or talking seemed to get me closer to a new idea. Unlike, the original premise for Cooking With Jeanne –one that simply struck me as I was cooking on a lazy Sunday— nothing came naturally. Planning and goals had edged out serendipity.
Simply writing is the only option I have left. At first I thought I would simply keep a private journal and see what happens. But you know what? There’s no risk in my private ruminations. Blogging may be self-indulgent, but there is also a real danger to putting your thoughts out in a public space. You open yourself up to praise, criticism, and –worst of all—the inevitable eye-roll.
With that said, I am returning to the blog with a Seinfeldian shift –it may be about nothing. I’ll still write about my mother, talk about raising a family, and include recipes. However, I cannot guarantee I will do this every week. The idea is to recapture the magic. Not invent a better formula.
When I worked at Fortune, my editor John Huey used to say that ideas were like pasta. “You have to throw it against the wall to see what sticks.” In that vein, let’s begin with Spaghetti and Meatballs.
MEATBALLS AND SAUCE
The great thing about meatballs is that my kids love to help. Since they were very small, my kids could dump the ingredients into a bowl. Now that they are older, I will even let them roll the balls themselves. That’s always a crowd pleaser. (Except tonight, of course, when my son simply said, “Nah! You can cook them, Mommy,” and returned to watching Disney Channel .)
1 – 1 1/2lb ground beef or ground turkey *
¼ cup bread crumb, seasoned or unseasoned
¼ cup, parmesan cheese
1 tsp, dried basil
1 tsp, dried oregano
1 tsp, thyme
Roughly 1 tsp of garlic salt
Fresh parsley (if the spirit moves you)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp, olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp, basil
2 tsp, oregano
2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cans of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each) can use fresh if available
1-2 cans of crushed tomatoes (28 oz each), depending on number of servings
1 small can, tomato paste
Red wine (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine meat, spices, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and egg in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. I like to do this with my hands, good primordial release!
3. Form 1-inch diameter balls in hand (Hint: To avoid getting the meat mixture stuck to your hands, wet hands under faucet before each meat ball. Place them on baking sheet lined with foil.
4. Brush meatballs with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt
5. Place in oven, bake for 20 minutes.
6. While meatballs are baking, chop onions and garlic and sautee with olive oil in large stock pot for about 5 minutes or until soft.
7. Add bay leaves, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cook on medium high heat until bubbling gently.
8. Add spices, reduce heat, and cover.
9. Once meatballs are ready, add them to sauce too.
10. Let simmer for one hour.
11. Serve over pasta.
NOTE: This time I actually added a couple of yellow peach tomatoes I picked up at the farmers market. To pick up on their light, late summer flavor, I added a dry white Loire wine. Lovely.