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Amazeballs

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As you may have heard, “amazeballs” was recently added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, along with “hangry”, “douchebagery” and my personal favorite, “totes”. I’ve been using the word amazeballs since I was a wee sorority girl, so I’m all for this addition of popular slang; especially when I can use such a word to describe a meal!

Last week Panini Girl posted a recipe for eggplant meatballs that she picked up from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, which I will soon be getting a copy of. Panini Girl knows her stuff when it comes to Italian food, and as she writes in her post, she is very picky about meatballs. So I knew that if she liked it as much as she said she did, then the recipe had to be attempted by yours truly! And when I saw some beautiful, huge eggplants at the Sonoma Farmer’s market on Tuesday, I knew the cooking Gods were telling me something.

eggplant

Beautiful eggplant from the Sonoma Farmers Market

Setting up for my first dinner party!

Setting up for my first dinner party!

This past Friday presented the perfect opportunity when I hosted my very first Napa dinner party. In attendance were two coworkers, a vegetarian friend and her meat-eating boyfriend, and my upstairs neighbor. I knew it was a risky move to make something I had never made before that also required quite a bit of prep, but I was determined! I doubled the recipe because there were six of us, and I also made some farro, green beans, and a Greek salad. Needless to say, there was a bit too much food. But better to overserve than underserve!

Eggplant Meatballs aka Amazeballs (serves 8-10)

  • 2 large purple, shiny eggplants
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 x 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, torn, plus 2 TB fresh minced basil
  • 5 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 4 oz shredded Parmesan
  • 2 TB minced parsley
  • 1 cup flour for coating, or more as needed
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 350. Poke the eggplants all over with a fork, then place on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for one 60-75 minutes, or until inside is completely tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

The skins will be crinkly and brown when it's ready.

The skins will be crinkly and brown when it’s ready.

Meanwhile, in a large pot (big enough to fit tomato sauce and all the meatballs) heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add 3 cloves of garlic and crush with a wooden spoon, then sauté for about two minutes. Add onion and red pepper flakes and sauté for another two minutes, until onions begin to soften. Add tomatoes and their juice, salt and Italian seasoning and heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Then lower heat to medium-low and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

tomato sauce

Peel eggplant and discard skins. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix eggplant, bread crumbs, eggs, the rest of the garlic (minced), Parmesan, parsley, minced basil, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into golfball-sized balls and coat each in a thin layer of flour, then set onto a platter covered with wax paper.

Pour oil into a large, cast-iron skillet so that it’s about 1 inch deep. Heat over a medium-high flame, then test heat by adding a small piece of the eggplant mixture. If it sizzles, then the oil is hot enough. Using tongs, add half of the eggplant balls into the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes, until browned and crispy. Then turn and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate lined with paper towel, and cook the next batch of eggplant balls.

amazeballs

fried amazeballs

Warm sauce over a medium flame, and add torn basil leaves. If too thick, add a bit of water and continue to cook. Once the sauce has reached a desired consistency, add the meatballs and cook for about 10 minutes over a medium-low flame. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve with a side of farro, pasta, or toasty bread – or just eat as is!

photo 4

These eggplant balls were a HUGE hit, even with the carnivores! The consistency was perfect, and they actually tasted a little bit like meat. They were very hearty and flavorful, and were just as good the next day. We had a wide selection of wine at the meal because several of us had brought bottles of mostly full Cabernet that were left over from various work tastings (one of the many industry perks). I also served a Seghesio Barbera that one of my coworkers brought, which paired nicely with the Italian flavors in the amazeballs.

Special thanks to Panini Girl for sharing this recipe with her readers, and an even bigger thanks to my friends who joined me for my first Napa Dinner Party! There will be many more to come 🙂

Polenta Casserole

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Tonight I made one of my favorite meals: Polenta Casserole. It’s so easy to make, very healthy, vegetarian, and makes four servings so it’s great for family dinner or leftovers. Here is what you need:

available at TJ's and most health food stores

  • 1 TB of Olive Oil (or Olive Oil spray)
  • “polenta log”
  • one large eggplant
  • one zucchini
  • one yellow squash
  • one head of kale
  • two large fresh tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese (or 4 oz goat cheese if you’re a Lactard)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • S&P to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Start by drizzling the olive oil on the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish, dispersing it evenly. Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch discs and layer them on the bottom of the dish. You should be able to do one layer, but you can cut pieces to fit in the corners.

Layer 1

Slice the rest of the vegetables into 1/2 inch thick discs, and layer them on top of the polenta. I usually do eggplant first to create a hearty bottom layer, then the squash, zucchini and fresh tomatoes.

Evenly spread the tomato sauce over the top layer. You can use store-bought tomato sauce with some light flavoring (tomato-basil, roasted garlic, or marinara work well), or you can just use the plain canned tomato sauce – whichever is in your pantry! Top the tomato sauce with the kale (ripped into medium size pieces) and cheese, and sprinkle seasonings on top.

final product

Place the dish in the top shelf of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the feta starts to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Napa Valley Merlot

Not to self-promote my company’s brand, but this dish pairs perfectly with the JAQK Cellars 2007 Bone Dance Merlot. Bone Dance is 75% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah, and 1% Cabernet Franc (a wine must be 75% of one varietal in order to call it that varietal). It reflects the qualities of a French Bordeaux, but incorporates the dark cherry and earthy flavors of Napa Valley grapes. It pairs well with the polenta casserole because it compliments the acid in the tomato sauce. Bone Dance also has a great value at only $25 a bottle if you buy directly from the winery, or you can also find a store near you that sells it.

Enjoy!

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