Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sleeping Bag of Beauty

Mountain Meatballs - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

     I'll tell you right now, this may be one of the more complex recipes you'll ever have to follow, but I guarantee you it's completely worth it. I found this recipe on a blog called Kayotic Kitchen, and she apparently got it from Jamie Oliver. I have one of his cookbooks, so I knew this would be a good one. I'd been wanting to make these for months and months, and finally decided it was time. Jake offered to help, which would make the process easier... not to mention I'd have someone to share the meatballs with. Truthfully, sometimes that's my main deterrent when deciding to attempt a recipe or something. If it's good, I get so excited about it, but then have no one to share it with. Yes, I can write about it, but that's just not the same. Anyway, so during the process of making these meatballs, we got a little nervous. In throwing together the sauce that the meatballs were to brew in, we had all these crazy bold flavors going on, namely molasses, chili peppers, apple cider vinegar, coffee, dijon mustard, and cocoa powder. Things I wouldn't necessarily think would be good for meatballs to mellow out in. The smell was quite pungent, and I was really nervous that all these bold flavors wouldn't mix well. Goes to show how much I have left to learn about cooking, because the sauce cooked down and all those flavors blended absolutely perfectly to make a slightly sweet and unique masterpiece.

     A couple things I did differently: I used stale sourdough bread from a bakery to make the breadcrumbs, and although it's hard to tell with a zillion ingredients in this recipe, I feel like it make it better. The cheddar cheese I used was a sharp white cheddar made by Cabot. It's incredible. I suggest you buy it and eat it like an apple regardless of whether or not you use it in this recipe. Also, I didn't really add much salt, used 1 tbs of molasses instead of the recommended 5, 3 tbs of worcestershire sauce instead of 6, didn't use the beef bouillon cube, and my paprika wasn't smoked paprika. I made my changes to the recipe I found and they're shown below. Why? Because there is nothing I would change about what we created. Throw these bad boys in with some pasta, make a sandwich, or even use the sauce as a base for a pizza (I did that and it blew my mind). Good luck!

Mountain Meatballs

2 pound ground beef
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 small onions
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 large eggs
2 handfuls breadcrumbs

Chili sauce:

1 large onion
2 bell peppers
2 chili peppers
3 plum tomatoes
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp cider vinegar
6 tbsp ketchup
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sweet smokey paprika powder
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 heaping tsp granulated coffee
1 handful flat-leaf parsley
1) First start by preparing the chili sauce. Chop all of your onions for the entire recipe (including those for the meatballs) and sauté in a little bit of olive oil. Divide the onions in half and let half cool off. I just stuck them in the freezer for a little bit. The cooled onions with be for the meatball portion of the recipe. 
2) Remove the seeds from the peppers and give them a coarse chop. Grate the garlic and cut the tomatoes in fours. Sauté the bell peppers and chili peppers for 10 minutes before adding the garlic and already sautéed onions, and then sauté another 5 minutes. Add in the smoked paprika, molasses, worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, ketchup, Dijon mustard, cocoa, brown sugar, tomatoes, and your coffee crystals mixed with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a low simmer. 
3) For the meatballs. Mix your ground beef with the cooled off onions and all of the other ingredients listed under Meatballs. Form 8-10 big meatballs. Use your thumb to push a hole into each meatball, fill them with the grated cheddar and close them up again. Heat some butter and brown the meatballs over medium heat. Give them a really nice tan all around.
4) Place the meatballs in the sauce and bring it to a boil again. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered 25-30 minutes. 5 minutes before serving, add in chopped flat leaf parsley. 

Buffalo Chicken & Cheese Dip - Jimmy's Kitchen, Brighton, MA
     This is NOT really a lightweight friendly food, but DAMN is it delicious. Like buffalo chicken? Like
Buffalo Chicken & Cheese Dip 
cheese? Then you'll like this. I had this once at Amanda's house last year and knew I had to revisit the recipe in the future. Jimmy, Karl, Dave and Alyse had tons and tons of leftover corn tortillas from an Anna's catered event at the boathouse, so we decided to make homemade lime tortilla chips to dip in this deadly dip. They also had bunch of chicken, so that's what I used in the recipe. The recipe is super easy, and it's really hard to screw up the warm cheeses and buffalo chicken. Other recipes add ranch dressing. I think that's unnecessary. 
Buffalo Chicken & Cheese Dip 

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 bottle Franks Red Hot sauce
8 oz container cream cheese
1 cup Mexican cheese blend (or just the whole bag... whatever
1) Poach, bake, grill, or fry (whatever you feel like doing) your chicken breast and shred when cool enough to handle. Toss chicken with the hot sauce and let sit until ready to use 

2) Spread cream cheese onto the bottom of an ungreased baking pan. Top with chicken, add cheese, and sprinkle on a little extra hot sauce on top if you desire. OR, layer all the different ingredients if you're feeling crazy. 

3) Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Presto. 

Boloco - Cambridge, MA

Feeling inspired by a Tikka Masala Burrito. 
     I will never pass up free food. Well... almost never. Definitely not in this case. I had a coupon for free small burrito from Boloco, and I had to try it out. Naturally, I waited until the day it expired. For those that don't know, Boloco is not your standard burrito place. They're slogan is "globally inspired burritos," meaning they offer some really unique flavor combinations in a burrito that are unique to different areas. For example, their bangkok thai burrito, classic mexican, teriyaki, and memphis bbq. Not what you'd expect in a burrito, right? We had Boloco delivered to the office once, but they were these mini burritos that were practically bite sized, and I couldn't eat much. I never got the full effect, so I was pretty pumped to get my own full sized burrito. I was feeling the tikka masala burrito, which came with a creamy masala sauce, brown rice, and choice of meat. I went with the grilled chicken and had them add shredded carrots and cucumbers. I tell you... I sat outside at a little table eating that sleeping bag of beauty and people must've thought I was on something. That masala sauce was so good. Creamy and with a tad bit of that Indian heat. The carrots and cucumbers brought it a freshness that paired so well with the sauce.

Lonestar - Allston, MA

Just look how pretty that guac is.
    I've been in love with Deep Ellum since my first visit, so I knew that when the owners of Deep Ellum opened up their sister restaurant, Lonestar,  right next door, I had to go, and it was going to be amazing. The atmosphere was just as I expected. Deep, dark woods with a modern western feel. I met Malcolm and a friend of his there for some grub one Saturday night as was definitely NOT displeased, aside from the fact that the waitstaff was pretty terrible and slow. The food... not terrible. We started with their chips and salsa

Beef Barbacoa on the top right, Carnitas pork bottom left
and this beautiful bowl of guacamole. This guac was probably the best restaurant guac I've ever had. It was super creamy, but still had hunks of onions, avocado and tomatoes. I don't know what made it so good, but I could eat it straight for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seriously. And their tortilla chips were definitely homemade with super coarse hunks of salt. I love salt. 
     We still hadn't gotten a table after sitting at this bar type area for over an hour and a half, so we finally decided to just order our tacos. The first in my face was their Beef Barbacoa. It was shredded smoked brisket, pickled red onion, avocado crema, and cotija (apparently a Mexican cow's milk cheese). The beef was still juicy and was complimented perfectly with the pickled flavors in the onion and the cool, thin avocado sauce. They served their tacos on soft corn tortillas, which was different for me, but I definitely liked the flavors. The only downside is that they start to break when they cool down. 
     The second taco I had was their Carnitas Pork. Always a huge fan of carnitas. Theirs was homemade, and I just realized why it was so incredible. Their carnitas is confit pork shoulder, cilantro, queso fresco, and what I think were pickled radishes or something. Remember what confit means? It means it was cooked in fat. Holy crap. This reminded me of dami? Dayme? Daeme? However you spell it, it's this Lebanese dish my Grandma and Great Grandma make that is practically ground lamb cooked to hell in butter. Pair that with some kibbeh, a slice of onion and stuff it in a pita... MMM! Anyway, back to Mexico... this pork shoulder from Lonestar must've been cooked similarly. It basically looked like ground meat broken up into even smaller pieces. The only way I can think to describe its form is like that of nerds (you know... the candy), but not nearly as crunchy. Little tiny bits, mixed with their cold, pickled radishes and cilantro to balance freshness with the fats. It was definitely my favorite of the two tacos. A return visit is definitely in order to try out the others. 

Veggie Pizza with Pesto - My Backyard, Cambridge, MA

     Some of my favorite texts I get from Jimmy generally involve him asking "Can we make this today?" One
Sunday I got this message with a link to a veggie pizza with broccoli pesto. Yes. Yes and yes. So him and Karl came over with their grill and all the ingredients and we hit the ground running. After grilling up some peppers and topping some fresh baked bread with grilled peppers mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper, we finally started on the pizza. The key ingredient here was the broccoli pesto. I had never made such a thing, but was pumped about it especially because we were grilling the broccoli. We kind of created the broccoli pesto without following the recipe, so I'm not even going to attempt to write it out. Basically just throw your broccoli and other standard pesto ingredients into a food processor. Olive oil by the gallon, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. We forgot the cheese, but it was still incredible. Grilling the broccoli brought out such a different flavor. Big fan. 
     Anyway, we took this big ball of premade pizza dough that Jimmy got from Russo's (the most incredible store with produce and baked goods to blow your mind) out in Watertown, and spread it out on the grill. Let me just say, I don't know why I've ever bothered making pizza NOT on the grill. It's just stupid how delicious the crust gets. Unfortunately (...not), the edges didn't really cook completely, so I haaaaaad to pick at the doughy parts. I love eating dough. Second step was dressing our two pizzas. On one we put the homemade basil pesto we made a few weeks ago, and on the second we put our broccoli pesto. Then we topped both with onions, thick slices of mozzarella cheese (also fresh from Russo's), dollops of ricotta cheese, shredded grilled chicken and some of the leftover grilled peppers. Now... I'm not kidding when I say, I would literally drop $30  on a pizza like this at a restaurant. Either of them. The flavors on both pizzas were OUT OF THIS WORLD. The dough? Crisp on the outside and soft inside, but still slightly doughy. The cheeses? Perfectly gooey and warm but both were such different flavors. The pestos? Freshness level 10. I seriously couldn't believe it. It was possibly the best creation I've ever had part in cooking on a grill. Grilling pizzas, is the way to go. Especially with pestos as the base. I could go on and on forever. 
Basil Pesto pizza on left, Broccoli Pesto pizza on right

Veggie Planet - Cambridge, MA
     This get together was 2 years in the making. Cheryl, Kate and I (friends I met during my trip to Ecuador) were meeting in Harvard square for lunch and to catch up. I took recommendations for places to eat from a few different people and we finally decided on Veggie Planet. Veggie Planet is the parent restaurant of Veggie Galaxy, so I knew it had to be good. Plus, Mary knows her food, so I was sure she wouldn't steer me wrong. Veggie Planet is a little place in the basement of this building down a small walkway in Harvard Square. Very simple. Small tables. Plastic cups. Simple menu. And a very cool menu. They offer a variety of different dishes, and you can get them either on a pizza crust, coconut rice, or brown rice.
     Also per Mary's recommendation, I ordered Henry's Lunch. This creative masterpiece was roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, goat cheese, rosemary and sage. I know... your jaw is on the floor. I got it on their pizza crust and couldn't have been more happy with my choice. Oh. My. Goodness. Ok first, the crust was so different. It was thin, but dense. It seemed like the flour or whatever they used was more coarsely ground. More like the texture of cornmeal. And the crust on the bottom of the pizza wasn't different under the toppings compared to the edges. Unlike normal pizza, where the crust is thinner under the toppings and thicker and fluffy on the edges. You know what I mean? Anyway, it was incredible. Then the butternut squash was perfect with the caramelized onions. Uggggh! The sugars in both crystallized the edges and gave them a delicious sweetness. Then the slightly sharp flavor of warm and melty goat cheese with this sweetness was just divine. It all wouldn't have been the same without the rosemary and sage. Both were prevalent in the whole dish and made it such a savory treat. I was so impressed with this little hidden gem and couldn't believe how amazing of a combination all of those flavors were. I really want to try to make something like this on my own. Then again... why not just go back?


  1. VEGGIE PLANET would like to thank you very much for this wonderful review Laurissa, and we think your idea of coming back to have another Henry's Lunch pizza sounds just perfect! We'd love to see you again.

    1. I'd love to! However, I'd have to try something new. There were so many delicious sounding things on your menu! Hungry just thinking about it.