Matt prepared Spanish food for the family today. We discussed various dishes to make, thumbing through my copy of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, but he was drawn once again to meatballs. Not that I can say I blame him - what kid doesn’t like meatballs? (His favorite dish in the world is spaghetti and meatballs, as evidenced by one of his earlier turns in the kitchen.) In addition to the meatballs, we settled on a Spanish saffron chorizo rice, and some simply steamed green beans.
The meatball recipe was modified to be gluten-free, of course. This is a rather easy change to make. I made gluten-free breadcrumbs by toasting slices of old gluten-free bread I made, and then processing them into crumbs in the food processor. Of course, you could use any gluten-free bread or rolls to do the same. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, he called for dusting the meatballs with flour – I simply omitted this step. I also baked them instead of pan-frying, just to make things easier. Matt, of course, enjoyed forming the meatballs, and again attempted to create “the biggest meatball ever.”
The saffron chorizo rice was based on a Mark Bittman recipe as well. This dish has flavors similar to that of a paella, only it’s a bit simpler and does not have that characteristic paella “crust.” It did, however, have the wonderful aroma of saffron and that pleasant saltiness of the chorizo.
The verdict? The meatballs were okay, but lacked a depth of flavor, and were a bit dry. I used a lean ground beef, and perhaps next time should make them with a fattier meat. I also would prefer to add an herb in the meatballs to boost flavor – whether that would make them less “Spanish”, I’m not sure. As for the rice, it did have a wonderful blend of flavors. Mark Bittman’s recipe did call for a diced tomato, which I omitted. I think next time I’d leave that tomato in, to further balance the flavors and add a bit of acidity to the dish. But regardless, Matt was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the rice was (the part of the dish he was most skeptical about), and in addition, he had a great time – which, to me, is what being in the kitchen is all about.
Almond Meatballs, adapted from Mark Bittman:
2 lbs ground beef or pork
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c gluten-free bread crumbs
2 T minced garlic
1/2 c blanched almonds, roughly chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the meat in a bowl with the egg, bread crumbs, garlic, almonds, and salt and pepper. Mix well but don’t knead. Form into balls of any size you like (we made them about 1 1/2 inch in diameter).
Spray two baking pans with canola spray, and place meatballs on the pans. Place baking pans in the upper 1/3 and lower 1/3 racks in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Switch the pans, and bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked through. Makes about 48 1 1/2 inch meatballs.
Saffron Chorizo Rice, adapted from Mark Bittman:
2 1/2 c vegetable stock
large pinch of saffron threads
6 oz Spanish chorizo, sliced
1 T minced garlic
2 t Spanish smoked paprika
1 1/2 c Arborio or other short-grain rice
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Warm the stock gently in a saucepan with the saffron. Heat a deep skillet to medium heat. Add the chorizo, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, and rice and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy, just a minute or two.
Add the stock, along with pepper (and salt if you think you need it – I didn’t.) Cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently. Cook until the rice is done, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Makes about 4-5 servings.