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Archive for June, 2010

Yosh was my dad.  Yosh was a straight-laced, standup guy who loved his family, loved to cook, and who died way too young.   “I think he was the best of all of us,” my darling Uncle Dial said to me somewhat wistfully last summer.

All my young life, I adored my father and I adored his  spaghetti and meatballs.  Ironically, he had a pot of sauce and meatballs on the stove the day he died.  In the ensuing months of sorrow, we ate the last tubs of my father’s spaghetti sauce and meatballs and that was the last we had them, since it was not my mother’s recipe.

Many years later, I asked my mom for the recipe.  She tried to recall it as best she could and I made the recipe she pieced together for me, adjusting over and over, but it was never quite there.  A few years before she died, I asked my mother where my dad got the recipe.  She thought he had found it in the newspaper and she did have a bag of recipe clippings saved that went back to the late 1960’s, so I spent hours at her condo patiently digging through every newspaper clipping, to no avail.

In 2006, my mom passed away.  As my sister and I were cleaning the condo, we came across that bag of recipes and my sister didn’t want them, so I took them home, where they sat for months.

One lazy Sunday afternoon, I grabbed a chair and started to sort through them.  Many hours later, I came across a recipe torn from a pasta box.  It was for spaghetti and meatballs.  The recipe called for Red Cross Spaghetti, a now-defunct Chicago pasta manufacturer, so presumably, the recipe came off their box.    I stared hard at that recipe.  “This could be it,” I thought to myself.  I paced over to my husband, “I’m going to make this.  I think it may be my Tata’s long lost pasta sauce.”  Tata is the Serbian word for father.  I started calling my full-blooded Serbian American dad “Tata” in high school after becoming friends with Vera, a full-blooded Serbian American in my school who lived two blocks away from me.  From freshman year in high school to this day, he was and always remains “Tata” to me.

So I made the sauce.  Incidentally, it took a little research to discover that a no. 2 ½ can used to be 29 oz.  A 28 oz. can works fine.    I tasted the sauce as it was cooking and it was a taste of childhood.  Oh my gosh, I think this is it!!  Of course, my dad was not one for fussy preparations and I am pretty sure his meatballs didn’t have fresh parsley in them, but for now, I am sticking with the original.

I haven’t had time to make it since then, but my recent foray into grinding my own meat and a fortuitous sale of pork loin at Kroger this week inspired me to try it again.  Fair warning, this recipe will nicely double, but do not triple unless you use a REALLY large stock pot.  I thought I would be perfectly safe using my huge enameled cast iron dutch oven, but as you can see above, it is filled to within about ½ inch of its life!  Not to mention that 3 lbs of meat (I only used 2 eggs and 4 slices of bread), made 57 meatball and 2 hours after the adventure began, my kitchen looked like a parsley bomb went off in it and I just noticed a piece of dried raw ground beef in the middle of my t-shirt.  Being a sucker for punishment, I decided dinner would not be complete without fresh bread, so I have French bread dough busy in the bread machine as I type.

This recipe, a recent family reunion, and a CD of family movies from a cousin have me a bit nostalgic for childhood.  The food, the stories, the pictures – they almost bring those loved ones back close enough to touch.  And that’s the best thing of all.  If we hold on to our family history, we hold on to all the ones who came before us, who made us what we are, and who filled our lives up.

Let me know if you try Yosh’s Sauce.  If you prefer, you can call it Red Cross Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs, but to me, this taste was all my dad’s.

Best regards,

Lynn

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This month’s Cooking Light magazine had a feature on hamburgers, and one of the recipes provided details on how to make your own fresh ground beef for really tasty burgers.  All you needed was some time, a cut of beef, and a Kitchenaid mixer with the grinder attachment.   The most time consuming part for me was digging all around my house for the box with the kitchenaid attachments we had bought when we bought the mixer.  They are infrequently used and had been put away SOMEWHERE after our kitchen remodel two years ago.  I had to comb the house for about a half hour before I found the dusty old box on the back of the top shelf in the furthest corner of the basement storage area.

Cooking Light‘s recipe suggested Brisket, but I did some research online that recommended cuts such as chuck steak as well.  A local grocery had boneless “English Roast” on sale for about $2/pound.    This cut apparently comes from the same area as chuck and looks pretty much the same as a pot roast cut to me.  I bought a 2.5 pound package.

Per Cooking Light‘s instructions, I put the parts of my grinder attachment in the freezer for about an hour.    The next time I tried this, I did not have time to chill the attachments and it didn’t seem to matter.   I cut the roast into strips that were small enough around to fit in the chute of the grinder.  They were about 3/4 x 1 inch and maybe 3-5 inches long.  I laid them all out on a cookie sheet and tossed them in the freezer for about 30 min to an hour.

Once the meat was partially frozen, I set the Kitchenaid with grinder attachment to speed 4 as specified by my manual.  Then I put a bowl under the grinder and started feeding the meat into the hopper using the wood plunger to push it through.  As the nice ground meat started to come out, I was reminded of a scene in Pink Floyd’s The Wall and started singing “we don’t need no education…”

I was able to feed 2.5 lbs of meat through fairly quickly.  Since both Cooking Light and my manual said to grind the meat twice, I dumped what I had in the bowl back onto the cookie sheet and ran it through the grinder again.  This is slightly messier than the first run, but still goes quickly.  I  then put the bowl of beautiful ground meat into the fridge to use for dinner.  All in all, I think i spent about 30 minutes prepping the meat, running it through the grinder, and cleaning up.

The first time, I made burgers from the meat.   I thought they were amazing but my family did not jump up and down as much as I thought I deserved:).  My husband suggested that next time I might try running the seasoning through with the burger on the second grind so that I wouldn’t have to mix so vigorously while making patties and could pat the patties a bit looser.

This week I made tacos with 2 lbs of ground English roast.  I trimmed off a bit of the fat, but left most if it to be ground in with the meat.  I always have trouble breaking up the big chunks of ground beef as I cook it, but this time I got a lovely fine crumble.  I did strain all the liquid and fat out, and in the morning, that bowl had mostly  gel and very little fat.  The tacos were terrific.

I can’t wait to try fresh ground beef for other recipes like sloppy joes, meatballs, and bolognese sauce.

Try it, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Lynn

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