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Meal the Nineteenth
This week we cut through the fluff and present a meal fit for a king – your Dad. Both Gary and my Dad were big on cooking beef for the family, so we have the perfect no-fuss one-pot meat dish that is sure to delight any Dad. And in honor of our main dish and special day, we give you our very favorite dad joke:
What do you call a cow with two legs? Lean beef. If the cow has no legs, then it’s ground beef.
So without any further ado (or cheesiness, although one of our dishes this week does feature a fair bit of cheese), we wish everyone yet another lovely Sunday as well as a very happy Father’s Day!
Much like the Eastern European Cold Cherry Soup we had several weeks ago, this Plum Soup is a chilled palate cleanser served with sour cream. Plums just came into season here in Santa Fe, so we were excited to give this appetizer a try. Our plums were not the sweetest since it is just the beginning of the season, but they were still tasty (and I usually prefer more tart plums anyways).
We chopped and pitted the plums, putting them in a pan filled with water. We added lemon juice and zest, one cinnamon stick, and a few tablespoons of sugar. The mixture was simmered for 15 minutes and then chilled for four hours. While this recipe was very similar to the Cold Cherry Soup, it had quite a different flavor. Where the Cherry Soup was sweet and rich, the Plum Soup was light and bright, with just the right amount of spice to make it interesting. We both enjoyed this fun appetizer and like the Cherry Soup, I boiled it down the next day to make a compote for our cake (which was also very tasty!).
We went into the history of shaped ground beef last week with Klops (meatloaf), so we will not be too repetitive, but this is just one of many Ashkenazi recipes for meatballs. Claudia Roden recommended these be paired with Mamaliga (see below) and stuck to traditional Eastern European spices for this variation.
We started the tomato sauce first, frying the onion and adding garlic (only our second recipe to use garlic!) to the pan. After these sizzled for several minutes we added the canned tomatoes along with gingersnaps, which we had liquified with lemon juice, sugar, and salt and pepper. While this odd concoction was simmering, Gary combined the ground beef with grated onion and salt and pepper to make a ton of tiny meatballs. He managed to perfectly fit these in concentric circles in our pan of sauce, which then bubbled happily for the next hour.
Holy cow these were tasty! These were truly sweet and sour meatballs – the sauce nicely combined the tangy acidity of tomato with sharp sweetness of the ground gingersnaps. The meatballs were perfectly salty and added an earthiness to the sauce. All-in-all, this was a perfect dish, which we would highly encourage you to try and we will definitely be making again!
As per the recommendations in the big Book of Jewish Food, we paired this cornmeal porridge with the above meatballs. This polenta is Romanian in origin and is traditionally made out of yellow maize flour. Porridge is typically a dish for those with little money and few ingredients; it has quite a long history and is thought to have been the oldest consumption of grains, long before their use in bread. Before corn made its way through Europe in the 16th century, millet flour was used to make mamaliga. Corn was a critical introduction though, as it helped Romanians survive through famines in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hence this simple dish became a staple – it can be made simply with cornmeal, salt, and water, creating a hearty slice of porridge pie.
While it has simple origins, it has a wide variety of variations and can be served as an appetizer, a main course, or on its own. For this recipe, cornmeal is mixed with milk, butter, cream cheese, and salt on the stove until all the fluid is absorbed. This is then poured into a greased dish and baked for 40 minutes, served hot alongside our tasty meatballs.
Again, a simple and quick recipe, but oh-so-tasty. We were surprised that the combination of a few bland ingredients could result in such a tasty and hearty side dish. The mamaliga was creamy, savory, and had the perfect amount of saltiness. It was hard not to go back for seconds, but we knew we had another cake in our future, so we exercised some self-control (for once!). This did keep nicely and made for some tasty leftover meals over the next few days.
Woohoo – another flourless, leavening agent-free cake that would be less susceptible to our high-altitude baking challenges! Remember that Passover calls for leavening-free food, so this cake is often served at that time. Thanks to our ever-so-handy Amazon Prime subscription, we ordered hazelnuts, especially for this cake. Gary really wanted to just use Nutella, but I convinced him that Nutella and hazelnuts are not the same thing (even though Nutella does use 25% of the world’s supply of hazelnuts each year). Hazelnut flour and paste are used for baking all over the world and are high in protein, fiber, and Vitamin E.
Our simple, Nutella-less cake consisted of four ingredients: eggs (separated), sugar, vanilla extract, and ground hazelnuts. Egg yolks were beaten with sugar until creamy and the egg whites were beaten to soft peaks and gently folded into the yolks along with the vanilla extract. After the hazelnuts had a quick spin in the blender, these too were oh-so-gently folded in and the entire concoction was poured into a greased pan. This was baked for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
I typically associate flourless cakes with a dense, almost brownie type texture, but the action of separating and whipping the eggs resulted in a light (but still fairly flat) cake. The earthy, chocolatiness of the hazelnuts made for a nice slice of flourless bakery, which was a perfect end to this meal. And when paired with the plum compote made from the above soup, this cake was nicely complex, with the sweetness of the plums complimenting the subtle bitterness of the nuts.
AND IN THE END, THE FOOD YOU MAKE IS EQUAL TO THE CARE YOU TAKE…
So how was Made In Marrow’s meal number 19? As a reminder, our rating system is based on sticks of butter (because butter is best!), with 1 being the absolute worst and 5 being out of this world. Sticks of butter are assigned to Difficulty (how many kitchen fights were needed to complete the meal?), Tasty Goodness (was it a palate poor or did it make our mouths merry?), and Repeat Customer (how likely are we to return to the recipe?).
Difficulty  2/5
The only time-consuming portion of this meal was rolling many, many meatballs – but overall each recipe was simple and straightforward, with the stand and hand mixers being the most complex tool required.
 4/5 Plum Soup – Bright and light, a great starter for a summer meal.
 5/5 Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs – Perfect, truly sweet, sour, savory, and salivary inducing.
 5/5 Mamaliga with Cheese – Cornmeal Porridge – Also perfect in every way, much like Mary Poppins.
 3/5 Hazelnut Cake – A nice deviation from flour cakes and very subtle in flavor.
 4/5 Plum Soup – An easy dish that we would make again.
 5/5 Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs – Dinner and leftovers were definitely worth the rolling effort!
 5/5 Mamaliga with Cheese – Cornmeal Porridge – Yes, please!
 3/5 Hazelnut Cake – A good alternative to flour (and anxiety-inducing) cakes.
Another week, another great meal which we would highly recommend on sharing with your Dad – it is his day after all!
So sip, sup, and savor all you can, you curious cooks,
Elais & Gary