Tag Archives: Meatballs

One Year of Communal Table

26 Mar
Italy Food
Jenny, Neil and food in Italy.

One year ago today, Jenny and I were doing something we’d never done before – setting up a food blog. While that ‘first’ may not have the same excitement factor as, say, jumping out of an airplane or buying a house, for us it was a pretty big deal. It got us into the world of social media and has allowed us to learn a lot about that world in a short amount of time. It gave us an outlet to combine something we’re both formally trained to do – communicate with words – with things we both love to do – enjoy food and share interesting stories. And perhaps most importantly, starting this blog gave us yet another thing we can enjoy doing together as a team.

We started Communal Table last March not quite knowing where we were going with it. As our About Us page says, we chose the name Communal Table because we liked the idea of it being a place to gather and share food as well as conversation about passions, interests, opinions and life in general. If you look through posts from our first three months or so, you’ll see one focused on music (another shared love of ours), and a restaurant review interspersed between our more common recipe posts. I originally intended to provide the occasional music post here, and I think we both thought we’d do more restaurant reviews. But it didn’t take too long before we both realized that those types of posts just didn’t feel like a natural fit.

Meatballs Communal Table
Our meatballs with pine nuts and raisins, inspired by a trip to New York.

Jenny and I love cooking together, so our original recipes have been the focus of most of our posts over the past year. In fact, we’ve shared so many of our recipes that we recently added a recipe page to the blog so that our readers could access meal ideas without having to scroll through a year’s worth of our posts to find something that appeals to them. We’ve posted about some of our long-time favourite recipes, like our meatballs with pine nuts and raisins and my olive oil ice cream, and we’ve also written about creations that came to us in a moment of inspiration, like our poached egg on grilled Portobello and asparagus pesto, and aglio e olio pasta with seared fennel-dusted tuna and broccolini. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these dishes – and hopefully trying them out yourself – as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them.

Angeline's Inn and Restaurant Prince Edward County
Angeline’s Inn and Restaurant in Prince Edward County, a great place we had the pleasure of staying and eating at.

The blog has also given us the chance to take part in some great events and explore some amazing places. Our trip last fall to Prince Edward County stands out in particular, because it got us out to an area we’d heard so much about but hadn’t yet seen, and it turned out to be a beautiful place with so many inspiring people. The recent Almost Famous Chefs’ Competition gave us the chance to see the next generation of great chefs in action. And of course, we participated in the February Kitchen Play event, which forced us out of our culinary comfort zone by asking us to cook with a common ingredient (Canadian beef) in an unconventional way (by using it in a cocktail recipe).

Along the way, we’ve met many people – fellow food bloggers, chefs, PR people, store owners and others – who’ve let us into their worlds and given us some great advice and support. Mary Luz Mejia at Sizzling Communications, the team at Rock-It Promotions, The Drake Hotel, Fiesta Farms, and Toronto food promoters and social media stars like Joel Solish and Suresh Doss are just some of the people we have to thank.

We’re moving into year two with a much better idea of how this blog will look than we had at the start of year one. But we also have some new ideas, both for Communal Table and for other projects we’ve been brainstorming, so we’re not entirely sure what the next year will have in store. Of course, the adventure is what continues to make it interesting. Thanks for reading over the past year, and we hope you’ll continue to do so and share your thoughts with us along the way.

Thanks,

Neil and Jenny

Communal Table Kitchen
A slightly blurry, in-the-moment shot of us getting our hands dirty in the kitchen.

Polpette Rustico: Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Raisins & Simple Tomato Sauce

11 Feb

I was lucky enough to share in Neil’s first experience (aka: the beginning of his love affair) with New York City. When we first met I couldn’t believe that he had never been there before. For someone who’s so passionate about food, culture, art, music and history, it seemed like a crime that he had been missing out on a city that’s known for the best of all of it.

Especially when it comes to the food. Oh, the food.

When we took that first trip together, Neil had a list of restaurants and food items to try that could have lasted us about a year and a half.

We only had 4 days. I’ll spare you the gluttonous details.

But among the amazing meals we had was the unforgettable night we shared sitting on the street-side patio at Morandi in the West Village. And the best part was that we had stumbled upon it randomly, knowing nothing about the place or the chef.

Jody Williams (now famous for her appearances as judge on Food Network’s ‘Chopped‘) was the chef there at the time and the menu really got us excited. Nothing fancy, just simple Italian trattoria fare but with the kinds of exciting ingredients that always feed our passion for food in New York.

We ordered the fried artichoke with lemon to start and I actually remember our collective reaction after taking the first bite. We got that knowing look in our eyes followed by ‘Oh My God’s and a shared laugh marking our extreme fulfillment.

We also experienced real burrata for the first time ever that night, and we knew we had stumbled upon something special.

But it was Morandi’s Sicilian meatballs (Polpettine alla Siciliana) that really stole our hearts. We were so enamored with the interesting addition of pine nuts and raisins. It seemed untraditional at the time but whenever I think of Italian meatballs now, these are the version that I crave.

We immediately set out to craft our own version when we got home. We created our recipe from scratch, inspired by the meatballs at Morandi, but adding our own touches including lemon zest, which I love in this dish. Many, many batches later, these meatballs have become one of our favorite comfort foods and always remind us of that first trip to NYC.

When I made them the other night, Neil gave me the best compliment ever when he said that our kitchen smelled like his nonna’s as soon as he walked through the door. That made me smile.

These meatballs are rustic, flavorful and delicious enough to eat on their own as a meal. We serve them with salad, crusty bread and a generous heaping of the thick, rich tomato sauce.

 

Polpette Rustico: Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Raisins & Simple Tomato Sauce

For Sauce:

 

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small bulb of fennel, chopped, fronds reserved and roughly chopped

1 bottle of strained Italian tomatoes

3 Tbsp olive oil

½ cup water

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Handful basil leaves, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

For Meatballs:

½ pound ground veal or lean ground beef

½ pound ground pork

¼ cup chopped basil leaves (approx 10 leaves)

½ cup raisins (golden or sultana)

½ cup pine nuts (you can toast them for more intense flavor or leave them raw)

1 egg

Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

* Makes approx 20 large-sized meatballs.

In a deep sauce pan, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high. Add the fennel and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Roughly chop the fennel fronds and add to the pot. Add some salt, to taste, and keep sautéing for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, water and basil. Mix and season again with salt and pepper. Add in the balsamic vinegar. Mix well. Lower heat to a simmer and cover.

In a large mixing bowl, add all eight ingredients for the meatballs. Mix well with your hands to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Form into balls. You can make them as big or as small as you want. If you’re eating them with pasta then make smaller balls but if you’re having them as a meal on their own (as we like to do) then form larger meatballs.

Heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, turning each one using tongs. You might have to do this in two batches. When the meatballs are browned on all sides, add them one at a time right into the simmering tomato sauce.

Some pine nuts and raisins may come loose and end up in the pan. We like to scoop them up and add them right into the sauce to add extra flavor.

Once all the meatballs are added into the sauce, cover the pot and simmer on a medium-low heat for approx 35-45 minutes.

Cut into a meatball to make sure they’re cooked all the way through before serving.


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