Original recipe

1 lb ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumb
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

This recipe was no frills, super simple, and totally delicious. Essentially you just slap together all first tier ingredients , form 2 inch balls, dredge in flour, brown in the olive oil, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

I basically stuck to the recipe, but I made a few changes. First, I split the batch in order to try half all-beef and half beef/pork/veal mix (which was on sale). I also substituted parmigiano reggiano plus a pinch of sugar in place of parmesan because it was half the price.

I was really pleased with how they came out. Super moist but with a nice brown crust and extremely flavorful. I would say I preferred the beef/pork/veal meatballs more, but not by much. They were both delicious and the recipe made enough for five servings.

I served it with a Jersey tomato salad, zucchini “noodles” and more parmigiano reggiano.

I definitely foresee this becoming a staple recipe for me. Next time I’ll finish them in some fresh tomato sauce and serve with homemade pasta. Once I learn how to do that, that is.

20120808-183553.jpg

20120808-181744.jpg

20120808-181140.jpg

I figured nothing would kick off a cookbook experiment quite like a stand-by Joy of Cooking recipe. I decided to go with a classic and something I’ve always struggled with–meatballs. I’ve only attempted meatballs a handful of times and with little instruction but they always came out dry and, occasionally, inedible.

Being lucky enough to live a 10 minute walk from Philadelphia’s incredible Reading Terminal Market, I opted to shop for ingredients there. I didn’t have to start entirely from scratch, but pretty close. What was meant to be a temporary housing situation for me turned into a one year lease but I still treated my apartment like a hotel for the most part. In other words, I never really stocked my pantry.

The Terminal was surprisingly vacant for 5 p.m. and I made a bee-line for Martin’s Quality Meats. The recipe called for 100% ground beef, but I’ve always enjoyed pork/veal/beef meatballs so I decided to pick up half a pound of each of beef and pre-mixed ground. $3

Next I stopped by OK-Lee produce, the end-all of cheap fruits and veggies, for some fresh parsley. 69 cents

I picked up some peccorino cheese (substituting for parmigiano reggiano) at Downtown Cheese, then stopped by Salumeria for tomato paste. $1.50 + 3.69 = $3.19

On my way out of Reading Terminal I picked up some day-old rolls from Metropolitan Bakery to turn into bread crumbs. $2

Without counting the ingredients I had at home (wine, eggs, and all-purpose flour) my total came to $10.88.

To be continued Friday…

Today I challenge myself. Well, not today exactly. Later this week. Probably more like Sunday.

I challenge myself to teach myself to cook. Classic American, Italian, Indian, Asian, I want to attempt to master my favorite dishes and get myself back in the habit of cooking on a regular basis. There are a few problems:

1. I live alone and leftovers feel like a burden to me.
2. I’m a writer, i.e. I am constantly broke.
and 3. I have no oven and my electric range is a joke.

But I’m going to try. I’m going to crack open my favorite cook books and my grandmother’s recipe cards and practice until I have it right. Probably force-feed some friends along the way.

Some recipes I will follow verbatim, others I may alter due to my access to certain ingredients, budget, or taste.

I want to keep the rules of this challenge to myself open ended so I have the ability to explore and experiment as much as possible without worrying about limiting myself.

My first cookbook selection will be from the classic Joy of Cooking. My first endeavor? The perfect meatball.

Stay tuned.