1.07.2017

Great Balls A Fire


This past holiday season was one for the books. Actually, I think whenever one has an extended period of time to fill as they please, it is by definition, destined to be nothing short of spectacular. My first holiday night eve, I sat down with pen and paper to prepare my plan of attack. What resulted was a two page, near psychotic, to-do list that would have my chariot navigating the city from spot to place. I am elated to report that save for exchanging one holiday gift (that of my husband's), my mission was exaggeratedly successful. Never mind that I was utterly exhausted upon completion, I greatly languished in the thrill of furiously checking items off my list. How good does making a list and checking it twice feel?
Following quality time with family, Christmas Day we hopped a plane headed for our second home, the Big Apple. In Jewish tradition, we planned for a Chinese dinner in where other than China Town. We had a list of five spots from which to choose in the event that numbers were an issue, and they were. Before the spread, we stopped at the Ace Hotel for a beverage at the delightful Jon Dory Oyster Bar followed by a romantic, quiet walk through Madison Square Park. It is on this leg of our evening that I dropped my purse, whose absence we alarmingly discovered some six blocks later and touch wood Matthew retraced our steps and reclaimed my prized possession, untouched. Thank my stars, someone was looking out for us both Christmas Day. Had I lost the keys to my family's apartment somewhere in Manhattan, my father - rightfully so - would have gone asymptotic. Insert big sigh of relief here. Matthew found the small purse near to a bench that he identified as the one where he thought he might propose the August before last. Alas, this bench was intended for other things. Instead, he made me sweat a bit longer and waited for the most perfect moment the evening of Monday, October 5, 2015. Anyway, the bench and he met again. Small world for sure.
In which stratosphere we were revolving, I haven't a clue, but we thought a visit to Rockefeller would be a delightedly quintessential Christmas experience. Very far removed, it was not. And let me underscore this: we will never travel north of 29th street on Christmas night ever again. Somewhere around thirty-eighth street, the throngs of people grew denser and before we came to our senses, a diplomatic retreat was impossible. We contemplated dividing and conquering but quickly realized that this would result in losing one another entirely. In turn, we grabbed arms, stuffed my purse into a zipped pocket and forged shoulders first ahead. The streets were lined with merchants selling knock-off or perhaps repurposed versions of the coveted quilted Chanel bags and other such labels. Swarms of people were stopping to ogle unannounced. We arrived at the tree, had to duck in between parents shouting at children to stand still and the clinging metal of the dreaded and ever-awful selfie sticks. If you have one, don't even give it away, destroy it. Within all of three minutes, we concluded that our exercise screamed, "came, saw, conquered!" and together, we hightailed it slowly out of there. Our one redeeming reprieve was an excited "Kevin" moment at the Plaza Hotel. Immediately thereafter, we ventured to an off-the-beaten-path subway stop and hopped a train due south.
The two of us attacked an American Chinese feast at Big Wong on Mott Street. Afterwards, we enjoyed a surprisingly quiet and leisurely walk home. We stopped at Cherche Midi for a midnight beer, and sometime around 1.00 a.m., crawled into bed eagerly looking forward to the week ahead. The following five days were a glorious mishmash of the usual 12 miles by foot interrupted by a handful of subway trips, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art for a dose of culture, multiple glorious meals including but not limited to Salvation Burger, Cookshop, Houseman, Atoboy, Leuca, Frankie's 570 Sputtino, Vic's and a random hole in the wall for burritos, a day trip to Williamsburg to peruse a myriad of haunts, some visits to watering holes such as The Modern at MOMA, Markt for Belgian meads, Fraunces Tavern, Dead Rabbit, Genuine Liquorette, Tijuana Picnic, Skinny Dennis, La Superior, Whitehorse Tavern, Corner Bistro, Momoya, and most importantly, we enjoyed priceless, valuable time with our adorably delicious and equally darling nephew Trey (who can now walk), my sister Michelle and brother-in-law Mike.
Matthew and I arrived in NYC refreshed and departed utterly exhausted, which according to my father, is the telltale sign of an outstanding holiday. Namely, when one requires a vacation from their vacation. We inched towards the end of December with a nasty cold (Matthew) and a newly created laundry list (Elizabeth). We toasted the New Year over a dinner with dear friends, an amazing Avett Brothers concert and a skip to a local pub for nachos and another round of cold Belgian beers. When the clock struck midnight, sometime around Mariah Carey's debacle, my husband asked me for a dance and together we excitedly welcome 2017, an exciting new chapter for Mr. Johnson and me. Happy New Year friends!

The below recipe comes from a cookbook with which I am absolutely besotted. Every recipe lends three to five variations. Perfect for when you have this at hand but don't have that. Not to mention, the book itself is a real bang for your buck. We have begun incorporating many of Julia Turshen's delectable wonders into our weekly repertoire and without sounding cheesy, our appetites are thanking us. Do yourself a favor and add this to your collection. I promise it will soon move to the front of the line. 

The below recipe is simple to prepare and yields enough meatballs for two helpings per person and leftovers for both parties lunch the day following. It would also be perfect for a cozy dinner party at home. Serve alongside a crunchy salad, a pot of noodles, a loaf or two from your local bakery and lots of red wine! Remember to wet your hands when forming the balls. We served ours atop zucchini noodles. We are back on the bandwagon doing the whole no carb thing during the week. It's party time at the weekend; this one included. Oy vey.

Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Julia Turshen's Small Victories

The Goods

Two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes (check out your local Food Lion, best prices)
Extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves - minced
Kosher salt
1 TBS fennel seeds
1 TBS sugar
1 small packet of basil (the basil in our garden perished when the weather turned cold) - chopped
1 cup of flat parsley leaves - chopped
1.5 cups of fresh full fat whole milk ricotta cheese (did you know you can add sugar and vanilla for a lovely pudding)
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 lb ground turkey meat

To Do

1. In a large bowl, add the canned tomatoes and crush with your hands. I recommend putting an apron on before this exercise! With a quarter of a cup of water, rinse both cans and add to the bowl.

2. In a large pot, heat 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for approximately one minute. Now add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of kosher salt, the sugar and fennel seeds and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for approximately 45 minutes. No need for a lid on top. Voila, you have tomato sauce. Easy peasy!

3. Pre-heat your oven to 425, and line whatever you are going to bake your meatballs on with aluminum foil.

4. In another large bowl, add the remaining minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey and 1 TBS salt. Combine everything with your hands (this will get sticky) until well mixed. Now, prepare golf ball sized meatballs. I recommend doing this next to the sink. Wetting your hands will greatly simplify this process.

5. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes. Once finished, add them to your simmering pot of tomato sauce. Once they're all in, put the lid on and let them ride for approximately 30 minutes. You can serve over pasta, zucchini noodles or on their own with a crusty loaf of bread for sopping up that delicious sauce. And, don't forget to dust them with more Parmesan. Why? Because cheese makes everything better. Bon appetit!














































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