Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Twirling, Twirling

Finally, a post I started writing two weeks ago....

I went up to NH for the traditional family July 4th weekend without a thought in my head as to what I was going to make for dinner when my turn came to cook on Sunday. This is not like me; when I am cooking for other people I tend to overplan, and when we go up to the cottage I tend to take half of my kitchen along with me, just in case I want something that isn't part of the antiquated batterie de cuisine. This time, however, I stuffed a couple of recent Fine Cooking issues in my backpack and figured I would wing it.

We arrived during a brief interlude between rainstorms. As previously noted, June in New Englad has been... damp this year. Sad to say, the trend continued during the first week of July, with storms rolling through every hour or two on Friday and Saturday. At least it kept the speed-boaters to a minimum. We enjoyed the sun while we could, spending time out of the dock, watching Raleigh swim after thrown sticks. L was induced to get into the water, and given a ride out to the raft by her "Uncle" Mike, where she handled an involuntary dunking with surprising aplomb.

Saturday morning we went to the parade and the library book sale in Moultonborough. I didn't even look at the books this year.

I did take L to the Old Country Store for some penny candy, and actually found something I've been looking for: a growth chart for her that we can take along when we move (we've been using the kitchen wall, which of course presents a problem...). Clouds kept rolling through, but the rain held off until we were on our way home afterward. After lunch, I found myself drafted into first moving a logpile that was in the way of some work being done on the smaller cottage, and then shoveling sand and gravel for various projects to do with the waterlogged state of the lot. It does not take much to bring out the hydrological engineer in my in-laws. Saturday night, only D's parents were brave enough to attend the fireworks, although as it turned out they took place during one of the clear interludes. It got very cold that night, and we made a fire (in July!).

It was still cold Sunday morning, with a fierce wind. Since it wasn't raining, we grimly bundled ourselves up and went over to the beach, but only stayed for a half hour before L was too cold and wanted to go back.

Various projects were attended to that afternoon; D's job for this trip was to cull the book collection, weeding out Readers Digest Condensed Books and fifty-year-old romance novels to make room for things that might actually get read once in a while. I went to the grocery store. Over the course of the day people who had to be at work on Monday drifted out, so it was a relatively small group for which I had to cook that night.

And I am happy to say that my uncharacteristically relaxed approach did not lead to disaster. While I did have to spend some money on spices I could have brought up had I known I would need them, and I am never going up there without a decent knife again, the meal we ended up with was perfectly adequate, indeed something I will more than likely make again. Here is a link, but I am not sure whether they keep recipes up all the time.

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef (preferably 85% lean)
2/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. of the cumin, the cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. of the cayenne and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices, 1 cup water, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, prepare the meatballs: Mash the breadcrumbs and milk with a fork to a smooth paste. Add the beef, the remaining 1 tsp. cumin, half of the cilantro, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, several grinds of pepper, and the remaining 1/8 tsp. cayenne to the breadcrumbs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Wet your hands to keep the mixture from sticking to them and roll a couple of tablespoons into 1-1/2-inch balls; you should have about 30. Nestle the meatballs into the sauce, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Stir in the remaining cilantro and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over herbed couscous or steamed rice.

On Monday morning the weather turned gorgeous. Our second beach outing was much more of a success!

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