Tag Archives: basil

Just Hanging Out (of a fourth floor window)

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Happy holiday weekend. Everyone leaves New York City, and for those of us who have to stay it’s party time! This particular morning I am skipping the gym and enjoying the break in the oppressive heat to plant my window boxes. I assembled the boxes and filled them with dirt earlier in the week – you can see that article here, too.

So, with a cup of coffee in one hand and Country Legends 97.1 streaming through my bluetooth, it’s time to get our hands dirty.

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Earlier in the week I went around town and sourced my plants. I ended up with the following:

  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Dill
  • Flat Leaf Parsely
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Thyme
  • French Lavender
  • Sweet Potato Vines
  • Geraniums (for color)

Different plants like varying degrees of moisture, and for that reason I grouped the more tuberous, leggy things together (the first six herbs) and the woodier herbs together (the next 5). I also dropped a sweet potato vine and a geranium in both boxes for color and aesthetics. Yes! geraniums are basic, but the petals are edible. I wanted marigolds – also edible and a natural insect repellent – but sometimes you use what you got.

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Get those suckers in the dirt. Leave ample room around them, and encourage the ones that cascade to do so. Be sure and plant the vine near the edge. It will cascade spectacularly. To avoid transplant shock really give them a solid watering once they’re in the dirt. You will eventually need to spike the basil if you choose to plant that, but that’s down the road. Mint is very leggy and can get aggressive; you’ll want to harvest it whether you choose to use it or not. Give it to your mojito loving friends!

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OOOWEE the Oak Ridge Boys are singing to me! Time to warm up for the show. Enjoy your beautiful boxes and start planning how you’re going to use your window box bounty! The Gentleman Caller will continue to share articles and ideas about how to creatively use your home-grown herbs.

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The Gentleman Caller signing out.

xoxo

The Gentleman’s Spagheeeti & Meatballs – so comforting they can even get you through an election

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Mamma Mia, dear readers! It’s Spagheeeti & Meatball day! Why spagheeeti, you ask? Do you ever watch Giada DeLaurentis on TV? She’s perfectly American until she has to tell you about ingredients or the name of a dish. It tickles me endlessly. There was a newscaster in Houston that did it, too, and I can’t explain it but I find it hilarious. “Elma BaRRRRReRRRRa, Eyewitness News.”

Anyway, spaghetti and meatballs is one of my most favorite comfort foods. I’ve always known how to make the magic happen, but lately I have been “Italian-ized” based on the company I keep and I picked up some really good tricks. Mostly I’ve un-bastardized some of my old notions about this delicious dish.

This takes some time. It’s worth it. Andiamo! Facciamolo!

What you need for sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 5 or 6 basil leaves
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. While it is heating up, cut pork shoulder in an approximate half. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides of one of the halves; the other half will be cubed for later and set aside. Put the seasoned pork shoulder in the oil and achieve a sear on both sides.

Smash your garlic cloves with a pastry scraper or a chef’s knife. There’s no need to mince it further unless you are REALLY averse to a piece of garlic in the sauce. This is going to cook forever and most of it will likely break up. Toss in the bay leaf, too. Allow the oil to kind of coat the garlic and bay leaf; keep things moving. Bruise or tear the basil leaves and throw them in. Immediately add the tomato products and stock. If there’s a lot of tomato mess still in the cans, add a little hot water to the can, swirl it a bit, and pour it in. A little water isn’t going to hurt anything. Add salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Keep it at a nice baby simmer for at least 6 hours. 8 is better. 10 is magic. If it starts looking thick, add a little water. You will very likely have to do this a couple of times.

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What you need for the meatballs:

  • 1 lb cubed sirloin*
  • 1 lb cubed pork shoulder (the other half of the one you used to make the sauce)*
  • 5 garlic cloves*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh oregano*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley*
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

*If you aren’t grinding your own meat, 1 lb ground round, 1 lb ground pork, 5 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Fire up your meat grinder! Alternate beef, pork, garlic, oregano and parsley. The grinder will bring the ingredients together. (video)

Once the meat is ground, gently add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Don’t over mix. Gently fold in ricotta. Don’t over mix.

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Using a spoon or ice cream scoop (for perfect portions), form meatballs, careful not to squish them too much. You want the lightness to remain intact. Line them up on a piece of pan release sprayed foil on a sheet pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Check them. They might need  5 more minutes depending on size – BUT DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM.

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In the final hour of the sauce simmering, add the meatballs to the pot. Try to avoid stirring too much and disturbing them. Allow the sauce to rest for about a half hour before you serve it, and be sure you taste it for salt. Differing brands of stock have different levels of sodium. You’ll probably be in good shape, but taste it.

While the sauce rests, cook your pasta. I chose a thin linguine. Don’t overcook it. When you turn it into the colander to drain, dress the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil. I like to micro plane a piece of garlic and toss fresh chopped basil, oregano and parsley in the pasta. It really gives it a pop. I know this is untraditional, but it’s delicious.

Plate as you like. If you like to toss your pasta with sauce, do it. I like to put the pasta in a bowl and then put the sauce and balls on top with more herbs and fresh grated parmeggiano.  Do it the way you like. You’re the one who has to eat it!

I hope you enjoy this dish because it reminds me of my sweet Mawmaw. One of those sentimental dishes that conjure beautiful memories of loved ones. Make this for your loved ones and they’ll always think of you when they eat it in the future.

And I am signing off!

Cioa for now – The Gentleman Caller

THE GENTLEMAN’S SPAGHEEETI & MEATBALLS

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