Sunday, January 31, 2010

Porcupine Balls

This recipe belonged to my Grandma, Louise Harvey. I was the typical picky eater as a child. Going to the Harvey's for a meal was always a bit mysterious. Unlike my other grandmother who we called "Mom", The Harvey's always had different food. "Mom" served Irish fare - roast beef and potatoes, and Grandma Harvey often cooked oddities like duck, or liver. I was always a bit apprehensive when we went there to eat. When she first served me this dish, everyone was happily eating while I spent a good deal of time studying it. You never knew when liver might be hiding in something Grandma made.

I found a similar recipe in my vintage cookbook collection - The Heinz Book of Meat Cookery, published in 1934. It makes sense as we lived in Pittsburgh, and Heinz is a famous Pittsburgh food institution. The published recipe calls for cans of tomato soup. Back in the 30s women were excited about time saving in the kitchen. If you use tomato soup, you do not need the flour and butter to thicken it and you will want to use two cans of soup. Add some water if you feel it's too thick. Grandma's recipe was a bit shy on instructions, so I have done my best recreating it.

Porcupine Balls
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
2 large eggs
l  large can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon butter or shortening
1 tablespoon flour
pinch red pepper or cayenne

Wash rice and combine with ground meats, onion, garlic, eggs, and cayenne pepper.  Form into balls and place in a large baking dish. In a saucepan, melt butter or shortening and add flour to make a roux. Add tomatoes and cook until thick. Pour tomato sauce over meatballs. Bake at 350 for an hour, or until meatballs are cooked through. I added an extra pinch of cayenne into those tomatoes for some extra punch.

Grandma's notes say that this recipe can be used as a filling for stuffed peppers by replacing the rice with bread crumbs. She also suggested that you could use veal and pork instead of beef. Back in those days, veal was sometimes less expensive than beef. I imagine you could stuff some cabbage with this too. But that is a recipe for another day!

Porcupine Meatballs on Foodista

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I grew up in Pittsburgh, a city that loves it's old ethnic neighborhoods. I am always thrilled at how proud this city is about the people that made it. When I was a kid, my mother would take me to the annual Pittsburgh Folk Festival where each country's booth was well represented with food, crafts and dance. I loved it, and now that I am in a less ethnic part of the state, I realize that I miss this unique aspect of my hometown the most. I have never felt like I belonged where I currently live, and maybe this is why my heart tugs back to the "burgh."

Haluski is sturdy frugal fare from Poland, and it's well known in western Pennsylvania where immigrants from Poland came to work for a better life in the steel mills and factories in the 1840s. This dish was perfect for very hard working people, but those of us who sit at a desk all day should enjoy this meal as a special treat. This recipe makes an overflowing five-quart pot for me, so it would be great to take to a gathering. It's not the prettiest of plates, but damn it's good!

3 8-ounce bags of extra wide egg noodles
1 head green cabbage
1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
1 12-ounce package of uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
white pepper to taste - about 1/2 teaspoon
Parmesan cheese, grated

Boil noodles until tender al dente and drain. Remove the core from the cabbage and cut into quarters. Boil cabbage in a pot of water for about 15 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Once cool, slice into thin shreds. Saute bacon pieces in a large pot until cooked - not crispy. Remove the bacon pieces so they don't overcook and leave the bacon grease in the pot. Saute the onion slices in the bacon grease until translucent. Melt the butter and add the garlic, sauteing for one minute. Toss the noodles, cabbage, bacon back into the pot and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a generous tablespoon of Parmesan on top.

Halusky on Foodista

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Easy Marinated Cheese

Life in a cubicle can get a bit boring after a while. Luckily, I work with people who appreciate a good "snack day." A snack day is basically a day-long munchfest featuring everything from chips and dip and cocktail weenies to various tasty treats kept warm in a crock pot. After one long day at work I ruminated over what to bring for the next day's snack. I thought of my sister's mother-in-law's fabulous marinated cheese, but I wanted something easier to make and serve. Little did I know that this quickie appetizer would bring me to the cubicle hall of fame. My co-workers affectionately call this treat "Karen's Stinky Cheese". It is fragrant and addictive and I hope you will like it too.

Marinated Cheese
2 10-ounce packages of sharp white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Slice the cheese into cracker sized servings and place in plastic container. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over the cheese. Let marinate overnight. Serve with crackers.

Saltines or bland "water crackers" work the best, as they let the flavor of the marinade shine. Be sure you eat some of this before anyone comes around. Once the intoxicating scent fills the air, you won't have any left!

Marinated Cheese on Foodista

Chicken Pancit

I took a walk through town a couple of weeks ago and discovered a new restaurant. I wasn't too impressed, as it was the typical pizza and sub joint that seem to be the only choice in town. But a closer look revealed that this place featured Filipino food. Wow. Just - wow. Here in Grove City PA, international cuisine is defined as your Americanized pseudo-Chinese buffet (aka Slime-ese) and Italian restaurants. How I long for a bold soul to try something new and authentic here. I had to enter, I had to eat. And so I did. Hidden amongst the usual pizza and sub selections was a small handful of taste treasures waiting to be sampled. Chicken Pancit was the selection I chose, and I took a bit of it home for my daughter Zoƫ to try. The verdict was that I had to attempt my own version.

The dish echoes my frugal cooking philosophy. A star ingredient, a bit of meat for flavor and lots of inexpensive veggies and noodles. It's like Filipino fried rice, only with less oil as the rice noodles saute in broth instead. My star ingredient is Toyomansi, a Filipino soy sauce with Calamansi - a kind of citrus. You could use soy sauce instead, probably less soy than the amount of Toyomansi called for, and add some lemon, but that would be less fun. We are traveling via tastebud here, and the adventure of finding the ingredient is part of the game. Enjoy!

Chicken Pancit
1 pound chicken (skin and bones removed), chopped
2 2-ounce bundles of rice noodles (Maifun) or bean threads (
1 carrot, shredded
1 small napa cabbage, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Toyomansi
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole fresh super chili, minced (optional)
white pepper to taste
vegetable oil for stir-frying

Soak rice noodles in a large bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. When the noodles become soft, cut into 3 inch pieces and drain. In a large wok, stir fry the chicken in small amount of vegetable oil and set aside. Add the onions to the wok and stir fry until they start to become translucent. Add the cabbage and carrot and continue to stir fry until they are crisp but tender and set aside. Add the noodles to the wok with the broth, Toyomansi and garlic powder. Allow the noodles to cook in the broth for a few minutes, and when it is mostly absorbed, add the chicken and vegetables. Season with white pepper and serve. The super chili ranks about the same as a piquin chili in Scoville units, so only one little chili with seeds and pith is enough to warm your lips nicely.

Bihon Pancit on Foodista

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grandma Harvey's Cheeseball

When I was a child, my sister and I would spend Friday nights huddled in the den, watching a small black and white TV. Sometimes my mom would join us upstairs to watch something special - like a Dracula movie. The snack of choice for Friday night was pretzels and dip. Mom rarely purchased prepackaged foods. She stuck to a very tight budget and mixed her own dressings and dips. Her idea of dip was this sublime concoction of cream, blue and cheddar cheese handed down from my Grandma, Louise Harvey. We also made this into a cheeseball.

Not too long ago I was looking through one of my favorite cookbooks Square Meals: America's Favorite Comfort Cookbook by Jane and Michael Stern, and I found an almost exact duplicate of this recipe. It turns out that Grandma Harvey probably found this recipe in a booklet with her Osterizer blender back in the 1950s and made a few modifications. The addition of ¼ cup of milk to this recipe makes it a dip. Leave the milk out and you have cheese ball.

Grandma Harvey's Cheeseball
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, softened in water
ground nuts (pecans)

Combine the cheeses, Worcestershire sauce and onion in a large bowl. Form into a ball and roll in parsley and nuts. Refrigerate overnight and serve with crackers. Add ¼ cup of milk for a softer consistency. Be sure to find yourself a nice aggressive blue cheese for this recipe. I prefer to use Maytag Blue Cheese. Those crumbled tubs available in the grocery store are a bit too wimpy and the flavor falls flat even after sitting overnight.