Hand to Mouth

misadventures in eating

Comfort food v. TERRIFYING TV — FIGHT.

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Today was a the Day Of A Thousand Costume Changes That Ended In Sprained Ankles (Damn The Patriarchy And Their Decorative Torture Devices Known As “High Heels”) and Fencing Exams That Ended In Pulled Muscles That Compounded With The Aforementioned Sprained Ankles To Equal AGONY. So of course as soon as I got home I decided to comfort myself with the standby favorite of many: spaghetti and meatballs.

The thing to note about my adventures in the kitchen are that they frequently involve acrobatics in the kitchen since I clean as I cook.

The foremost thing I took away from my mother’s near-surgical ward clean kitchen was that if I didn’t leave it in the same condition after I was through with it, there’d be hair-snatching and shrieking later. People whose mother’s let them rise plates and crocks and pots and leave them forgotten, food hardening like cement on ceramic, in the dishwasher have seen my awed, jealous expression before — I learned to wash everything by hand while waiting for something else to cook. Like a perfect chemical reaction, the ideal conclusion of any time spent in the kitchen was to produce both a meal and utterly spotless counters.

I didn’t learn that this was not the way normal human beings operated until I was forced share a kitchen with four other girls my junior year of college — and after I lived with four other girls my junior year of college I realized that if that was normal, I wanted nothing to do with it.

So cooking is always kind of an aerobic exercise, rushing between pans and pots and the sink — which is normally fine and dandy but with my grievous injury from earlier today there was a wholebunch of tomfoolery and falling down, getting arrabiata sauce all over everything: in short, awesome.

In the end, of course, it’s important to remember that I persevered, and a mere 40 minutes later, I was eating nearly-made-from-scratch spaghetti and meatballs.

Grievous Injury Spaghetti and Meatballs.


• 1/4 lb. ground beef *
• 1 c. bread crumbs
• 1 large egg
• 2 small or 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed and diced — or half a regular sweet pepper, diced.
• 1/4 a small yellow onion, diced.
• 2 large cloves of garlic, diced very fine.
• 1/2 a package of cremini mushrooms, cleaned. One half of those diced, the other just sliced thinly.
• 1 26 oz. can of crushed tomatoes — or — 1 bottle of prepared arrabiata sauce. **
• 4 tablespoons olive oil — or — enough to coat evenly the bottom of a large saucepan.
• 1 teaspoon dried basil or a small bunch of fresh basil.
• Salt and pepper to taste.
• Pasta — your choice what kind.

* The leanness of beef used is your choice, though honestly, a little fat makes the beef taste richer, to me.
** I always opt to canned or bottled spaghetti sauce when I’m feeling impatient (or extremely tired); there are some really amazing sauces in stores today — chief among them an arrabiata sauce, which I basically ate constantly when I was in Italy over the summer. On a scale of Ina Gartner to Sandra Lee — I put this around Dave Lieberman, so it’s still a pass. Thumbs up, fellow lazies!


(1) Coat bottom of a wide saucepan with the olive oil and bring the heat up to just below the smoke point — it should look shiny, but give off no smoke.

(2) Mix in a large bowl the 1/4 lb. beef, 1 egg, bread crumbs, diced peppers, the finely diced cremini mushrooms half the onions, and half the garlic — mix thoroughly with your hands. Form into meatballs of whichever size you like, as long as they are all roughly the same size, and put them into the saucepan spaced apart from one another.

(3) Let them brown thoroughly on one side and then turn to brown other sides with either (a) tongs (b) chopsticks, or (c) two spoons. Most other cooking utensils will lead to smushing and disfigurement of your meatballs. (Also: isn’t the pepper and cremini mushrooms shining out red and green and white pretty?)

(4) After the meatballs have all browned completely, add the onion and remaining cremini mushrooms, after they sweated a moment, add the garlic. Cook carefully, I kind of destroyed at least one of my precious, precious meatballs because I was stirring too rambunctiously.

(5) Pour in your crushed tomatoes or your premade sauce and add a cup of water and your basil, salt, and pepper — leave it on low heat to simmer slowly.

(6) Cook your pasta — choosing pasta is easy for me, since unless I am making something specific like “baked ziti,” I am always picking “whatever was on sale when I was at the market” — making sure you salted your water after it comes to a rolling boil.

(7) By the time your pasta is al dente, your sauce will be done, too. Drain your pasta well and serve in a large, family-style platter, making a nest for all the meatballs and sauce in the center. Serve with grated parmesan or romano cheese. Ravage away!

The meatballs in this recipe are super easy and a fail safe — I make them on autopilot. If you don’t manage to cut yourself as a result of or as your grievous injury, than you’re well on your way to be the dinner rockstar! Here’s the best part, even if you’re scaring the living freaking crap out of yourself like, oh my GOD while watching Most Haunted Live, it’s delicious! It’s actually one of the few things that is keeping me from screaming and running around my empty-ass apartment in the freaking forest where even if ghosts came to eat my soul nobody would come to save me!

Oh, Jesus preserve me, I think I have to go bake something else to ward off my crippling fear.

Happy eating.


Written by lshen

October 31, 2006 at 1:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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