Once again I find myself at the tail end of the Thanksgiving holiday, wondering how it could have come and gone so quickly. You’d think I’d stop being surprised at the speed of time, but it never seems to cease to amaze me.
We drove up on the Sunday before the holiday, hitting not a whit of traffic while Jim Dale crooned the fourth Harry Potter book into our ears. We made a stop at Scout Coffee in San Luis Obispo to take a homework break, as both of us wanted (and needed) to get work done before the end of the day. I was so in the zone that I drank cup number two before I realized that my limbs were positively buzzing. The rest of the car ride was filled with many more rest stops and a lot more singing, as the coffee forced me to keep making noise or else I would explode. We finally got home around 6:30 PM and were greeted with glad hellos and frantic barking from Pip. We finally got to meet our niece, Khaleesi, AKA Punk (a kitten, not a human). I also realized how much of a wuss I’ve become when I stepped out of the car and the Santa Cruz air felt unbearably cold to me.
Most of the week was spent seeing family members from both sides, as well as friends. Since Dad was going to be working on Thanksgiving, we decided to do our own family Thanksgiving on Wednesday. However, Mom and Dad were to be gone all day since Mom had a show in San Francisco the whole weekend. This left the shopping and cooking up to yours truly, not that I minded. I made apple pie in the morning, since the oven would be used the rest of the day, and then rushed down to the Farmer’s Market. I got Jonji to come to the Market with me, even though he hates it, to at least be there as moral support and a body on which to put some of the bags. Then we hurried home so that I could put the turkey in the oven.
I’ve always heard of the terrors of cooking turkey, but it turned out to be the least stressful meat I’ve ever cooked. Perhaps El Salchichero, who had already brined it and butterflied it, saved me more stress than I know. Bailey helped out by making the brussels sprouts with bacon, while I prepared bacon-wrapped dates for appetizers. Mom and Dad came home in time to make the mashed potatoes, pine nut relish, and cranberry chutney. I also made gravy for the first time which, I might add, should really be a resident at every meal. Cara brought sweet potatoes in orange cups, and Matt, Manga, Emma, and Jonji brought festive cheer—a most important contribution, I might add.
The day of Thanksgiving was gorgeous, and it was especially nice at Uncle Don and Auntie Renée’s house. Mom’s butter and radish appetizers were just the beginning of yet another feast (scroll all the way to the bottom for the bonus recipe). By some strange miracle, our family managed to be the first one there, for the first time EVER. This gave Bailey and I a chance to hide from Kelly and Kerry, which they usually do to us. Unfortunately, our spot was so good that we eventually had to sneak out or die from heat stroke. Perhaps if we can manage to do the unthinkable and arrive first again, we can reuse that spot—as long as we have something to combat the sweat.
The last couple evenings were spent in comfort, with plenty of food and a smattering of card games. Dad, Jonji, and I got to spend a quiet evening playing cribbage, during which Dad and I let Jonji win. Daddad always taught us the importance of allowing someone else to win every once in a while—it’s good for morale. The next night Jonji and I played several rounds of euchre at Jason and Shellie’s, of which I am not sure I will ever fully get the hang of.
We left on Sunday amid storm clouds and heavy rain drops. It didn’t help that Jonji’s windshield wiper decided to come loose and leave the driver’s side completely unclear. Luckily for us, a wrench was enough to solve the problem. We eventually arrived home safe and sound, whereupon Kitty warmly greeted us. After looking at other cats, I realize how chubby our kitty has gotten. I’m not worried, though, because she is happier than ever, and that’s got to count for something.
It’s finally raining in LA! I absolutely love it. It makes me want to stay home even more than usual, which could be seen as good and not so good at the same time. But it also makes me more inspired to cook, and not only because our oven is the only source of heat we have in this apartment. The following recipe is one of those hearty, satisfying meals—I might even go so far as to say it’s comfort food. And what better to cook on rainy days than comfort food?
Meatballs with Easy Tomato Sauce
makes 16–20 meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small shallot
4-5 heads garlic, diced
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
2 tsp oregano, finely chopped
1/3 cup ketchup
1 large egg
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1 large can whole tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock, recipe here
1 small bunch basil, chopped
1 tsp oregano, chopped (optional)
1 packet of spaghetti
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Chop onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, and oregano and set aside. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the large egg. Add grated cheese, ketchup, half the onion, half the garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper and mix together with a fork. Tear off small chunks of the ground meat and place into bowl. When you’ve placed 1/4 of the meat in the bowl, mix all the ingredients together by hand—make sure not to pound the meat, as that will make the meatballs tough. Rather, lightly squish the ingredients together. Repeat with the other 3/4 of the meat, mixing after each 1/4.
Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet for the meatballs. Pour a bit of olive oil onto the sheet and rub around to coat the entire pan. Then, roll your meatballs to the desired size (I like to make them roughly the size of the interior of my two cupped hands) and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes.
When the meatballs have cooked for 20 minutes, ready the tomato sauce. Blend the whole tomatoes in a blender or Cuisinart until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup (or more, depending on your taste) of chicken stock—use water if you don’t have any stock. Blend for a few more seconds. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the other half of the diced onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil. When the onions start to look transparent, add the rest of the garlic. Cook for one more minute, stirring occasionally, then add the tomato mixture. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes. Add the basil, and oregano if you’re using it, after the sauce has reached a boil.
Cook spaghetti as the package instructs—just remember to boil the water before the meatballs come out of the oven so the pasta can be done soon afterwards.
When the meatballs come out of the oven, there will be a fatty film covering the baking sheet. To avoid eating the film, transfer meatballs to a clean pan or plate right after they come out of the oven, using a slotted spoon or spatula.
Enjoy your meatballs and tomato sauce over the freshly cooked spaghetti.
Bonus Recipe: Watermelon Radish and Butter Crackers
good quality crackers, relatively plain
1 stick unsalted butter
a few watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced
coarse sea salt
Break crackers into desired size. Then, using a vegetable peeler, take thin (or thick) chunks of butter off the stick. Place one slice, or peel, on each cracker. Place one or two slices of radish on top of each cracker and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt. Eat up!