Monday, July 22, 2013

Kjøttboler Comfort

Kjøttboler and Spring Tonic
Since this weekend was our anniversary, naturally I caught a little summer cold. It isn't too dire; I've just slept a lot over the past few days and have been coughing and sneezing. We still went out for dinner on Friday, though I sneezed through supper. It's good we were able to go on a date; Jerry and I haven't gone out alone since February. Charlotte very obligingly held Restaurant Week just in time for our anniversary and we discovered a new favorite in Davidson, called Campagnia. All over the area, restaurants are featuring $30 fixed price meals of three or more courses this week, so I highly recommend trying one or more if you're in the area.

While I'm on the subject of recommendations, I've really been enjoying Adele's 19 album lately. Jerry gave it to me a few months back for my birthday because it has one of my favorite songs: Make You Feel My Love, a cover of Bob Dylan's original.

Bob and I go way back, though we've never met. My father was just obsessed with Bob Dylan. We have every Dylan album ever recorded, at least until 1977, when my dad died. We have books about Dylan, and books by Dylan, including one of his drawings (it's a good thing he's a genius songwriter, is all I can say about those). I was going to be named "Dylan" after Bob, had I been a boy. I narrowly escaped it being born a girl! Adele sings that song quite a bit better than Dylan ever did, I'm afraid. I love it no matter what, though. It's comfort food for the soul.

Yesterday I decided I needed some actual comfort food, so I settled on cooking kjøttboler and it turned into quite the odyssey. Kjøttboler are what you probably know as "Swedish Meatballs". These are not exclusive to Sweden, however; they are a tradition across Scandinavia. I wanted to serve them with Spring Tonic, another Ohio favorite. I decided Aldi wouldn't have ground pork, so I went to Food Lion. First, though, I wanted to stop by Black's, because they have Lineberger's blackberries in and I wanted some. These are the plumpest, largest, sweetest blackberries I've ever eaten. So I drove out to Westport to Black's and then backtracked to Food Lion. Food Lion, I discovered when I arrived, has discontinued ground pork, unbelievable as that seems. They also didn't have any rhubarb, and neither did Black's. I have rhubarb, but it's only one season old, and you can't harvest it until the second year. So then I had to drive back past Westport and Black's to the Harris Teeter. There I found the last pack of ground pork, after much searching, and found it cost $3.99 a pound! That's more than the organic grass-fed beef I bought from Aldi's last week! Harris Teeter also had rhubarb, but for a price. The cashier didn't even know what it was and it took her forever to look up the item number. It looks like I'm going to have to start grinding my own pork, if everyone's going to get rid of it. I use pork in my hamburgers and meatloaf as well as meatballs. It ended up taking me a few hours just to shop for ingredients yesterday and then another hour or so to cook supper, and those meatballs are already long gone! I never did get any work done this weekend either, between my cold, and the anniversary date, and all the shopping.

I thought I'd share one of my meatball recipes with you, since they are so popular around here. I make meatballs a couple different ways, but this one is the easiest. It's very tasty, too, as it produces a thick, fluffy, delicately-seasoned gravy. I adapted Pillsbury's Complete Cook Book recipe for Scandinavian Meatballs to make my version.

"Norwegian Meatballs"
Serves 4-6
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 slices rye bread, toasted and ground into crumbs (1 cup crumbs)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 TBSP beef bouillon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
4 cups milk
Lingonberry preserves, to serve
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients, mixing well. Shape into meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Place in a 13x9 inch pan greased with butter. Bake 55-60 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and browned. Drain.
While the meatballs are cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and next 4 ingredients. Add milk gradually, whisking continually. Whisk until the mixture over medium heat until the gravy thickens. Pour over meatballs. Serve topped with lingonberry preserves.
You may not want to use bouillon, since it's really not good for you. In that case, you can use this same recipe, but with a different technique. I usually try to avoid bouillon. To substitute the bouillon, pan fry the meatballs butter or coconut oil rather than baking them. You can just brown the meatballs partially and then finish them by baking, or you can fry them all the way through. At any rate, when you are done frying them, remove them and either finish baking them or keep them warm and scrape the drippings from the bottom of the pan. If necessary, add melted butter to make 1/3 cup drippings. Stir the flour into this and make the gravy as shown above, the way you would make gravy with the turkey drippings at Thanksgiving. You may continue with the gravy recipe as shown above, or substitute one cup of beef broth for one of the cups of milk. Correct the seasoning when the gravy is thickened. You will probably need to add extra salt to taste. If you use homemade beef broth, the sauce is much healthier than if made with bouillon. This is my preferred method for making the gravy, but it is more time-consuming.
The French Women books are a great recipe source.
For the Spring Tonic, I find Mireille Guiliano's Rhubarb Strawberry compote recipe from her French Women For All Seasons is an excellent guide. I prepare it as shown but I add extra cinnamon and fresh mint leaves if I have them and I serve it hot instead of chilled.
I am happy to report I can finally run again on my hurt foot. They say running is cheaper than therapy, but back in March I was having a rough time and overdid my cathartic running. I think I probably had a stress fracture. I can run little bits at a time again, not too far, but I guess it will take baby steps. To make up for the lack of running I ran on an elliptical machine, which didn't hurt my foot as much. As soon as the pool opened I started working in a few days of lap swimming as well. Today I've already fit in an hour of swimming as well as some juniper berry-picking.
Our juniper haul for the day.
I kept walking slowly the whole time my foot was hurt. I gained a little weight when I first stopped running but my substitute exercises, combined with my smoothie diet, helped me start losing again, and I'm feeling pretty good about myself now. The photos we took this weekend look much better than last year at this time, or even the ones from Mother's Day this year. I can squeeze into a bathing suit 4 sizes smaller than last year's, too, one I haven't been able to wear for 5 years. I just have to keep up the good work without hurting myself again.
I'm trying to relax and remind myself that life is never going to go exactly as I plan, but it will work out as it's meant to in the end. It's so hard for me to let go of control and just let things be. There's always going to be something upsetting, or something that isn't working out the way I'd hoped it would. All we can do is trust we're on the path laid out for us and try to enjoy the wonderful surprises on the way. And some comfort music and comfort food along the way doesn't hurt, either!
I promise I will get back to work very soon! Right now I have a ton of kids' clothing and shoes to list. Watch for those very soon:



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