The Wolf Cooks: Modify this Recipe and Win!

by chubbywerewolf on 6 March 2011

Veggie bolognese with not-so-veggie meatballs


UPDATE: Congratulations to Elizabeth, who suggested adding some fresh basil after plating. I chose her suggestion because I loved the simplicity of it, as well as the overall impact that it had on the dish. Plus, I felt that it was most in the spirit of the contest, which was to choose one thing that you’d do to improve the dish. Congratulations, Elizabeth! You should be receiving your gift certificate sometime this week.

Its a rainy Sunday afternoon, so the Wolf is passing the time with Netflix streaming, some Dave Alvin tunes and kitchen time. A brief look at the fridge yesterday revealed that a number of vegetables are nearing the “cook ’em or toss ’em stage” so I’ve opted for the former (as we always should). Spying a box of pasta and a couple of cans of whole tomatoes in the pantry, the choice is an easy one: pasta with bolognese sauce. A quick trip to Whole Foods for some fresh basil and ground beef (two pounds of 90% lean, grass-fed) and a stop at the Rosemont Market & Bakery for a baguette, and I have everything I need to do a little culinary experimentation.

The presence of onions, carrots, mushrooms and zucchini amidst the available produce brings to mind a recipe that I stumbled upon a few months ago on the web site/blog for the actress Olivia Wilde. Hers is a “vegan bolognese” sauce and involves tempeh and eggplant (neither of which I’m planning on using), so while I’m going to use it as a foundation, mine will be a clear deviation. I think that the presence of meat in my recipe may be enough to disqualify me from the newly single actress’ pool of potential suitors, but its a risk I’m willing to take.

I start by sauteing some onions and garlic in olive oil, and then add my coarsely chopped baby bella mushrooms. My inventory of red wine currently consists of a single $10 bottle of Rêves Priorat from Trader Joe’s, so it will have to do. While I’m sure that the notion of using Spanish wine in an Italian sauce is considered by some to be a crime against nature, I’m only planning to use a splash or two. OH, THE HORROR! Life will go on.

With the wine added and the heavens still intact, I work in the chopped carrots, zucchini and canned tomatoes (which I’ve quickly crushed before adding). This is where the first major audible of the day comes into play. I can see that I’ve used far more carrots and zucchini than the lovely Ms. Wilde’s recipe calls for and if add the beef, I’m probably going to be looking at something more akin to a paste than a sauce. Fortunately, I’ve not yet browned my beef, so I’m able to use it meatballs.

The meatballs come together quickly (ground beef, a splash of milk, bread crumbs, some grated parmesan, two eggs, garlic, salt and pepper — I’d normally include onion, but I’ve used what I had in the sauce) and I put them in the oven to cook. Many times, when I’m making pasta sauce, I’ll let the meatballs cook in the sauce—resulting in a tastier, more tender meatball—but its already mid-afternoon and I’m more focused on the sauce anyway.

With the meatballs in the oven, I add a little more red wine to the sauce, along with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and fresh, chopped basil. Olivia’s recipe (yes, we’re on a first-name basis now that my sauce is technically back to being) calls for rosemary, but I have none available and I don’t think I’ll miss it anyway.

So that’s where things stand. I tossed in the meatballs just before sitting down to write this blog entry. A quick taste test seems to call for just a little more salt, which has been added. I’ll revisit it in another few minutes and see how its looking. Provided that I haven’t messed things up too much, I should be dining on Cavatappi with meatballs and veggie bolognese within an hour or so. I’ll top it with some freshly grated pecorino romano and serve it with a nice green salad and that delicious Rosemont Bakery bread.

In the meantime, maybe this would be a good opportunity to promote my blog a bit. Inspired by Malcolm’s excellent NY Times Cookbook giveaway on FromAway.com, I’m thinking that I’d like to do a giveaway of my own… something to say thanks for checking me out and maybe giving you some incentive to bookmark this blog, forward the URL to a friend or tweet about it.

So what and how do you win? Post a comment to this blog entry telling me what ONE THING you would do to modify this recipe. Maybe that one thing means adding an ingredient or removing one. It could be something as simple as adding a dab of tomato paste or a pinch of sugar. Or maybe you want to suggest an alternative prep or cooking method. Its totally up to you. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Since I haven’t posted the quantities of any of my ingredients (I pretty much just used up the vegetables I had and eyeballed the rest), this will all be fairly non-scientific. I’d like to know WHY you suggest your modification, but please do try to keep your responses brief… let’s say 100 words or less.

As for the prize, lets stick with the Italian theme and go with a $50 gift certificate to Paciarino, Portland’s top destination for authentic Italian pastas and sauces, made fresh daily. Not only is the food amazing, owners Enrico and Fabiana are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

You have until Thursday, March 31st to post your comment. I’ll select my favorite at that time and notify the winner. Of course, I’ll also post an update to the blog at that time, and I’ll be sure to let you know how the sauce turns out. Of course, I’m not immune to bribery, so if anyone wishes to provide me with Olivia’s phone number, I’ll declare you the winner on the spot!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Malcolm March 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Excellent idea! I sent you an email…did you get it?

Reply

Karen@Mignardise March 10, 2011 at 11:39 am

Hmmm, sauteing the onion and garlic in butter not olive oil is one idea. I’d also add the carrots at that stage, since they are a “hard” vegetable and it’s nice to get a little color on them.
There might be some other suggestions – but you only asked for one!

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S. March 26, 2011 at 7:16 am

Well,you could have added a nice nicoise olive to it–I love the bite they add to a cuban ropa veja. There could have also been some red pepper flakes or fennel seed added or a parmesaen rind thrown into the simmering mix. Or, you could have went with a game meat–which I’m finding isn’t too hard to get up here if you know a hunter or two. :)

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Elizabeth March 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

My idea is to save the fresh basil for the last minute., when plating! I love basil and find that the flavor really comes through that way.

Reply

S. April 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

Three weeks later—how did the recipes turn out and who won?

Reply

chubbywerewolf April 20, 2011 at 8:58 am

The winner was notified via email last week. I wanted her permission before posting her name (though I suppose I can just go with the first name… its not like there were dozens of entries), but haven’t heard back. If no reply by the end of this week, I’ll send a follow-up email. Thanks for your patience.

Reply

S. April 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

Right on, I was curious to see if you had made the dishes and, if so, how they came out.

Reply

chubbywerewolf May 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Congratulations to Elizabeth, who suggested adding some fresh basil after plating. I chose her suggestion because I loved the simplicity of it, as well as the overall impact that it had on the dish. Plus, I felt that it was most in the spirit of the contest, which was to choose one thing that you’d do to improve the dish. Congratulations, Elizabeth! You should be receiving your gift certificate sometime this week.

Reply

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