Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hide the veggies

My children, aged 2 and nearly 6, are confirmed vegephobes. No amount of enthusiastic discussion of the provenance of green things, nor age-blind inclusion in their preparation, will entice either of my kids to eat much more than a single bite of (only) broccoli or carrot. Every odd moment, a piece of lettuce crosses one or the other's lips, but that's it.

So I find myself concocting ways to camouflage grown things in acceptable disguises. My turkey meatloaf is always a big hit, and the chopped zucchini and carrots folded into it have never deterred either child. (Not true, by the way, of the onions I add to my black beans--never again will I commit the sin of coarsely chopping them.)

These meatballs are similar to my meatloaf, but designed to use up some of the bounty from this week and weeks past. Serve them with any pasta, or alone, or atop other steamed vegetables (great for adults) or in a sandwich.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
serves 4

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef, turkey, pork, veal or combination thereof
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1 t. Maldon salt
1/2 freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 c. minced fresh spinach
1 T olive oil
1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch or smaller dice
2 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch or smaller dice
2 T tomato paste (optional)
2 T agave syrup or sugar to taste

Combine ground meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, spinach, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly--best is to just use your hands.

Form into meatballs about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should have about two dozen.

Heat the olive oil for a minute over medium heat in a skillet and add as many meatballs as can comfortably fit in one layer. (You may have to do this in two batches. Don't let that deter you.)

Brown the meatballs on all sides. For kids, in particular, it's ok to let them get crunch on the outside. When they're browned and just cooked through, remove to a plate. When all the meatballs are cooked, begin the sauce.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes until it begins to brown, and add the zucchini and carrots. Continue sauteing until the vegetables begin to soften--around eight minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, and cook at a nice simmer for ten or so minutes. Meanwhile, put water on to boil for pasta, if you're making it. Stir the tomato paste and agave or sugar to taste into the sauce. Continue cooking as long as you like--as with most tomato sauces, short of burning the stuff to the pan, it's pretty impossible to overcook. But you can also serve it as soon as your pasta is done cooking. Just add the meatballs back to the skillet and reheat for ten minutes or so.

Serve as desired atop pasta, veggies, solo or in a sandwich.

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