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Pascale’s Kitchen: Circular comfort

SC 26/08/2021


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Even though it’s still not clear whether school’s going to open on time, or how our children are going to learn during the month of September, I still think it’s really important that we, as parents, keep to a routine so the family stays calm and organized.
To that end, I’m bringing you this week four recipes for “balls” in celebration of going back to school: meatballs, chicken balls, fish balls and chocolate balls. 

Kids just love any food shaped into a circle, and what could be a nicer way to start the new school year than to return home from your first day back at school and have a steamy pot waiting for you for lunch?
In my experience, it’s kids’ love of sports involving balls that make eating foods in the shape of a ball so exciting. 
The first recipe is for meatballs in tomato sauce with spicy peas. These fluffy meatballs are cooked in a tomato sauce next to lots of small green peas. It’s best to let the pot simmer until the sauce thickens. 
The second recipe is for chicken balls with seasoned pumpkin and zucchini. Because these balls are made with chicken, they are lighter than the meatballs, and the addition of the almonds heightens the chicken flavor and improves the texture. Alternatively, you can use ground oats in place of the almonds.
The chicken balls swim in a tasty sauce alongside large chunks of zucchini and pumpkin. If your kids are not vegetable lovers, you can blend some of them into the sauce and they won’t even notice. 
The third recipe is for fish balls, which is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want or like to eat beef or chicken. In this recipe, the fish balls are cooked in a sauce with olives and chickpeas. In this case, too, all of the ingredients I’ve included are shaped like balls. This sauce is a tad bit sour due to the pickled lemon, which goes perfectly with the fish.
When making meat, chicken or fish balls, you don’t need to follow the recipes strictly. In fact, these are the type of dishes where it’s great if you add any herbs, vegetables or grains to change the flavor and/or texture to meet your taste preferences. All of these recipes can be served with rice, mashed potato, couscous, pasta or petitim (Orzo) – whatever you feel like that day.
Whatever kind of balls I prepare, my children have always been super happy. And, of course, for dessert, I recommend serving chocolate balls with a variety of toppings. 
There are unlimited ways to make chocolate balls. You can make them with milk or keep them parve. You can add all sorts of ingredients, such as ground hazelnuts or chopped dried fruits. Just finely grind some of your favorite cookies, add them to the chocolate mixture and watch the magic begin to work. 
Next, you take a pinch of the mixture and form a ball with it. Roll it in the topping of your choice – chocolate flakes, sprinkles, cocoa powder, coarsely ground nuts or coconut flakes – and then place it in a paper cupcake liner. There’s nothing more exciting for a kid (and for many adults, too) than to see a plate of chocolate balls, each one with a different and tantalizing topping. 
And on that note, I would like to wish all of the children who will soon be returning to the classroom a sweet and smooth beginning of the academic school year. 

FISH BALLS WITH OLIVES AND CHICKPEAS

Makes 6-8 servings.
Fish balls: 
1 medium onion
5 garlic cloves
½ package of parsley 
25 cilantro stalks
500 gr. ground fish (any kind)
1 thick slice of bread, soaked in water and then squeezed out
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon juice, plus a little bit of grated lemon peel
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Sauce:
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 long peppers, any color, cut into pieces
2 whole dried red sweet peppers
1 spicy green pepper, chopped
6-8 large garlic cloves, peeled
½-¾ cup water
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika in oil
¼ tsp. spicy paprika
½ tsp. turmeric
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 slices of pickled lemon or 1 tsp. pickled lemon spread
1 cup slightly cooked chickpeas, drained
1 can pitted green olives, rinsed well
Topping: 
25 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
To prepare the fish balls, add the onion, garlic, cilantro and parsley to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix well with a few pulses. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the ground fish and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and place in the fridge. 
To prepare the sauce, heat a large, flat pan and add the olive oil. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, all the different kinds of peppers and the garlic. Mix well and add the water. Mix again and bring to a boil. Add the spices and bring to a boil again. 
Take the fish mixture out of the fridge and form balls with a 3-4-cm. diameter. Add them to the boiling sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Add the lemon, chickpeas and olives and mix gently. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over a medium-low flame for 30 minutes. Serve hot. 
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 1 hour.
Status: Parve.
 Chicken balls with pumpkin and zucchini (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Chicken balls with pumpkin and zucchini (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

CHICKEN BALLS WITH PUMPKIN AND ZUCCHINI

Makes 6-8 servings. 
Chicken balls:
½ kg. ground chicken breast
½ cup almonds, finely chopped
5 cilantro stalks, chopped finely
5 parsley stalks, chopped finely
1 large onion, chopped
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. spicy paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Sauce: 
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. tomato paste 
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. spicy paprika
1 tsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. red or green lentils, rinsed well
3 cups water
250 gr. pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
2 light green zucchini, peeled and cut into large pieces
Topping:
¼ cup chopped parsley
To prepare the chicken balls, place all of the chicken ball ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Create balls with a diameter of 3-4 cm. and place on a tray. 
To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a large, flat pan and sauté the onion until it turns golden brown. Add the garlic and tomato paste and mix. Pour in ½ cup of water, then add the spices and mix again. Add the rest of the water, cover and bring to a boil. 
Add the chicken balls and rinsed lentils and cook over a low flame for 30 minutes. Add the pumpkin and zucchini pieces and continue cooking for another 30-40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 1 hour.
Status: Meat.

MEATBALLS IN TOMATO SAUCE WITH SPICY PEAS

Makes 6-8 servings.
Meatballs:
15 parsley stalks
20 garlic cloves
500 gr. ground beef
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 packet baking powder
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Sauce:
6 soft medium tomatoes
4 Tbsp. oil
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
1½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. sugar
2-3 dried red bell peppers
1 small chili pepper
1 tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup frozen peas
2-2½ cups water
To prepare the meatballs, chop the parsley and the garlic well, then mix with the rest of the meatball ingredients. Form balls with a diameter of 3-4 cm., then place them in the fridge until the sauce is ready. 
To prepare the sauce, cut the tomatoes into small pieces. Heat the oil in a large, flat pan and then add the garlic, tomatoes, salt, sugar and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the cumin and cinnamon. Dilute the tomato paste with water and add to the pan. Bring to a boil. 
Place the meatballs in the sauce and cover. Cook over a medium flame for 1¼ hours. Add another ½ cup of water, if necessary. 
Serve meatballs on a bed of rice, mashed potatoes or spaghetti that was cooked according to directions on the packaging. 
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 1 hour.
Status: Meat.
 Chocolate balls (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Chocolate balls (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

MULTIFLAVORED CHOCOLATE BALLS

Makes 20 balls.
300 gr. any kind of dry cookies or Petit-Beurre biscuits
¾ cup sugar
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
150 gr. butter, softened
100 gr. chocolate, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp. chocolate liqueur 
¼ cup walnuts, chopped finely
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
20 cupcake liners
Topping:
Chocolate flakes, sprinkles or coconut flakes
Place the Petit-Beurre biscuits or cookies in the bowl of a food processor and process until you have fine cookie crumbs. Pour the cookie crumbs in a large bowl, then add the sugar and cocoa powder. Mix and add the softened butter. Mix well. 
Pour the milk into a pot and heat over a low flame. Add the chocolate and mix well until it’s completely melted. Add the chocolate mixture to the cookie crumbs and mix well. Add the walnuts and mix again. 
Using your hands, form balls with the mixture. If the mixture is too soft, and it’s difficult to form balls, put the mixture in the fridge for an hour, then take it out and try again. 
Spread the chocolate flakes, sprinkles or coconut flakes on a plate and roll the chocolate balls in them. Place the covered chocolate balls in paper cupcake liners and store in the fridge. 
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 1 hour.
Status: Parve.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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SC

Co-Host for Coffee Mouth Scarecrow Show. Retired NAVY Chief/Flag Writer Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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