lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

Asian-inspired Spicy BBQ Meatballs with Rice Noodles and Pickled Veggies

It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut, so I often try to play around with new ideas. This time, I had in mind an Asian-inspired bowl of pasta and meatballs, so to speak, but as a fun dish packed full of flavor. Thai chili  garlic paste adds some serious heat

This dish has layers of flavor, so there are a few separate components here that are going to come together in the end; don’t be daunted by the multiple steps, this is a great Asian-inspired noodle bowl.

lola rugula asian inspired pasta and meatballs

First up are quick-pickled vegetables. These are very basic and easy quick-pickled veggies; you can add a myriad of spices and herbs to these, but this is really all that’s needed to add some brightness to the finished dish. Don’t be afraid to change the veggies up to your liking – cauliflower, zucchini, celery…whatever you like!

easy quick pickled vegetable recipe

  • 4 large scallions, julienned
  • 2 baby sweet peppers, julienned
  • 5 baby carrots, julienned
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and seeds scooped out and discarded, julienned
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all of the ingredients into a small glass dish and stir well to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

You can scoop out the veggies for this recipe and discard brine or add fresh veggies for another batch of future pickles.

Asian-inspired spicy barbeque sauce recipe

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Thai chili garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until sauce starts to slightly thicken. In the meantime, make your meatballs.

garlic and ginger meatballs recipe

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 large scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 2-inch piece peeled ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil, for frying

Place ground pork in a bowl. Mince together scallions, garlic, and ginger and add to pork. Add sesame oil and stir well to combine. Form into small, 1-inch balls.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and let heat for at least 2 minutes. Add meatballs and brown on all sides, for about 12 minutes total.

Remove from skillet and, using tongs, add them to your hot barbeque sauce.

rice noodles and cilantro

To a medium-size pot of boiling, salted water, add a healthy handful of rice noodles. Stir well and cook at a low boil for about 4 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, chop up a handful of fresh cilantro for serving

plating (or bowling, actually)

  • Divide the rice noodles into 4 bowls
  • Scoop out a few meatballs and sauce and place on top of noodles
  • Add a spoonful of pickled veggies to the side
  • Sprinkle with fresh cilantro

Serve while noodles and meatballs are hot.

lola rugula garlic and ginger meatballs with asian bbq sauce

I just can’t emphasize enough how bright and full of flavor this is, while still being pretty simple to bring together. If you don’t have mirin, just switch it out with some light, not-too-sweet white wine.

I tried to keep this simple because that’s how I typically roll, but afterward, I thought that some toasted sesame seeds would have been a nice addition to this.

If you just can’t stand cilantro (and I understand that many of you can’t) just add some fresh parsley for that bright finishing, herby touch. Chives or scallions will also work. For the pickled veggies, add what you have on hand – cauliflower, asparagus and even jalapenos (if you need more heat) will all work.  And this is honestly spicy. If you want to take down the heat, just use 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce or plain old barbeque sauce in place of the Thai chili garlic paste. I always tell you to not be afraid to play with your food and here’s a great example of that.  Have fun with your dishes and don’t be afraid to try new things.

If you like this recipe, I bet you’ll also love my Udon Noodle Bowl recipe and my Veggie Spring Rolls recipe.

Enjoy!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

green garlic meatballs

One of my favorite spring garden treats is young, tender green garlic. I always pull up some of it to enjoy – I add it to rubs, sauces, salads and more. Green garlic has a more mild taste than mature garlic and can be used just like scallions in most dishes.

This past weekend I made a large batch of meatballs; some for dinner and the rest for the freezer. I love having meatballs in the freezer – they make a weeknight dinner of pasta or subs a much easier endeavor. And since there’s nothing I love more than garlicky meatballs, my homegrown green garlic make these meatballs extra delicious. I also added a couple of garlic cloves, for a super intense garlic flavor. Vampires, you’ve been warned.

So, if you grow garlic or see green garlic at the market and have wondered what to do with it, here’s a delicious idea.

lola rugula how to use green garlic

green garlic meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped green garlic
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix everything together well, but not over mixing or smashing everything together too much. I use my fingertips more than my whole hands to blend it all together because I find that over-mixing and mashing it all together makes a denser meatball than I prefer.

Preheat oven to 350

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin rolling the meatballs and placing them on the prepared baking sheet. This recipe made about 80 golf ball sized meatballs, 40 meatballs per sheet. If you want them larger, increase the cooking time; smaller, decrease the time.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, turn, and then bake another 20 or just until they start to brown.

lola rugula green garlic meatballs recipe

See that beautiful green garlic in those meatballs? It really adds a fresh garlic flavor to these and I think you’ll agree.

Don’t know what to do with green garlic? Now you do! Never be afraid to play with your food – the results are delicious. Enjoy!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

stuffed cabbage rolls

Can we just go ahead and admit that most “stuffed” recipes might as well state: “this is going to be time-consuming”? Because, honestly…from dumplings to ravioli to, well…cabbage rolls, stuffing things takes a bit of time and effort. This recipe is no exception. BUT, like it and so many other stuffed recipes, it is well, well, worth it. Behold….stuffed cabbage rolls.

lola-rugula-german-style-cabbage-roll-recipe

My paternal grandma used to make stuffed cabbage rolls and it’s taken me quite a while to nail down the same amazing rolls. The secret to these is the tomato sauce, which is made with brown sugar and white vinegar, which gives them a sweet and sour appeal. I’ve seen them called German-style, although there’s a whole other German-style cabbage roll made with brown gravy. Whatever their origin, I’m just glad that I finally figured these out. I like to make them in a big batch, which can easily be reheated or frozen, depending on your preference.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-stuffed-cabbage-rolls

stuffed cabbage rolls recipe

This recipe makes about 2 dozen rolls

rice
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1   cup rice

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice, stir well, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, while you prepare everything else.

cabbage
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, whole but with the core carefully removed. I use a sharp knife to cut carefully around the core to remove it.

Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Add cabbage, cored-side down, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the whole cabbage to a colander to drain and cool.

tomato sauce
  • 3 cups pureed tomatoes, with their juice (canned or fresh)
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a good simmer, uncovered,  and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the stuffing.

stuffing
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet or stockpot. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Increase heat to medium-high and add pork. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring just a couple of times. Add beef and cook just until both are cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add beaten eggs and rice and mix well.  Set aside while you prepare the cabbage leaves.

Carefully peel off each cabbage leaf, keeping them as intact as possible. Some of them may tear just a bit, but that’s okay – they will all come together when you roll them. You may need to slice each leaf at the thick rib near the core to remove them. Remove at least 2 dozen leaves and then chop up the rest of the cabbage.

In two 13 x 9 baking dishes, drop a tablespoon or so of tomato sauce in the bottom of each dish and swirl it around.  Add chopped cabbage.This gives you a base layer of tomato sauce to put your rolls on and helps keep the cabbage from browning too much.

Preparing the cabbage rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and fill with a couple of healthy tablespoons of stuffing mix. Fold in edges and roll as tightly as possible without tearing the leaves. Place prepared roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining leaves and stuffing.

Cover baking dishes with lids or foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove covers and bake for 10 more minutes.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-stuffed-cabbage-rolls-recipe

Voila! Yes, these are a bit of work but they’re seriously worth it.

I like to make mine with a combination of beef and pork for 2 reasons – one is that I like the mix of flavors and two that it makes this dish a little lighter and healthier. If you prefer beef over pork or vice versa, feel free to add what you prefer.

I’m not a fan of all the added sugar that pervades our food these days but it’s definitely key, along with the vinegar, in this recipe. The sweet and sour aspect of the sauce is what makes these flavorful and unique.

I hope if you catch any missed steps or not-clear points, you’ll let me know. These aren’t nearly as complicated as they sound, really just time-consuming.

Oh, and if you like stuffing things, here’s my steamed dumpling recipe, here’s my homemade classic ravioli recipe, and here’s my mushroom ravioli recipe.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

the ultimate basic marinade

This is a marinade that has served me well time and time again. It’s great on beef, pork, salmon, tuna, and even lamb chops. It’s a great starter marinade recipe, which you can customize to your tastes or recipe if desired.

lola_rugula_perfect_easy_marinade_for_beef_portk_lamb_salmon

  • 1/2 cup oil – I typically use olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Marinating time depends on your cut of protein – salmon and tuna only need an hour at most, whereas lamb, pork and beef can be marinated for just a couple or hours or overnight. The longer the marinade, the stronger the flavor.

The beauty of this marinade is that you can make a ton of customizations to it. Want to go more Asian? Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of minced ginger and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you have sesame seeds, add a teaspoon of those, too. A teaspoon of miso paste works great in this, too (although you’ll want to omit the salt if you add miso)

Don’t have soy sauce? Substitute Worcestershire sauce.

Don’t have balsamic vinegar? Try red wine. rice or white balsamic vinegar, for a lighter flavor.

Want to kick the heat up a bit? Add a bit of sriracha, crushed red pepper flakes or hot chile paste to taste.

Got some fresh limes, lemons or oranges? Add a tablespoon of fresh citrus juice to really brighten this up.

Want fresh herbs? Add parsley, cilantro, rosemary….use your imagination.

I’ve used the basis of this marinade in a lot of recipes. It’s particularly good on flank and skirt steak, salmon, chicken breasts and thighs, and lamb chops. It even works great on veggies, especially on the grill.

If you’re looking for an easy marinade recipe that you can customize and call your own, this is it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Remember what I always say: never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Enjoy.

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

a brine in time…saves dinner

Grrrr! Don’t you hate it when you have this easy, quick dinner of pork chops planned, but then they end up dry as a bone? I’ve totally done this and been so disappointed that I just want to throw the whole meal in the garbage can.

Well, one thing has saved me from a complete meltdown and it’s this: a quick brine. Brining always sounds like a great idea but, seriously, who has the time on a weeknight? Usually, it involves a gazillion ingredients and a minimum of 12 hours in the fridge…sheesh!

Well, this (hopefully) will bring you out of your dinner despair. It’s a quick and easy brine that can be customized to whatever your tastes and time allow.

pork-chop-chicken-breast-brine-recipe-lola-rugulaHere’s the basic recipe:

pork chop quick brine recipe

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix salt and water in a bowl and stir well, until salt has dissolved. Cover pork chops completely with brine and let sit for 1 to 3 hours. Remove from brine, pat dry and cook as usual.

What? Where you expecting something more difficult? This is seriously all you need to do to ensure your pork chops are tender. Well, alright, you still can’t cook them to death, but this will help.

I tend to add a few variations to this, depending on:

  • My time
  • My mood
  • My recipe

But here are some suggestions to add:

  • Crushed or minced garlic
  • Minced onion or shallot
  • Chopped herbs – either dry or fresh
  • Spices

Also, feel free to mix up the liquid; instead of water, add beer or stock for a little more flavor.

Keep in mind that thinner cuts of pork can sit an hour or so, but for thicker cuts, 2 to 3 hours will probably give you better results.

This is a fantastic recipe for the grill too. It won’t save you from extended over-cooking but it’s pretty forgiving if you have a tendency to leave your chops on the heat for a little longer than needed. Try this with chicken too – I think you’ll be amazed at the results.

Happy cooking!

 

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

navy bean soup with ham

Leftover ham from the holidays? My motto is: make soup! I was lucky enough to get a wonderful ham bone from a dinner at my mom’s, so stock and soup were calling my name.

Since I know we’re all busy with the holidays, I’ll keep this short and simple. These are guesstimated amounts, since soup is a wing-it kind of thing for me and I don’t really measure, The key is really ratio – add more of what you like, less (or none) of what you don’t.

To make your ham stock, cover the bone with cold water in a large stock pot. Add onions, garlic, veggies, a few peppercorns. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 1/2- 3 hours. Strain our bone and veggies, discard.

homemade-navy-bean-soup-recipe-with-ham-lola-rugulahomemade navy bean soup with ham and veggies recipe

  • 1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups stock made from ham bone and veggies
  • 3-4 cups diced ham
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I dry my own, so it’s very high quality. By all means use fresh, if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (see my note on thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir for a minute or two, then add garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until onions are translucent.

Add stock, herbs and spices and bring to a simmer.

Add beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and cook until beans begin to become tender, about 1 hour.

Add ham, carrots and celery and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until beans and veggies are tender. Want to customize this? Add veggies of your choice here – chopped tomatoes, potatoes, kale, asparagus, broccoli – whatever you like and have on hand.

Definitely serve with some crusty bread.

Maybe not a noteworthy photo, but trust me, this soup is delicious, hearty and will warm you up on a cold winter night.

Enjoy!