Sunday, July 27, 2008

For Sher: Memories and Meatballs

Update 7/28: Sher's best friend and fellow Bread Baking Babe Glenna has a lovely post up with links to everyone who posted yesterday. She is updating them between working the overnight shift so be patient with her if you don't see your link that you sent to either Sara, Kayln, Glenn or myself up yet.

Thank you everyone for your lovely tributes.

Today was suppose to be the Bread Baking Babes post date. We were going to be posting our monthly bread from our July Host Kitchen, Sara of I Like To Cook. Instead, today we are going to take a few minutes and celebrate the life of our dear fellow Babe, Sher of What Did You Eat; who passed away suddenly last Sunday by sharing some memories and cooking a recipe she posted on her blog.

"For Sher" Badge

I first "met" Sher over two years ago. I don't remember exactly which post on which of our blogs inspired our meeting but one day an email showed up in my mailbox from Sher asking me about a cookbook. We exchanged a few emails back and forth about cooking and blogging. We discovered we had both grown up in the midwest, loved bread and cherries, and reading.

I was smitten by her blog and her humor and especially by her joie de vivre, which jumps from the page with every post of hers you read. Before we knew it, we were reading each others blogs when ever the other had a new post. We didn't always comment on each others posts but we sent emails back and forth about the posts. I guess you could say that sometimes we both preferred to give our comments privately versus in the public spotlight. I liked that about Sher a lot because she appreciated the fine art of private conversation.

We first blogged together at Weekend Cat Blogging where we both shared the weekly exploits of our cats. Sher's Upsie stories became some of my favourite reading and I credit Sher and Upsie with helping LB find his voice on this blog. We had even more fun blogging together on Daring Bakers and Presto Pasta Nights, where Sher's pasta dishes have become some of my most often cooked dishes.

In January this year, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups and Karen of Bake My Day, sent me an email asking me what I thought about being part of a very small group of dedicated bread bakers they were thinking of calling the Bread Baking Babes. The main focus would be bread and learning about bread in all its wonderful shapes, forms, and types but the side focus was making sure we always had fun and laughter. In the email were the other gals they were thinking of asking to join and at the top of the list was Sher, along with Glenna, Ilva, Katie, Monique, Sara, Lien, Lynn, and Pille (who had to drop out because of life commitments and has been replaced by Gorel). I loved how Sher accepted by saying not only would she get to bake bread, one of her most favourite foods but she actually would be a Babe!

In May, Sher was the Host Kitchen. She picked the Poilane Miche from the cover of Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. To say that we all loved this bread would be an understatement. I still have a bit of the whole wheat starter in my fridge that is only stiff mother I keep. Sher made the most gorgeous of loaf of bread

Sher's poilane miche
and kept us in stitches of laughter on the private Babe blog. The badge at the top of this post is the Bread Baking Buddy badge for Sher's Poilane Miche that Tanna adapted for us Babes to use today.

Which I guess brings me to the other food that Sher and I shared a passion for besides bread, cheese, and cherries. Meatballs. I love, no...LOVE meatballs. I don't blog about them much because the main focus of my blog is bread and baking but I can say there isn't a week that goes by that I don't have meatballs at least once. I don't always have time to make them myself and luckily I live really close to a great little grocer who makes them from scratch every day so I can pick up some on the way home if I have a hankering for them.

But, Sher, now Sher made lots and lots of meatballs. I just looked at my rss reader and three of the thirty-one entries I have marked as "save as new" for Sher are for meatballs: the ginger root and radish greens, the Vietnamese meatballs, and her favourite and my favourite recipe the pork and ricotta with tomato sauce meatballs.

So, that is what I made in honor of Sher, her Pork and Ricotta with Tomato Sauce Meatballs.

Sher's Pork Ricotta Meatballs

Since I left on an extended business trip very early this morning, I used these as an excuse to use all the veggies I had in my fridge and to use up the other ball of pizza dough left over when we Babes did Maggie Glezer's Sullivan Street Potato Pizza to make an open face meatball stromboli with Sher's meatballs.

Open Face Meatball Stromboli

I used my own cherry tomatoes to make Sher's tomato sauce and topped the stromboli with some roasted peppers and fresh basil from my garden.

I washed it all down with a nice red wine and watched re-runs of Project Runway, one of Sher's TV vices, on You Tube. I toasted Sher while Tim Gunn scolded one the contestants for having a "hot mess" of a dress and then told them to "make it work" and thought about the snarky comments I could have emailed Sher.

Sher, thanks for the recipes and the laughs over the past two years but most of all thanks for the friendship you had for us all. You will be missed but never forgotten.

Sher's Pork-and-Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

(From Food & Wine)



1/2 pound sliced white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (5 ounces)
3 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced and minced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons shredded basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and add the pork, pancetta, eggs, ricotta, parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix well. Shape into 24 meatballs, using about 3 rounded tablespoons of the mixture for each. I found that a 1/4 measuring cup gave the right amount of meat for each meatball. Transfer the meatballs to an oiled medium roasting pan. (I used 2 smaller baking pans.)
2. Roast the meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown. Using a spatula, loosen the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick and the meatballs are very tender; turn the meatballs once or twice during cooking. (My meatballs were ready in about 75 minutes.)
3. Transfer the meatballs and tomato sauce to a large platter. Garnish with the basil and Pecorino and serve hot.