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photo by rafiel chait

vito is not my uncle, but i think everybody wants an uncle like him. i did have the pleasure of meeting him prior to the wedding of his nephew (don) and his soon to be bride (lauren), who are two dear friends of mine, late last year. he made a huge batch of his meatballs for the occasion, and did a demonstration on how to make them to a few lucky bastards who were out at the house my friends were to be married at earlier in the week. of course, i wanted to be there for that, but sadly, i was stuck at work. thankfully, my friend the groom made a video of it, and i am forever grateful.

this video is not only helpful to see how the meatballs are created, but adds a touch of the innuendo that runs in the family, and also shows uncle vito making the meatballs in a manner that i truly believe is the way to cook…by feel, by taste, by smell, by love, and most importantly, by your family and friends.

dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

-julia child


the sauce:

  • splash of wine
  • 1 can of crushed red tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (14 oz)
  • 1 3/4 cans of water (using the crushed tomato can)
  • 1 tsp of parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, + more to fry the tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cans of tomato paste (6 oz each)

in a large pot combine add all the ingredients in order, except the tomato paste. put on medium-high heat, stir and bring to a decent simmer.


meanwhile start the meatballs. once you have mixed the meat for the balls, fry the tomato paste in some olive oil for a couple of minutes until the oil is incorporated into the paste.

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add it to the sauce and stir, plus a little more sugar if needed, but i found the sauce pretty sweet as is. reduce to a slow simmer while you make, roll and fry the balls.

the meatballs:

  • 5 pounds of ground beef (80/20)
  • 7 eggs
  • splash of olive oil + more to fry balls in
  • 2 pounds of italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, + more for adding
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs, + more for adding
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder, + more for adding
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil, + more for adding

start with half of the ground beef and crumble into a large pot. add the rest of the ingredients. then crumble the remaining ground beef as well. add another big dash of parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil and garlic powder.

then dig in with both hands. add a splash of olive oil to grease the wheels. ‘pound it, push it down, keep mixing it well…from the bottom, and then push it.’ do this til firm, but not wet. if it feels too wet, add breadcrumbs…i ended up adding about 1/4 cup more.


squeeze ice cream scoop sized balls (about 2 inches?) 10 times by hand, and then roll in your palms. i ended up with just a little tad bit more than 40 balls, so i used the remaining into a smaller tester ‘veet ball’.


add a good layer of olive oil to a large fry pan, add meatballs (8-10 per pan, they can be snug), and over medium-high heat brown and turn. careful not to cook them too quickly. let them brown nicely, then add to the sauce. you can continue to use the same pan for the next batch. i found i didn’t need to add additional oil, since the fat and juices of the previous balls worked fine to fry the remaining balls.


on this particular night i made linguini and veetballs, but i got some nice italian baguette to make meatball sandos for lunch the next day as well:


i found this will make about 35-45 balls, depending on size, plus of course one tester veet ball.

• on a sad note, we lost uncle vito this past week. i didn’t know he was sick, and only found out when my friend posted his wonderful video of his uncle vito making his amazing meatballs. i feel so fortunate that i was able to meet him, and now pass his recipe on to you, so we can all enjoy. RIP UNCLE VITO!


  • 8 hardboiled eggs, halved lengthwise, yolks removed and set aside
  • 3-4 tbsp mayo
  • 1 tsp sweet relish
  • 1 tsp whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • dash of cayenne
  • s+p
  • paprika for dusting on eggs
  • 1 cornichon, sliced thin, for garnish
  • dill or fennel sprigs for garnish

use a fork and mash the yolks in a medium bowl. add mayo, relish, mustard, horseradish, vinegar, cayenne, salt + pepper and whisk together until combined well. dust egg whites with a little paprika. i just used my fingers with pinches dusting high over the eggs to make it uniform, and i still didn’t get it how i wanted. note: my first go around at this was a disaster, which i did so after i had put the filling in the whites. there was paprika everywhere! i ended up scooping out the filling, washing the whites with cold water and starting a new. 

i used a pastry bag with a flower type tip to distribute the filling, but i’m sure using a small spoon works just as well, it’s just not as pretty. i topped mine with a cornichon slice and a sprig of fennel top.

transporting them in my vehicle turned into disaster number two. note: just putting them in a pie dish and covering them with tinfoil just doesn’t work, plain and simple. i wish i would have taken the advice in cook’s illustrated’s the new best recipe cookbook:

“cut a clean piece of rubberized shelf or drawer liner to the size of the dish…with relatively high sides- a square plastic storage container with a lid is perfect. place the fitted liner on the bottom…the liner keeps the eggs from sliding.”

or i might need to invest in something like this:

this was my first attempt at making deviled eggs, and though i had major paprika and transport snafus, they still turned out delicious. regardless how devilish my eggs act next time, i will be prepared.

although ’tis the season, this idea works well really for other occasions during the year such as birthdays and showers. for a bridal or wedding shower, it’s fun to contact some friends and family of the couple and ask them to send you their favorite recipes to add to the book.

you will need:

  • 3 ring binder
  • tab dividers
  • clear sheet protectors (i prefer side loading)
  • labels
  • recipes

most office supply stores have nicer versions of the above supplies, so you can personalize it a bit.

collect some of your favorite recipes and print them out on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper. if you are able to print in color, it’s always nice to have a pretty picture along with the recipe. slide them in the clear sheet protectors. put a two-page recipe in front to back, so it is easy to click out of the book as needed.

you can also arrange them on opposite pages so when the book lies open it is spread out or able to be put in a cookbook holder. the plastic has the added benefit of easy clean up to those chefs that tend to splatter about when cooking.

label the tab dividers with categories such as main courses, sides, desserts, or beef, poultry, fish…however you want to separate the divisions.

make sure to leave some of the sheet protectors empty so the receiver can add some of their own favorites.

label the front, or if the binder has a slot to add a sheet of paper on the front, perhaps print out a pretty picture of food or get creative with a personal design.

wishing you a very merry christmas, happy hanukkah, fantastic festivus, kickass kwanza, sunny solstice, and most of all a wild, fresh + tasty 2012!

i have been getting my clams from a stand at the hollywood farmers market since i can remember. i just know them at the cute oyster boys. (seriously, what is it about fisherman? they must have the same genes as fire fighters and soccer players.) i found them on facebook, and you can follow them on twitter, but are fairly new to both. well, every sunday morning at their stand, they offer to shuck any oysters you want to eat on the half shell, but normally it just doesn’t occur to me to have oysters for breakfast. this past sunday it did. yummo! along with some mussels, i picked up a half dozen of their oysters. i went to ross cutlery today and got an oyster shucking knife, and pulled out a thick rubber glove and towel to prepare for my first shucking experience.

then i watched the oyster boys video on how to shuck an oyster…a few times.

it was really a lot easier than i thought it would be.

i put them on ice, and brought them down to the courtyard of my building to share with my neighbors. i served them with lemon wedges, a tamari sauce and ponzu mix, horseradish, and yuzu pepper on the side. good stuff!

i have become more and more inspired by farmers markets, julia child, laura ingalls wilder, and the basics of cooking. ultimately, i would really like to take as much processed food out of my diet as possible. for example, i never have ketchup in my fridge, but a recipe called for 2 tbsp of it, so instead of going to the store and buying a bottle of ketchup, i made my own out of what i already had at my house.

a few weeks back, i had a craving for my grandma’s wild rice casserole. now, it is not a healthy dish by any means, but her recipe calls for canned cream of mushroom soup and canned asparagus (blech). i read the soup label only to discover MSfuckingG in it.

are you kidding me?! i thought that crap was banned by now. regardless, the basic ingredients were simple, so why couldn’t i make it from what i already had in my kitchen: butter, flour, seasonings, broth, milk and mushrooms?

homemade canned cream of mushroom soup
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced small

melt the butter.
whisk in the flour, one tbsp at a time.
add poultry seasoning.
whisk in broth.
whisk in milk.
stir in mushrooms.
s+p to taste.
heat until desired thickness.

you’ll have the same amount in a can of campbell’s without all the extra ingredients you don’t need like vegetable oil, modified food starch, dried whey, soy protein concentrate, yeast extract, and monosodium glutamate! plus, it tastes better and took less than 5 minutes to make. it made me think: what other processed food can we just make ourselves? or, what would laura ingalls wilder do?

a version of this post first appeared in my sister kate’s blog smart girls who do stupid things.

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