By Kelsey Casselbury 2016-06-14 12:26:12
Across the globe, cultures share a love for that spherical comfort food that most of us associate primarily atop spaghetti. The little sister of comfort food extraordinaire, the humble meatloaf, a good meatball is a taste to savor. It’s a menu item that tends to cross a wide scope of age levels and ethnic preferences, making it a reliable offering in school cafeterias. After all, most kids would never turn down a meatball “on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese...” well, you know how the song goes. For many, the definition of a meatball is simple and universal: Ground beef, perhaps some garlic and onions, a little bit of breadcrumb or egg to hold it all together, rolled up into a 1-in.-diameter sphere and placed on top of a mound of spaghetti with tomato sauce. While the formula diverges somewhat among various culinary traditions— substituting different ground meats, binders and sauce pairings—the concept remains fairly consistent. That’s right; many cultures across the globe have their own variations on meatballs, each beloved as much as the traditional “Italian” variety that Americans cherish. (We put “Italian” in quote marks, because would you believe that native Italians actually don’t typically serve meatballs with traditional spaghetti and marinara sauce? That’s an American creation of its own!) In the interest of helping you add more versatility to menus within the typical constraints of ingredient cost, meal prep and customer preference, School Nutrition invites you on a round-the-world tour of mouth-watering meatballs. Albóndigas | Spain & Mexico The name “albóndigas” is easy to trace—it comes from the Arabic word al-bunduq, meaning “small round object.” When Muslims ruled the Iberian peninsula, roughly between 711 and 1492 (on and off), the conquerors and traders brought albóndigas with them. In Spain, these meatballs are often served in a garlicky, possibly a little spicy, tomato sauce as an appetizer or main course—in fact, in Europe, it might be the closest you get to the meatballs that Americans know and love. In Mexico, the meaty spheres are more likely to be part of a light, brothy and vegetable-rich soup. In many traditional recipes, the meatballs feature an unexpected ingredient: fresh mint. Next time you catch a cold, skip the chicken soup and look up a recipe for this comforting soup—it’s certain to make you feel a touch better! Bakso | Indonesia Like albóndigas, Indonesian bakso (which means “fluffy meat” or “mixed meat”) often is served in a brothy soup, along with noodles, tofu, eggs and a steamed dumpling. It’s a common street food in the country, though it’s also menued in restaurants and available frozen in supermarkets. You’ll almost never find pork in bakso, as most Indonesians are Muslims who follow halal dietary law. Therefore, the meatballs are probably going to be beef, chicken or a mixture of the two. Bakso has at least one famous fan—President Obama notably said that it was one of his favorite foods from young childhood years spent in Indonesia. Bò Viên | Vietnam Continuing in the tradition of meatball-laden soups, Vietnam’s cuisine features bò viên, a meatball that’s often added to pho, a flavorful broth with rice noodles, herbs and meat. However, this isn’t the only preparation for bò viên; you might also see it cooked in a tomato sauce with spring onions and peppers or grilled and served over rice noodles and a vinegary sauce. One way that these meatballs (as well as bakso) differ from American or European varieties is that the ground meat—typically beef—isn’t just mashed together and formed into a ball. Instead, it’s ground down further in a food processor, to a paste-like consistency. After being chilled, the meat stays bound in a ball form without additional ingredients. This creates a heavy, dense meatball. Chiftele | Romania It’s pretty standard to see breadcrumbs or another form of grain mixed into a meatball to keep the ground meat together through the cooking process. But in chiftele, also known as Romanian meatballs, a different type of starch comes into play: grated potatoes. Three other differences from familiar American meatballs are that they’re slightly flattened, rather than perfectly round, typically made from pork (combined with milk-soaked bread, which means they do get some breading in there!) and deep-fried. On the table, chiftele typically pair with mashed potatoes and tomato sauce. In an alternate version, chiftele are made with rice instead of grated potatoes and are added to a soup known as ciorba de perisoare. Polpette | Italy Yes, they do serve meatballs in Italy; they’re just not on top of pasta like Americans are accustomed to. Typically, polpetti are eaten on their own as a main course or served as part of a soup, and they’re small—the size of a golf ball, typically. Traditional polpetti comprise equal mixtures of bread and meat; an Italian-American meatball is typically much denser. Classic Meatballs | United States We can thank the 4 million Italians who immigrated to America between 1880 and 1920 for bringing their polpette to our shores as a way to make expensive meat go further by adding cheap fillers such as leftover bread. When economic times were good, Italian cooks in the United States found that they could afford to serve polpetti with pasta dishes, instead of as an alternative. For more than a century, beef was the primary ingredient for meatballs (with pork or veal mixed in on occasion). Today, in the wake of concern about the fat content of beef, there’s a surge in meatballs being made with ground turkey instead. Plus, we’re not just topping our spaghetti with meatballs, we use them—and the rich tomato sauce that offers such zing—in sandwiches, on pizza and with other pasta dishes. Frikadeller | Denmark Flatten your meatball out and fry it up, and you have frikadeller, a staple of Danish cuisine. These meatballs are typically made with minced veal, pork or beef, along with onions, egg, milk and breadcrumbs. Versions of this style also appear in German, Austrian, Swedish and Hungarian cuisines. Danish cuisine is rooted in peasant dishes developed before the Industrial Revolution and, as such, you’ll find frikadeller served with boiled white potatoes and gravy and perhaps pickled beets or cooked cabbage. Kofta | Middle East Across the Middle East, regional cultures enjoy their own different versions of kofta. In a basic form, these meatballs are made with ground beef or lamb, then mixed with onions and spices. Sometimes the mixture is molded into an oval instead of a sphere and skewered to make a kebab. Kebabs are just one way to prep and serve kofta. In India, they might be paired with a spicy curry sauce over boiled rice or bread, such as naan. They might even be made vegetarian by replacing the meat with potato or paneer (a type of cheese). In Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan, kofta is prepared with a spiced gravy, and in South India, West Bengal and parts of Egypt, you might find varieties using fish or shrimp as the bases. Köttbullar | Sweden Let’s all give our thanks to home furniture giant IKEA for making Swedish meatballs, or köttbullar, readily accessible all across the United States. These meatballs are typically made from a mix of ground beef and pork, sometimes with veal mixed in, as well as finely chopped fried onions, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, white pepper and allspice. Served in a cream sauce, köttbullar traditionally pairs with a creamy gravy, as well as boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam. Good news: If you don’t feel like making Swedish meatballs, IKEA sells them at their retail locations! More Mighty Meatballs We might have run out of space, but we certainly didn’t run out of types of meatballs! In Belgium, you’ll find ballekes, a mixture of beef and pork with sliced onions, and in Germany, konigsberger klopse are made with anchovy or herring and eaten with caper sauce. There’s pulpety (Poland), almóndegas (Portugal and Brazil), wanzi (China) and tsukune (Japan). Use a web browser to search for the history of these, plus keftedes from Greece and skilpadjies in South Africa. If your community has a significant immigrant population, check with parents about the meatball variations that are traditional in their ethnic cuisines. It’ll be a great opportunity to make kids from these cultures feel welcome—and continue to expand the culinary palates of all the children you serve! Kitchen Wisdom The magazine team would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to these SN Kitchen Wisdom Panel members, as well as their colleagues (and in some cases, their students!) who were active participants in 2015-16. MANY THANKS FOR THE INFINITE WISDOM When you open up School Nutrition and peruse the recipes featured most months in Food Focus, you might wonder where they come from. We credit the contributors at the bottom of each recipe, so you’ll see that they come from school districts, marketing groups, K-12 industry partners and child health advocates, to name a few sources. SN also asks a group of experts—that is, the school nutrition professionals on the front lines in kitchens and cafeterias—to review several of these recipes, test them (if possible) and let us know how they are received in their schools both by those who prep the item and the student customers. How would our Kitchen Wisdom experts modify the recipe to meet the specific needs of their operations? Do they have suggestions for menuing, service and marketing? Is the item more suitable for elementary or high schools? The commentary of the folks who make up SN’s Kitchen Wisdom Panel is invaluable, and their insights provide added value to the recipes we publish. • Anji Baumann Child Nutrition Director Gooding & Shosone (Idaho) School Districts • Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro School Nutrition Chef Windham-Raymond (Maine) School Department • Linette Dodson, PhD, RD, SNS School Nutrition Director Carrollton City (Ga.) Schools • Bryan Ehrenholm Nutrition Education Catering Chef Manteca (Calif.) Unified School District • Roxanne Knops Manager White Bear Lake (Minn.) Area Schools • Theresa Miffitt Manager Manchester (Conn.) Preschool Center • Robert Rusan District Chef Maplewood-Richmond Heights (Mo.) School District • Sharon Schaefer, SNS K-12 Nutrition Specialist, Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Neb. • Suzanne Yamanishi Food Service Manager Southside School, Hollister, Calif. Do YOU Have Kitchen Wisdom? School Nutrition is always looking for additional volunteers to serve as part of our Kitchen Wisdom Panel (KWP). To be a member of the panel, you must be willing to receive three recipes four to six times a year, agreeing to review, modify and/or test these with staff and students and provide your feedback. All member levels, from employees to directors, are encouraged to volunteer! Note, however, that School Nutrition does not provide any compensation, ingredients or other remuneration for KWP participation. If you are interested, please email Contributing Editor Kelsey Casselbury at email@example.com. Spaghetti With “Smart” Walnut Meatballs and Tomato Sauce For the Meatballs 8 cups Breadcrumbs, whole-wheat 2 cups Skim milk 8 large Eggs, beaten 4 cups Walnuts, chopped* 4 cups Parmesan cheese, grated 1 cup Parsley leaves, minced 8 cloves Garlic, minced 4 tsps. Salt 8 tsps. Black pepper 2 tsps. Nutmeg 8 lbs. Ground turkey, lean For the Tomato Sauce & Pasta ½ cup Olive oil 8 cups Onions, chopped ½ cup Garlic, minced 2 Tbsps. Dried basil 2 Tbsps. Dried oregano 2 Tbsps. Sugar 2 tsps. Red pepper flakes 8 qts. Plum tomatoes, canned 6¼ lbs. Spaghetti noodles, dry, uncooked 1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 2) In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk; let sit for 10 minutes. Add the eggs and mix well. 3) In the same bowl, add the walnuts, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well. 4) Add the turkey and, using a large standing mixer fitted with a paddle, mix well. Don’t overmix or the meatballs will be tough. 5) Portion the meatballs using a No. 30 disher, and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until they are firm and cooked through, but before they are overly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Note that they will continue cooking in the tomato sauce. 6) While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil for the tomato sauce in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. 7) Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. 8) Add the basil, sugar and tomatoes and their juice; bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 9) Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and again bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. 10) While the meatballs are cooking in the tomato sauce, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. 11) To serve, top 2 ozs. cooked spaghetti with 3 meatballs and approximately ⅔ cup of sauce. *Notes: California Walnuts can be used in this recipe. Recipe and Photo: California Walnuts, www.californiawalnuts.com SERVINGS 50 (3 meatballs, 2 ozs. pasta, ⅔ cup tomato sauce) PER SERVING 520 cal., 19 g fat, 58 g carb., 30 g pro., 670 mg sod., 6 g fiber MEAL PATTERN Meatballs 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1-oz.-eq. grains Sauce ⅔ cup red/orange vegetable Pasta 2-oz.-eq. grains Watermelon-Glazed Meatballs 72 1-oz. meatballs, frozen* 2 cups BBQ sauce, prepared 3 cups Seedless watermelon purée (use 6 cups of fresh watermelon) 1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. 2) To make the watermelon purée, remove the seeds from fresh watermelon and cut into large chunks. Place 6 cups of watermelon in a blender and process until the fruit is smooth and well puréed. It should make roughly 3 cups of purée. 3) Mix together the BBQ sauce and watermelon purée. 4) Place frozen meatballs in a full-size steamtable pan. 5) Pour the BBQ-watermelon sauce over the meatballs and shake the pan to be sure all the meatballs are covered in sauce. 6) Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook until sauce and meatballs are hot. *Notes: Check package label to ensure 3 1-oz. meatballs credit as 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate. Make any needed adjustments. Recipe, Photo and Meal Pattern Analysis: National Watermelon Promotion Board, www.watermelon.org SERVINGS 24 (3 1-oz. meatballs) PER SERVING 210 cal., 9 g fat, 14 g pro., 18 g carb., 0 g fiber, 380 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate Kitchen Wisdom • Be sure to heat the meatballs to the correct internal temperature as indicated on the manufacturer’s directions. Note that “fully cooked” versus “raw” meatballs will have different safe cooking times and internal temperature requirements. • This would be very delicious with additional fresh-cut watermelon on the side. Pairing a fruit glaze with the fresh fruit draws out the flavor and helps students identify with the fruit they’re eating. • I will be honest, I thought this was the silliest recipe that I had ever seen, but it proved me wrong. I want to go on record that this was the easiest recipe to put together and the flavor is fantastic! The sauce portion of this recipe has so many applications as a sauce for meat, a salad dressing, a spread on a sandwich—it’s only limited by your imagination. • This was a big winner when taste tested with the kids. Super and very quick to prepare, the sauce can be made up a day or two in advance, depending on your production schedule—and the flavor profile will knock your socks off. Italian Turkey & Mushroom Meatballs 18 lbs. 85% lean ground turkey 6 lbs., 2 ozs. Mushrooms, chopped 2 cups Green peppers, diced 2 cups Onions, diced 5 cups Salsa, reduced-sodium 9 Large eggs 3 lbs. Rolled oats, uncooked ¼ cup Ground black pepper 2 Tbsps. Salt ½ cup Garlic powder 2 Tbsps. No-salt Italian seasoning 2 Tbsps. Dried oregano ½ cup Seasoning blend* 1) Mix all of the dry seasonings together in a small bowl. Set aside. 2) In a large mixing bowl with a paddle, mix the salsa, eggs and oats. Mix for two minutes or until all ingredients are well-blended. Add the dry seasonings mixture and combine for another two minutes. 3) Add the turkey, green peppers, onions and mushrooms to the mixing bowl and blend at a low speed for three minutes. Do not overmix. 4) Place the mixture in a food storage container and refrigerate overnight to set the flavors. 5) On the day of service, place pan liners on sheet pans. Spray these lightly with a panrelease spray. 6) Portion the meatballs using a No. 30 disher and flat-filling it. Do not round the meatballs. Drop the meatballs onto sheet pans in a 5x8 pattern. 7) Bake the meatballs in a convection oven at 350°F with the fan on high for 20 minutes. Remove when an internal temperature of 165°F is reached. *Notes: Mrs. Dash’s Original seasoning blend can be used if you don’t have an inhouse mixture. Recipe, Photo and Meal Pattern Analysis: The Mushroom Council, www.mushroomsinschools.com SERVINGS 100 (3 meatballs each) PER SERVING 269.6 cal., 11.6 g fat, 20.7 g pro., 21.2 g carb., 3.6 g fiber, 210.6 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, ⅛ cup other vegetables, ¼-oz.-eq. grains Kitchen Wisdom • The flavors are good and you have the ability to use commodity products (USDA Foods) in making this recipe. • We made this recipe, but did not form it into meatballs. Instead, we used it to make mini meatloaf muffins for our supper program. We scooped the meat mixture with a gray-handled No. 8 scoop, which gave us 40 portions, and we baked them in muffin papers. Turkey and Onion Meatball Kebab 3 Tbsps. Cumin seeds* 3 cups Plain yogurt 3 Tbsps. Cilantro, chopped 3 Tbsps. Chives, chopped 1 Tbsp. Honey ¾ tsp. Salt ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper 3 lbs. Ground turkey 9 cloves Garlic, chopped 2 Tbsps. Lemon zest ¾ tsp. Kosher salt 3 large Yellow onions, peeled and cut into wedges 3 large Green bell peppers, diced 3 lbs. Cherry tomatoe 1) Warm a small pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds to toast. Stir frequently, for about three minutes or until seeds are fragrant and slightly browned. Remove seeds and place in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle; grind to a moderately fine powder.* 2) In a bowl, combine yogurt, cilantro, chives, honey, salt and 1 tsp. of the fresh-ground cumin. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. 3) In a second bowl, combine turkey, garlic, lemon zest, salt, cayenne pepper and 1 tsp. of the fresh-ground cumin; mix gently but thoroughly. Shape into a total of 50 1.5-in. meatballs. 4) Preheat a grill. On metal skewers (or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes), thread one meatball, onion wedge, cherry tomato and bell pepper square on each skewer. Repeat, so there is a total of two of each ingredient for each kebab. Recipe makes 25 kebabs total. 5) Grill until meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165°F, turning as needed. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce.* *Notes: The steps to create fresh cumin powder may be too labor intensive for most school operations. Substitute with a commercial dry product as necessary. According to the recipe source, the meatballs and vegetable mixture also can be served on a whole-grain flatbread. Dipping sauce and flatbread are not included in the meal pattern analysis. Recipe: USA Onions/Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, www.usaonions.com Photo: National Onion Association, www.onions-usa.org Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns. Nutritional analysis powered by Meals Plus, a USDAApproved Nutritional Analysis program SERVINGS 25 (1 kebab each) PER SERVING 128 cal., 5.5 g fat, 12.8 g pro., 7.8 g carb., 1.5 g fiber, 168 g sod. MEAL PATTERN 1.5-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, ¼ cup other vegetable, Teriyaki Meatball Grinder 18 lbs., 12 ozs. 1-oz. beef or turkey meatballs, frozen* (300 total) 9 lbs., 8 ozs. Cucumbers, stripe-peeled and sliced 10 ozs. Red bell pepper, diced 1¼ cup Ponzu sauce/dressing, citrus-flavored* ¼ cup Rice vinegar, unseasoned 5 cups Teriyaki sauce, low-sodium* 100 each Hoagie rolls, whole-grain, 2-oz. 1) Place the meatballs on sheet pans and bake according to the manufacturer’s directions until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. 2) Combine the sliced cucumbers and diced red bell peppers in a large mixing bowl. 3) Mix together the ponzu sauce and the unseasoned rice vinegar and pour the combination over cucumbers and peppers. Toss the vegetables gently until coated. Hold chilled at or below 40°F until ready to serve. 4) When meatballs reach the appropriate internal temperature, drizzle low-sodium teriyaki sauce over top, gently stirring to coat the meatballs. Hold hot at or above 140°F until ready to serve. 5) To serve, place ¼ cup (approximately six slices) of the cucumber-and-pepper mixture inside the hoagie along the top bun. Place three meatballs coated with teriyaki sauce inside the hoagie next to the cucumbers. *Notes: Check the meatball label to ensure 3 1-oz. meatballs credit as 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate. Make any needed adjustments. Kikkoman Ponzu Citrus Seasoned Dressing and Kikkoman Less-Sodium Teriyaki Sauce can be used in this recipe. Recipe, Photo and Meal Pattern Analysis: Kikkoman USA, www.kikkomanusa.com SERVINGS 100 (1 bun, ¼ cup cucumbers and peppers, 3 meatballs) PER SERVING 320 cal., 13 g fat, 20 g pro., 37 g carb., 6 g fiber, 730 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 2-oz.-eq. grains, ¼ cup other vegetables Albóndigas Soup 9 lbs. Ground beef 9 lbs. Ground turkey 8 tsps. Granulated garlic 2 cups Diced onion 8 Eggs 1 cup Bread crumbs 3½ gals. Water ½ cup Beef soup base ½ cup Vegetable soup base ½ cup Tomato paste ¾ cup Chili powder ¼ cup Dried oregano ¾ cup Cumin 6 lbs. Green peppers 4 lbs. Baby carrots 4 lbs. Celery 6 lbs. Diced frozen potatoes ¼ cup Hot sauce 1) Combine the beef, turkey, garlic, onion, egg and breadcrumbs. Shape into 1-oz. meatballs using a #30 disher. CCP: Hold at 41°F or below. 2) In a stockpot, bring the water to a boil. Add the beef and vegetable soup bases, chili powder, oregano, cumin and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. 3) Add the meatballs to the boiling broth. 4) Wash the green peppers, carrots and celery. Dice the peppers and celery, but leave the carrots whole. Add these vegetables and the diced frozen potatoes to the broth. Add the hot sauce, if desired. Bring the soup back to a boil. 5) Cook the soup until all the vegetables are tender and the internal temperature of the meatballs reaches 165°F. 6) To serve, portion 6 ozs. of the broth with vegetables, plus 2 meatballs. Recipe and Meal Pattern Analysis: Denver (Colo.) Public Schools, http://enterprisemanagement.dpsk12.org/food-services Photo: Thinkstock SERVINGS 100 (6 ozs. broth, 2 meatballs) MEAL PATTERN 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, ⅓ cup other vegetables The Origin of Meatballs Many cultures clamor to lay claim to the original meatball, but let’s face it—the simple act of forming ground meat, with a few add-ins, into a small, round ball probably occurred in quite a few places simultaneously. However, there’s historical reference for a few varieties, including a Chinese recipe for “Four Joy Meatballs,” which has a lineage going back to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 207 BC). Culinary historians also have found a lamb meatball in early Arabic cookbooks, as well as the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius. Therefore, like so many other iconic dishes, the classic meatball has no single righteous inventor. Kelsey Casselbury is a contributing editor for School Nutrition and its former managing editor. BONUS WEB CONTENT Food Focus Despite their name, meatballs don’t have to be made with animal protein. This month’s online extras include details on how to satisfy vegetarian eaters, as well as culinary tips for building a better meatball overall. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonus to access. Recipes published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. When available, nutrient analyses are provided by the recipe source. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses, meal patterns and HACCP steps.
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