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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CATALONIAN "MEATBALLS" IN SAFFRON AND ALMOND SAUCE (ALBÓNDIGAS EN SALSA DE ALMENDRA)

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A couple of weeks ago I started experimenting with veganizing some Spanish recipes-- beginning what will be an ongoing exploration of a neglected part of my culinary heritage. My first experiment was a Spanish meatball recipe-- well, Catalonian, actually. I had just about everything I needed to make it and it sounded delicious-- I love just about anything with wine and lemon zest! It utilizes a traditional Catalonian sauce component-- the "picada", which consists of bread, almonds, garlic and sometimes parsley and other seasonings. This cooking technique and the ingredients go all the way back to the Moorish occupation of Spain, from 711 to 1492. The words "albóndiga" (meatball) and "almendra" (almond) derive from Moorish words as do most, if not all, Spanish words beginning in Al, such as Alhambra.

This is interesting to me for various reasons-- one being that my father, who was half Spanish, looked quite Arabic, so much so that I'm sure his family had some Moorish blood dating back to those times. Maybe that's why I love Middle Eastern food and music so much!

 My late father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina, shortly before he passed away-- still handsome!

This is what I came up with, slightly streamlined, and very delicious it was with homemade crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce, and fresh green beans with tomato and garlic! (It is sometimes served with fried potatoes.)  I still want to tinker with it a bit, but it's certainly worth sharing even in this early form.



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S CATALONIAN "MEATBALLS" IN SAFFRON AND ALMOND SAUCE, VEGAN-STYLE (ALBÓNDIGAS EN SALSA DE ALMENDRA)
Serves 5

25 vegan "meatballs" (I used my homemade vegan "Neatballs", but Nate's or Trader Joe's meatless "meatballs", or ones made from Lightlife "Gimme Lean" or Match "ground beef" alternative could be used instead -- I can't get any of these where I live.)
unbleached white flour
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
The Sauce:
1 cup vegan "chicken" broth (I used Better than Bouillon "No-Chicken" base)
1 cup fruity dry white wine (dry reisling, Chablis, Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and many others)
a pinch of Spanish saffron
grated zest of 1 organic lemon
2 teaspoons sugar
The "Picada":
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or dry white breadcrumbs
1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
(some people add a bit of chopped parsley)
Addition:
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Garnish:
Sweet Spanish paprika (I used smoked sweet pimenton)

Roll the "meatballs" lightly in flour and brown them in a 12" nonstick skillet with the 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until crusty on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.



Wipe out the skillet and pour in the broth and wine; bring it to a boil. Add the saffron, lemon zest, and sugar, whisking. Add the "meatballs" and remove from the heat.

In a smaller (8-9") skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the other "Picada" ingredients-- the breadcrumbs, almonds and garlic. Stir the mixture until it begins to turn golden, then take off the heat.

 Browned "meatballs" and picada ingredients.


 Grind the "picada" ingredients to a paste in a food processor and add it to the pan with the broth and "meatballs" and stir gently as it comes to a simmer. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, add a little water. Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve the "albondigas" (meatballs in Spanish) with the sauce, sprinkled with the pimenton.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 363.2 calories; 30% calories from fat; 12.6g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 506.6mg sodium; 181.2mg potassium; 26.3g carbohydrates; 1.4g fiber; 3.9g sugar; 24.9g net carbs; 29.6g protein; 8.0 points.


Enjoy!

7 comments:

in2insight said...

Oh, this looks so good. I happen to have a bag on Nate's in the freezer so this weekends main meal is planned.

BTW, which book has your Neatball recipe?

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

It's not in any book yet, but I hope the next one!

Phlat said...

I too was going to ask about the neatballs and whether there were spices to be added to them.
You were lucky to have grown up with access to such cultural variety and around people sophisticated enough to appreciate it. Our world would be shrunken without Arabic numerals, mathematical notation and Al-gebra allowing us advances like electronics and mechanized transportation. It's easy to forget our debts to the people and cultures that have paved the way to our modern global village, and to think it was always so.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Phlat, if you are making your own "meatballs", say from Match or Lightlife products, you could add some sweet Spanish paprika, choped parsley and pepper to the mix. I would also add some dark sesame oil, which is what I use instead of pork products sometimes, since it has a smokey rich flavor.

Yes, as you say, I am lucky to have been brought up the way I was. One of my favorite cookbook authors is the Canadian writer Habeeb Salloum (born in Saskatchewan of Syrian parents). He has written books, but also many essays on Arabic contributions to many facets of life, including the Spanish language: http://www.alhewar.net/Basket/Habeeb_Salloum_Spanish_Language.htm ; the impact of Arab language on languages in general: http://www.syriatoday.ca/salloum-arab-lan.htm ; Arab influence on Sicilian cooking: http://www.syriatoday.ca/salloum-arab-sci.htm ; Arab influence on Spanish agriculture: http://www.syriatoday.ca/salloum-arab-spain.htm and much much more. Here are some his food-related articles: http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/author/habeeb-salloum/

Sorry to go on and on-- I find it fascinating!

in2insight said...

This was out of the world good!
Many thanks for sharing this.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

So glad you enjoyed it!

concrete said...

This looks so good ! Thanks for sharing !