Ginger Pork MeatballsBeing a fan of making/eating meatballs (aren’t you?), I’ve indulged in the chapter devoted to ground meats in Dinner, Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark. Plenty of meatballs here.

The “Ginger Pork Meatballs with Cilantro and Fish Sauce” are proposed with a relaxed formula: formed by hand, broiled and served with a dipping sauce. I doubled the dipping sauce, actually, in order to serve my balls on a bed of rice noodles. This works, here.

I’ll confess to using ground pork along with ground turkey. No problem. I formed 18 balls and broiled them, as instructed. Smell the garlic, cilantro, and taste the warm spiciness.

I also made the suggested “Smashed Sichuan Cucumber Salad,” (recipe below), if only to indulge in the current trend of inelegantly smashing a pile of cucumbers with a rolling pin. Food bloggers and food magazines are all smashing their cucumbers. Congrats to whoever forecast this trend and jumped on this bandwagon(!).

Smashed Sichuan Cucumber SaladSmashed Sichuan Cucumber Salad
Dinner, Changing the Game
Serves 4

2 lbs. cucumbers, peeled if desired
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1 tsp. grated peeled fresh giner
4 tsp. Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
Large pinch of light brown sugar
1 small fresh red chile, thinly sliced, seeded if desired

Arrange the cucumbers on a cutting board. Using a rolling pin, meat pounder, or the flat side of a cleaver or heavy chef’s knife, pound the cucumbers until they are broken apart and smashed. Tear them into 1 1/2-inch-long chunks, discarding any seeds that fall out in the process (it’s okay to leave some of the seeds). Put the cucumbers in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, brown sugar, and chile slices. Mix well, add this to the cucumbers, and toss.

You can serve this straightaway, but it gets better if you chill it for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours. Just before serving, taste the salad and adjust the seasonings if needed.

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I gathered 2 lbs. of small unpeeled Persian cucumbers, and smashed them with my rolling pin. The objective, of course, was to achieve this sloppy mess of cucumber pieces, a far cry from those that might be painstakingly sliced. We want crudeness! We want roughness!

Let’s talk about Chinese black vinegar. Buy a bottle next time you’re in a Chinatown (I did). It’s made of glutinous rice, but is maltier than plain rice vinegar: the winning secret ingredient in this salad.

I did refrigerate my dressed salad for two hours before eating it. It was cool and crispy when paired with my meatballs above.

Jalapeños (2) = .18¢
Persian Cucumbers (2 lbs.) = $3.40

PREP TIMES: form meatballs, broil in 10 minutes; quickly smash cucumbers, dress, refrigerate
TASTES: spicy/sweet/tangy sauce slicks warmly spiced meatballs; cool, crispy cucumbers accept garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and black vinegar

Next time, I’ll turn to the “Pizzas & Pies” chapter in Melissa Clark’s Dinner, Changing the Game, to satisfy myself with the “Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Ricotta, and Olives” (recipe below). Come back to my site next week, to enjoy this one with me.

Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Ricotta and Olives

Makes two 12-inch pizzas

2 8-oz. balls pizza dough, white or whole-wheat, 
purchased or homemade
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Pinch of red chile flakes
8 oz. broccoli rabe, trimmed
Kosher salt to taste
Fine cornmeal, for dusting
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh ricotta
Coarse sea salt to taste
Red chile flakes, for garnish

Heat the oven to 500°F if your broiler unit is in the oven, or to 450°F if your broiler is in a separate drawer. Place a pizza stone or a rimless baking sheet on the middle rack. Allow the oven to heat for 45 minutes.

At the same time, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and brown it all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then stir in the chile flakes. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, tossing it frequently, until it is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Season the broccoli rabe with kosher salt, remove it from the skillet, and coarsely chop it along with the garlic, mixing them together.

Turn a rimmed baking sheet upside down (or use a pizza peel if you have one), and dust it generously with fine cornmeal. Working directly on the baking sheet, stretch and pull one of the pizza dough balls to form a 12-inch round. Scatter half of the broccoli rabe and garlic mixture, and half of the olives over the dough. Dollop half of the ricotta on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Jiggle the pizza gently to make sure it is not sticking to the baking sheet or pizza peel, and sprinkle cornmeal under any sticky spots.

Slide the crust off the baking sheet or pizza peel onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. Cook the pizza for 3 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and broil the pizza until it is golden, crisp, and blistered in places, 2 to 4 minutes. (If you don’t have a broiler in your oven, bake the pizza at 450°F until it’s blistered and golden, 10 to 20 minutes.) Using tongs, slide the pizza onto a large platter. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.