16 February 2009


I was going to write about onions. A whole post - can you imagine? But then I feared you might think me off the norm if I swoon extensively over onions alone, so I decided I shall start with onions and end with meat. My Dear Readers, I truly hope this post will find you well. I dare wish so. That said, let me begin…

I don’t know if there is any law that regulates sneezing in public places. Probably there is not. I wish there were one. Please let me explain. I understand that sneezing is a natural process (I myself have been there million times); but I hope you share my view that to be sneezed at is far from being exciting. It always happens with me: I stand, minding my own business, at a tram station; a weary cold-sufferer (a poor thing, I agree) appears in the setting, approaches me (not on purpose, of course), looking sad and all that; then he or she smiles at me and sneezes – also at me. You know the feeling, don’t you? Under such circumstances, a wish to hit a certain somebody arises, or at least a desire to say something educative, like, “Close your mouth, thank you very much”.

The downside of such incidents (and I don’t know how else to call these) is that, more frequently than I in fact need, I get, nay am given, a cold. A cold-domino effect, if you like. To prevent this, I tend to eat raw onions (rather regularly): both my grandmother and my mother used to give me onion galore back in my childhood when I showed the first symptoms of a nascent cold and such. (Fresh raw onion, thinly sliced or finely chopped (as well as fresh garlic) and eaten right away, still remains a timely natural remedy against common cold in Russia. Strangely, but I did not resist the wisdom of the grown-ups in my family, and took rather well to all things onion - raw onion, to be true to the letter.)

Well, onions are good, no doubt. But they smell – also no doubt. They are anti-social, these fiery beasts! And when you eat them uncooked, you get all onion-y and anti-social too, right?


What to do? Quite simple: cook them. (I like to re-invent the wheel every now and then, you understand.)

Needless to say, when cooked, onions lose most of their anti-bacterial properties; but I believe they gain as much too – a refined flavor, softer texture, delicate taste, especially when encapsulated in meat.

And here comes the meat! Red meat! Now, if you let me, a few words on my relationship with the ingredient (sounds rather maniacal, no?).

I have never been a vegetarian, nor have I been an avid meat-eater. Meat never repulsed me but I never craved for it. (Apart from the time, though, when I craved for everything, and yet bravely decided to have nothing instead; if you want, you can read about it here.) Recently, however, I got a feeling that meat is missing in my life, and, of course, on my plate. I miss its taste, its flavour. I even do not mind if smoke fumes from frying will be so much absorbed into my hair and clothes that neither shower nor perfume will help to disguise the aroma. I miss a cacophony of sizzling sounds since these are what you usually hear when you fry meat. These sounds are like jazz to me: hidden melody, lots of passion. And appetite. Besides, I do not want to hurt myself more than I already did. So this is how I decided I am going to eat meat (from local, organic producers, if you need to know). Again.

And thus I began with these tender, juicy, delicate meat patties (with onion). I made them. I love(d) them. I am proud of them.

Also, I am quite proud that I stood in a snake-like line at a butcher’s stall for good 30 (!!!) minutes at a farmer’s market last Saturday. To while away the time, I oogled sausages speckled with oozy fat, rosy meat cuts luring onlookers into joining the exponentially growing line. I watched dutch butchers packing the customers’ orders with unspoken care, patience and devotion: a nice elderly dutchman, with a warm glow in his eyes (he loves his meat, I think), patted gently the ground beef I ordered as if it were an infant’s bottom. I was moved.

Beef patties

1 pound ground beef
1 large piece of country-style or levain bread, crusts removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium potato, finely grated
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 egg
½ tsp sea salt
fresh-ground black pepper
olive oil

(Yields about 15 medium-sized patties)

1. In a small bowl, combine bread with ½ cup water. Sed aside to soften, about 4-5 mins. Squeeze most of the water out of the bread.

2. In a large bowl, combine with your hands the meat, bread, garlic, onion and potato. Toss gently but thoroughly.

3. Make a well in the meat mixture and break the egg into it. Sprinkle salt and pepper over and gently toss to blend until the egg is fully incorporated. Don’t overwork the meat though, otherwise the meat patties will be dense.

4. Using your hands, form the meat mixture into meatballs. Give them a patty shape by flattening the meatballs slightly.

5. Heat a large heavy skillet (or a non-stick frying pan) over medium heat. To reach even browning and a pleasant crunchy crust, make sure the skillet is well heated. Add olive oil. Working in batches, fry the meat patties for 3-4 mins on eash side.

A few notes:

You can easily play with the recipe - it allows for various twist-and-turns so well. Soak bread in milk rather than in water, or even in beer - for deeper and more complex flavour! Use any other type of meat, or a combination. Also, you may want to add to the meat fresh hearbs such as flat-leaf parsley or chives. Potato and onion/garlic puree provide for the moistness and softness of the meat, so you should not skip those, I dare advise.

And a few visualities (my word) as a final touch for today:

Be well, My Reader! Be well.


Cinnamonda said...

Love the visualities! :) The first one made me pause for a moment, as at first glance I thought it was a real car and a really big mirror! :)


toni said...

I also love the visualities! All of them....

Like you, I'm neither a vegetarian nor a meat craver. I will go back and forth, some days eating nothing other than eggs and cheese or tofu for protein. Then I'll make chicken or fish, usually. But every once in a while, I'll eat some red meat. Just because. And I have no guilt about it!

toni said...

p.s. - Don't people cover their noses when they sneeze???