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What's Cooking at Casa Vaka?

Secrets of Egyptian Meatballs 
Sep. 5, 2010 10:45 am 
Updated: Sep. 6, 2010 5:43 am
For Christmas last year, my mother-in-law gave all the women in the family a neat, spiral-bound book of all the recipes she made for her children while they were growing up. I felt honored by this gift. My husband used to rave about several of her recipes, and I was delighted by the idea of being able to recreate them for him.

However, as I began to try my hand at these recipes, it quickly became the joke that my mother-in-law had sabotaged each and every one in some way or another. I'm sure she didn't do it on purpose, but apparently she isn't very good at recording her recipes as many of them were missing some essential ingredient or step that prevented me from making it correctly the first time.

Which brings me to the Egyptian meatballs. I have a sordid past with this particular recipe. When my husband and I first started dating 10 years ago, his family had planned to have Egyptian meatballs for dinner one night. Unfortunately something came up earlier in the day that removed both his mother and his sister--the only two people who knew how to make the dish--from the kitchen. Not to be denied a home-cooked dinner, my slightly chauvinistic future father-in-law turned to me, the sole remaining female in the house, and asked me to make them. Eager to impress, I readily agreed and asked him for the recipe. He looked at me quizzically and simply said, "You just mix everything together and fry them." Needless to say, since I hadn't a clue what ingredients might be in Egyptian meatballs, we ended up having something else for dinner that night.

Flash forward to 2010. Egyptian meatball recipe in hand, I readied myself for Attempt Two. Step 1: prepare the leeks. Having never so much as seen a leek in my life prior to Attempt Two, I followed the directions to the letter. There was only one problem. I prepared the wrong part of the leek. Since I had already thrown the correct part of the leek in the garbage, I substituted onions for the leeks and once again we ended up having a different dish for dinner.

Not to be defeated, I insisted my mother-in-law show me step for step when she came to visit us in August. She seemed surprised that I was having trouble with the recipe, but agreed that she and my sister-in-law would walk me through it.

Now it all makes sense. If you'd like to follow along, see the recipe for yourself here.

Secret Number One: Prepare the leeks correctly.
Though similar in appearance, these are NOT giant green onions. The part of the leek you're going to eat is actually the white part, not the green leaves. Chop off the hairy bulb and the green leaves, then slice the white part in half lengthwise. Separate the layers and rinse well to get all the sand out.

Secret Number Two: Handle with care to prevent crumbling.
The meat will be slightly "soupy" after you have all the ingredients mixed together. If you're not careful, your carefully formed meatballs will fall apart while you're frying them. For best results, turn them with two spoons until they are browned on the outside, or put them in the freezer for 10 minutes before frying.

Secret Number Three: Never be afraid to ask for help.
The best part of admitting I needed help was that I got a nice little bonding experience out of it with my husband's family. And now I know how to make one of his favorite childhood dishes.
Recipe? Check. Ingredients? Check. Technique? That's a whole different story.
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The edible part of the leek is the center, white part.
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For best results, turn the meatballs with two spoons.
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Sep. 5, 2010 6:15 pm
Oh I will make these they sound delicious. Will post review and pics. Thank you :)
Sep. 6, 2010 5:43 am
Funny but informative blog. I love leeks but never heard of them in meatballs! I love recreating recipes for my loved ones that came from their deceased loved ones. It does take time and patience as I found out. Glad you have your mom in law around to supervise. Hope you had fun and will remember it with joy!
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The Animator's Wife

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About Me
I grew up in a house where dinner was never a big deal, and my mother never made anything from scratch. My husband's mother, on the other hand, made EVERYTHING from scratch and is an "ingredient elitist" of sorts in that she won't accept anything less than real butter or whole milk. Now that I'm married, my goal is to find a balance between the rich, wholesome meals my husband is used to and the quick and easy preparations that I like.
My favorite things to cook
I like recipes that require only a few ingredients to make something spectacular.
My favorite family cooking traditions
There are few times when I will go all out and make something that takes all day and a pantry of ingredients, but I will always go out of my way for good Mexican food. Although my mother didn't cook much, my dad's side of the family always made a big thing of it for any family gathering. We would arrive hours before the meal was due to start just to help with the preparation of everything, and then we would dine on enchiladas and tacos until we just couldn't eat anymore. Although for everyday meals I like "quick and easy" recipes the best, the occasional all-day Mexican feast is definitely one tradition I would like to share with my children.
My cooking triumphs
The Jello-shooter brain! This was the first recipe I ever came up with all on my own, and it was so realistic-looking my nephew was afraid if it (which is fine because it was alcoholic anyway).
My cooking tragedies
One year for Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house I volunteered to make yams from scratch. It was a disaster! The end product was crunchy and unedible. It wouldn't have been so disheartening if it hadn't taken all day, but the whole experience reminded me why I don't like to make things from scratch.
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