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It’s a comfort, shaping meatballs.  Only my fingertips touch, shape, nudge, they are so delicate. Unlike the muscle and torque involved in kneading bread, the pressure here has to be slight.  The way you might hold an infant’s foot.

Yes, I know. I’m talking about raw meat.  But I love making these meatballs in part because I use a recipe from a friend I’ve lost touch with, and they remind me of the dinners he cooked for us–at once so scrupulous and so lax.  Jonathan was exact about ingredients, cooking temps and times, the composition of courses.  And relaxed about the way the evening stretched late into the night, about lipstick marks on wine glasses–from previous drinkers–about the terrifying mess in the kitchen.

We had a delicious rivalry.  He would cook us a multi-course meal with wines to match, and we’d follow up the next weekend at our apartment, just up the hill from his, on Euclid Ave. in Berkeley.  It went on, as we attempted amicably to one-up each other.

The meatballs were one of the best meals.  Here is his basic recipe, as I remember it, which came from his Nonna, his Italian grandmother.

Jonathan’s Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 eggshell water
1/3 c. fresh bread crumbs
small handful chopped parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper or some red pepper flakes for spice

Combine all ingredients, and shape gently into meatballs, either large or small.  Cook over moderate heat in an oiled or buttered pan, turning occasionally, until done.  Serve immediately.

Tonight, I had the luxury of local grass fed ground beef, local fresh eggs, and of course local herbs.  I substituted blanched garlic scapes for the garlic cloves.


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