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Meatball Madness, on a Shoestring

NEW YORK - Nothing fends off the bitter cold better than some hot comfort food. And when it comes to comfort foods, meatballs are among the best.

In fact, the ancient Romans included a meatball recipe in their first-known cookbook.

Centuries later, meatballs are thriving in downtown Manhattan, where Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow opened The Meatball Shop last year.

It's already one of the hottest spots in town - a place to see and be seen - and the food's considered out of this world.

The delicious and, most importantly, inexpensive meatballs have started a craze, with people regularly waiting nearly two hours just for a seat at the bar.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

As the "Chefs on a Shoestring" on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Holzman and Chernow revealed their secrets so you can make these delicious creations at home.

They tried to prepare a delicious three-course dinner for four on our stingy budget of $40.

They were also automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost gets to be invited back to prepare our year-end holiday feast.

Their menu started with a market salad with roasted squash, followed by a classic meatball hero with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese - the dish viewers voted for last week. There was also a side of roasted cauliflower. And for dessert, they showed their homemade ice cream sandwich with brownie cookies and mint ice cream.


Kabocha squash: New to the United States market, this winter squash has a beautiful jade green rind with celadon green streaks. When cooked, its pale orange flesh is tender-smooth and sweet. An average kabocha ranges from 2 to 3 pounds, though they have been known to weigh as much as 8 pounds. Choose squash that are heavy for their size. The rind should be dull and firm; avoid any with soft spots. Kabochas can be cooked in any way suitable for acorn squash, such as baking or steaming. Before cooking, they must be halved and seeded. Source:


Market Salad with Roasted Squash

3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt plus a sprinkle for the pumpkin seeds
1/4 Kabocha squash, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (skin on) (about 1 1/2 cups diced); can substitute butternut squash but remove the peel
4 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds, removed from their shell (they are readily available already shelled)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 head romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoon chopped pickled red onions
1/2 bag baby arugula


Bring a medium pot with 3 cups of water to a boil and stir in the sugar and salt to dissolve. Add the squash and allow to cook until tender but not falling apart (about 5 minutes).

In a large frying pan, toast the pumpkin seeds over a low heat, constantly stirring. They should become golden brown and emit a strong nutty aroma; be careful not to burn them. When they are toasted, toss them in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Allow them to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the lettuce, pumpkin seeds, squash and scallions. Dress with sherry vinaigrette to taste and toss gently so as not to break up the squash.

Sherry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil


Add the salt, mustard and vinegar to a blender. Blend on low speed while slowly drizzling in the olive oil to emulsify.

Pickled Onions

1 large red onion, sliced into 1-inch rounds
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf


Combine all of the ingredients except the onion in a small pot and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Stir to ensure all of the salt and sugar is completely dissolved.

Add the onions and set aside to cool.

For the meatball and dessert recipes, to go Page 2.

Classic Meatball Hero With Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese

Yield: About 12 golf-ball sized meatballs

For Meatballs:

1 pound 80 percent lean beef, ground
1 teaspoon Salt
1 pinch Chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon Fennel seed, ground
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons Parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Oregano, chopped
1/2 cup Fresh ricotta cheese
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Drizzle the olive oil into a small baking dish, making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).

Roll the mixture into round, golf-ball sized meatballs making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls into an oiled baking dish so that the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.

Roast until firm and cooked through (about 20 minutes). While the meatballs are roasting, heat 4 cups of Classic Tomato Sauce in a small pot over a medium / high flame, stirring constantly.

When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, drain the excess grease from the pan then poor the tomato sauce over them and continue roasting for another 14 minutes.

For Tomato Sauce:

1 Yellow onion, small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Bay leaf (Fresh or dry)
1 sprig Fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Salt
Two 28 ounce Cans of canned tomatoes, chopped (preferably San Marzano)


Cook the onions with the olive oil, oregano, bay, garlic and salt over a medium heat in a large pot (12 quart) stirring constantly until soft and translucent (about 15 minutes).

Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for five minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil.
Continue cooking for 1 hour stirring every four or five minutes so that the sauce does not burn.

Season with extra salt to taste.

To make the Hero:
Four 10 inch baguettes
12 slices Mozzarella cheese

Slice each baguette lengthwise in half and lightly toast. Ladle about 6 ounces warm tomato sauce on each baguette, making sure you coat inside of both top and bottom of the loaf; add three lightly-smashed beef meatballs, top with three slices of Mozzarella cheese and broil until cheese is melted.

Roasted Cauliflower With Toasted Hazelnuts and Caper Vinaigrette

1 head Cauliflower, cut into large florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup Caper vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/8 cup chopped, toasted Hazelnuts


Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Toss the cauliflower with the oil and salt in a large bowl, making sure that the cauliflower is well coated. Spread the seasoned cauliflower florets in a large (9X13) baking pan and place in the hot oven to roast.

Roast the cauliflower until the edges begin to brown (about 15 minutes); toss the pieces and continue to cook, repeating and turning every 5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender but firm and well browned all over, about 25 minutes total.

Place the hot cauliflower in a large mixing bowl, toss with the caper vinaigrette. Divide cauliflower evenly among four plates and sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.

For Caper vinaigrette

1 small jar capers (preferably salt packed)
Juice of half a lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 clove raw garlic


Rinse the capers in cold running water for 5 minutes. In a large mortar and pestle or food processor, combine all ingredients and grind until smooth and fully emulsified.

Mint Ice Cream

Yield: 2 quarts

2 1/2 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
7 egg yolks
1 bunch fresh mint plus 1 cup packed with picked leaves, minced
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Bring the milk, half of the sugar and one bunch of mint to a boil in a medium-sized pot over a medium / high heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the yolks together with the rest of the sugar. Temper the yolks by slowly drizzling 1 cup of the hot milk into the bowl while whisking vigorously. Set a large pot (with the cold cream, vanilla extract and chopped mint leaves inside) to the side of the stove. Pour the tempered eggs into the pot of hot milk and continue to cook while stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon (note that the mixture can easily over cook and curdle so be sure not to bring the mixture to a boil).

Strain the mixture into a pot with the cream and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate until fully cool before freezing following your ice cream maker's manufacturers suggestions.

Brownie Cookies

Yield: about 36, 3-inch cookies

3 cups dark chocolate chips
2/3 cup butter
6 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

To finish:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped


Melt 3 cups dark chocolate chips with the butter in a double boiler then set aside and cool to room temp. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together with a whisk until combined. Add the melted chocolate and whisk to incorporate. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder then mix the dry ingredients into the wet in two batches. Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and walnut pieces and stir to combine. Chill dough for at least 1 hour. Scoop dough out to 1-inch balls and lay on baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies to allow for spreading. Bake at 350°F for 14 minutes, rotating half way through.

So, how did Daniel and Michael fare in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?!:

Market Salad
squash $.99
pumpkin seeds $1.29
scallions $.99
lettuce $1.99
red onion $1.12
arugula $1.50
total $7.88

Beef Hero
ground beef $2.49
fennel $2.00
breadcrumbs $.99
parsley $.99
ricotta cheese $1.49
onion $.79
garlic $.39
tomato paste $.45
canned tomatoes $2.58
baguettes $2.99
mozzarella cheese $1.99
cauliflower $.99
hazelnuts $1.99
capers $1.79
lemon $.59
total $22.51

Ice Cream Sandwiches
dark chocolate $1.99
semi-sweet chocolate $1.99
white chocolate $1.99
walnuts $.99
heavy cream $1.19
mint $.99
total $9.14

Grand total: $39.53

Our Leaders Board so far:

1. Michael Lomonaco $36.82
Porter House

2. Patti Jackson $38.52
I Trulli

3. Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow $39.53
The Meatball Shop