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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.

FOOD FACT

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: Epicurious.com

RECIPES

Market Salad with Roasted Squash

INGREDIENTS:
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

METHOD:

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

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

METHOD:

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

Pickled Onions

INGREDIENTS:
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

METHOD:

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.