If you read this column regularly, you’re well aware of my passion for retro-food. This includes dishes from as far back as ancient Rome and the Middle Ages to my favorite recipes from the fifties and sixties that I grew up with.
It’s always fun to update the classics and create new dishes that the whole family can enjoy. Whether tasting these foods for the first time or revisiting a fond memory, you can savor these tried-and-true flavors while putting a modern, healthier twist on them.
With holiday party season about to arrive, I’m always looking for dishes that are simple, can be made ahead of time and, above all else, impress my guests. One of my favorite retro dishes fits the bill perfectly.
Remember sweet and sour cocktail meatballs? To jog your memory, think grape jelly and ketchup. These tiny, tangy meatballs were staples at get-togethers throughout the sixties and seventies. To update the original recipe, I’m using lean ground turkey breast in place of beef and whole-wheat bread instead of white breadcrumbs. I’ve also added some cooked brown rice to lighten up the meatballs while providing some additional fiber and nutrients. Lastly, rather than fry the hors d’oeurves, I’m baking them. This not only cuts out calories, but saves time as well.
For the sauce, I’ve cut out the sugar and corn syrup featured in the original recipe and am using fruit-sweetened grape spread. If this isn’t available in your area, low-sugar grape jelly is an appropriate substitute. I use chile sauce (most often served with shrimp cocktail) rather than ketchup because it is spicier and less sweet. To suit today’s penchance for bolder flavors, I’ve also added chile powder, ginger and a hint of garlic to the sauce.
The entire dish freezes well and is perfect for making ahead of time. The recipe can be multiplied up to four times, although I suggest starting with three whole eggs, not four, if you increase the yield by this much.
Hot Cocktail Meatballs -Makes 36 meatballs.
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup chile sauce
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup fruit-sweetened grape spread, or low-sugar grape jelly
1 tsp. chile powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 cup cooked brown basmati rice
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Soak the bread in a bowl of cold water until it is soft, about 30 seconds. Squeeze out all of the moisture and place the bread in a large mixing bowl. Add the turkey, rice, onion, garlic, egg, egg white, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork until well combined.
Form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs, placing them 1/2-inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, or until the meatballs feel firm and are white in the center.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep saucepan, combine the tomato puree, chile sauce, tomato paste, grape spread, chile powder, garlic powder and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, stirring to dissolve the jam. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
Add the meatballs and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to two days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Or, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Per serving (2 meatballs): 87 calories, 2 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate,6 g protein, <1 g dietary fiber, 374 mg sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
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