My Mor-Mor (Swedish for Grandmother) was hands down my greatest inspiration in the kitchen. You know, it's funny. I had someone ask me the other day what the first thing I ever cooked was and my response was a cross between a blank stare, mouth slightly agape, and tumbleweeds blowing through my head. To be honest, I can't remember. And whether or not that's important, I'll allow you to be the judge. But what I can say, is that my earliest food memories are all associated with my Mor-Mor. A phenomenal cook who refused help in the kitchen and didn't believe in recipes. Which is why it's a miracle we're able to carry on any of her dishes. But as always, persistence and a devotion to trying, trying, trying until it comes out right, pays off. Always.
Surprisingly for a Swede, Mor-Mor had a seriously strong hand with garlic and had an innate knack for making anything taste crazy delicious. There was always a jar of homemade garlic oil in her refrigerator (and back-up in the freezer) which found its way drizzled on top of almost everything. Take for example, one of her breakfast treats: her homemade whole grain bread slathered with the garlic oil, a few slices of granny smith apple and topped with Cabot's extra sharp cheddar. Into her faithful toaster oven they'd go until the cheese had just melted, lovingly, over the apples. The salty sweet play was spot on. And the flavor combination could rival any of Tom Colicchio's Craftwich sandwiches (yeah, I went there). Whether or not that makes you cringe, quite frankly, I don't even care because it makes me smile. But more than anything, makes my heart long, once again, for her cooking. And just for her.
Most of the time I'm in the kitchen, I can feel her presence via my cooking attitude. And I think that's because I'm finally understanding her insistence on being the only one in control while cooking. Control freak? Well, maybe. But there's something about getting in there and winding down and having your own personal space to create. It's therapeutic for all of the senses.
I can't believe I haven't posted these before, but another one of Mor-Mor's many specialities were her meatballs. While they're not the least bit Swedish, we can't help but call them Mor-Mor's Swedish Meatballs. Along with her homemade tomato sauce made from the tomatoes grown from her garden, a little garlic oil, and tons of fresh parsley (Mor-Mor may or may not have been secretly Italian) they sent eyeballs rolling to the backs of peoples heads. There are way too many pictures than I'd like to admit of me as a one maybe two year old with chipmunk cheeks from lodging so many of the meatballs into my mouth at once.
Clearly, I couldn't get enough.
And I still can't.
Mor-Mor made them with ground beef but I've amended the "recipe" by using ground turkey instead. Just a personal preference, really, but they lack none of the flavor. Try them for yourself with a big bowl of spaghetti and some simple, made from scratch tomato sauce topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta. I think you'll find them just as special and soul satisfying as I do.
Mor-Mor's "Swedish" Meatballs
1 package of ground turkey, 93% fat free
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
splash of milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands. Form into small meatballs and set aside. In a large skillet (she preferred cast iron) over medium heat, melt a combination of butter and olive oil. When the butter starts to foam, throw in the first batch of meatballs (making sure not to over crowd the pan) and cook until all sides are golden brown and cooked through. Good luck not eating through half the batch before serving.