The first thing my son learned how to do -- the first thing that wasn't instinctive, like eating or crying or turning over -- was feed the dog a treat. Honestly. His first party trick was not to play peekaboo or patty cake or shake a rattle. It was to take the Barkwheat handed to him, hold it out patiently and wait for the large Chesapeake Bay Retriever to extract it, gingerly, from his tiny human-paw. I could not be more proud of him, as it is clear that even as a wee tot, he has his priorities squarely in order.
So when he began to grow very weary of smoothly-pureed baby food, whether store-bought or prepared at home by me, I felt the least I could do to reward his dog-loving instincts was give him some good quality adult food (or "human food," as Husband calls it, as if babies are somehow not human, which they kind of aren't, but anyway). Somewhere around his first birthday he had started taking a keen interest in our food, reaching plaintively and somewhat pathetically for our plates, whimpering shyly as if quietly pleading, "What is that and why am I not having any and I am so tired of these carrots but I can't talk so please please try to figure it out you losers."
Soon his subtle non-verbal requests became outright mutiny, and I realized that if the lad was to eat well, he was going to have to start eating our food. So I wandered out onto the back porch, where a variety of stubborn herbs still thrive, defying this summer's wet and generally crappy garden-growing weather, and cut a massive bouquet of basil, parsley and chives. I mixed together some turkey meatballs, using scads of the finely-chopped fresh herbs as the meatballs' primary flavor. I took more of the herbs and whirred together a pesto, earthy and salty and bright. I cooked some spaghetti. And as I served a bowl of herby spaghetti with herby meatballs to Husband, I took a serving for a spin in the food processor for the baby.
I fed him a spoonful; he responded, "Mmmmmmmm" then waved his hands frantically while giggling and smiling.
He then gave the dog a meatball.
SPAGHETTI WITH HERBED TURKEY MEATBALLS AND PESTO
Adapted loosely from Serious Eats
2 c. fresh basil, finely chopped (about 2 large bunches)
1/2 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c. chives, finely chopped
1 slice ciabatta or other crusty white bread
1/4 c. whole milk
1/2 lb. ground turkey
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
6 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Freshly-grated Pecorino, to garnish
Combine the herbs into a bowl and mix well. Soak the bread in the milk for about 5 minutes, then remove it and lightly squeeze out the milk.
Place the bread in a medium bowl, and add the ground turkey, 1 c. of the herb mix and a pinch of salt and pepper. Using your hands, work the mixture until well-combined, adding the remaining milk, if necessary, to form a slightly sticky mixture. Shape into 1-inch meatballs.
Heat 2 T. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs (in batches if necessary) and cook until brown on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to a baking sheet (keep warm in an oven heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit). Reserve the pan drippings in the skillet.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until it's al dente. Drain, reserving 1 c. of the pasta cooking water.
In a food processor, combine the remaining herbs, 4 T. of the olive oil, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1/4 c. of the reserved pasta water. Process until pureed, seasoning to taste if necessary.
Place the drained pasta into the skillet that you used to cook the meatballs, along with a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water. Add the herb sauce and toss over low heat, adding more pasta water if necessary to make a smooth sauce. Top with meatballs and serve with a generous dusting of Pecorino.
Makes 4 servings, but really more like 2 servings. To put it another way, it's enough for two hungry adults, a tot and a Jet.
Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:
One year ago: walnut shortbread
Two years ago: Bread Baker's Apprentice French bread
Three years ago: sibling rivalry chicken noodle soup