With all the “buzz” that life provides us with, preparing and enjoying a delicious meal like this Italian Meatball Sandwich is a good way to quiet the mind and simply focus on what is front of us; it is an opportunity to be present, and to listen to a deeper part of one's self.
There never seems to be a shortage of things that vie for our attention and create the constant “background noise” that can become the soundtrack to our daily lives.
Whether it's money issues, the car needing attention (e.g. work neeing to be done on it at the most inopportune time), job worries, appliances breaking down, home concerns, health concerns, relationship concerns...
You get my drift.
Concerns, distractions, things to worry over, things to mentally “rehearse” and try to solve—there never seems to be a shortage of those.
With everything that we have going on in life it's often extremely challenging to quiet the seemingly constant stream of thought that tends to pull the attention and cause one to become distracted from listening to what one's inner soul is trying to say—that still, quiet voice within that is simply begging to also be heard and interpreted.
Quieting the chatter has always been something that I've struggled with, yet I strive to learn how to do it—to practice it—each and every day.
And believe me, some days this noble-enough endeavor is tougher than others.
Each time I sit down to write a post, it takes a real effort to center myself, to quiet my mind that seems to want to pull me in this direction or in that one, and to just breath, be conscious, and be present.
So I try to help myself a little.
I've got my whole little ritual where I brew myself a cup of tea, plug in my aroma-therapy water vaporizer (complete with lavender essential oil drops), pull my hoody up over my head (certainly during the winter, possibly even during the summer), and open my laptop up and stare at the blank, white screen with that mocking cursor that blips for a good while until my mind slowly stops wandering and finally settles down.
Then, and only then, when I am listening in the silence, will I be able to hear anything of any real meaning and depth, anything of any real substance.
And I am then grateful for that time when the chatter is hushed, when all else must stand still and wait in patience while I have some time with the deeper part of myself that needs its voice to be heard as well.
Anything we can do to help quiet the chatter is worth doing, whenever it is possible.
And cooking—working with food—is an amazing way to help one become centered and “in the moment”, nurturing both the physical and the spiritual I find.
Those moments when one actually ponders what they'd like to eat, what they're craving—that is a moment of centering.
The moment when one has an idea for a recipe, or for putting together the ingredients on hand in a creative and new way—that is centering.
The act of slicing, dicing, stirring, searing, and preparing—that is centering.
And then of course sitting down in a conscious way to take that first bite of that savory, saucy, tender, juicy and delectable Italian Meatball Sandwich on garlic ciabatta—that, my friend, is centering.
There will surely never be a shortage of things that our daily living will provide us with as a distraction, or as something to pull our attention, or as a problem to solve; but it is up to us to carve out a space for the quiet, to find a way to consciously hush the chatter that flows in all too easily.
After all, isn't it in that quiet, centered space where all the answers lie anyway?
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Italian Meatball Sandwich on Garlic Ciabatta
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 4 sandwiches
• 1 pound lean, ground beef
• 1 egg
• 1 (approximately 2 ounce) French-style roll, processed to a fine breadcrumb
• ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
• 1 tablespoon chopped, flat-leaf parsley
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 3 tablespoons half and half, or milk
• Olive or canola oil
• Simple Marinara Sauce (recipe below)
• 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
• 1 clove garlic, peeled of paper
• 4 slices provolone cheese
• Fresh basil leaves or flat-leaf parsley, as herb garnish (if desired)
-To a large bowl add your ground beef, plus all of the ingredients up to and including the half and half (or milk); using your hands, gently mix the ingredients together to combine everything well, and portion out 1 ounce-size meatballs, rolling them between your palms (you should end up with about 21); chill for 30 minutes.
-Once chilled, place a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of olive of canola oil; once the oil is hot, add about half of the meatballs in (or however many you can fit taking care not to overcrowd) and allow them to brown, swirling/moving the pan around gently to help the meatballs keep their round shape, browning them on all sides, about 3 minutes or so (the meatballs will not be cooked through at this point); remove and keep in a bowl or on a plate to hold, and repeat with the rest of the meatballs.
-Make your Simple Marinara sauce (recipe below) in the same pan.
-Once your marinara is made, add the meatballs into it, and allow them to very gently simmer in the sauce, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through; keep warm.
-Turn the broiler on, and prepare a baking sheet; place the sliced ciabatta rolls (you will have 8 slices) onto the baking sheet (slice-side up), and toast until golden, about 1-2 minutes; remove from oven (leave the broiler on), and rub the garlic clove over each slice; then drizzle with a touch of olive oil.
-To assemble, spoon about 5 of the meatballs plus some of the sauce onto 4 of the toasted ciabatta rolls (these will be the bottoms); top meatballs with a slice of provolone cheese, and place back under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes just until the cheese is gooey and melted; sprinkle over some of the fresh basil or parsley, if using, and cover with the top of the ciabatta roll, pressing down a bit; cut in half, if desired, and serve hot.
Simple Marinara Sauce Ingredients:
• 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
• 3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Pinch black pepper
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
-Into the same pan/skillet you used for browning the meatballs, add all of the ingredients and stir to combine; simmer very gently on low or medium-low with the lid askew for about 10 minutes; then, proceed with the recipe above.