Saturday, August 01, 2009


THE BALL FOOD GROUP Beloved by caterers, small children, dedicated snackers and fun-loving adults, the “Ball” food group looms large in the world of appetizers because they use the toothpick delivery system. During the past 35 years, I have made thousands of Spinach Balls with my Mother, my sister and friends. I almost always have a bag in my freezer. Always seeking new horizons, I spent a good deal of the 1990s trying to perfect a really really spicy meatball (hot Italian sausage is a key ingredient and baking them seals the deal), and I’ve found that you can store balls of leftover Pimento Cheese in the freezer, as well.

Thanks to Minnesota Trial Court Judge Susan Miles, one of my many friends who see interesting cookbooks and think “Susan Gainen should have that,” I have discovered a new member of the “Ball” Food Group -- Broccoli Balls. The Junior League of Owensboro’s first cookbook, To Market, To Market is charming and even without its inspirational recipes it is worth getting because of its enchanting illustrations of a very elegant family of pigs. The Junior League also sells a second cookbook, Home Again, Home Again, and greeting cards with the pigs. Check it out.

BROCCOLI BALLS (adapted from To Market, To Market by the Junior League of Owensboro, Kentucky, Inc.)

My goal was to recreate the broccoli-cheese dip experience, so part of the cheese mixture had to be good quality sharp orange cheddar and other sharp cheddars. Cheese and broccoli are the major flavors, so don’t stint on the cheddar and roast the broccoli (see below). If you double or triple this recipe, freeze them for 3-4 hours on a parchment covered baking sheet and pack into freezer bags. Place frozen Broccoli Balls in the freezer next to your stash of Spinach Balls.

Roast the Broccoli Roasting the broccoli adds critical punch to the flavor. Slightly defrost frozen broccoli and roast on parchment at 400 degrees until some of the edges are crisp and brown. Cool and chop fine in your food processor. If you use fresh, coarsely chop it and roast as above.

Broccoli Note: Chopped Broccoli used to be sold in 10 ounce boxes. In my local market I can find 16 ounce bags.
Alternate Flavor Note: There is no Broccoli Ball Police, so feel free to add curry powder, soy-hoisin, basil/oregano, or lots of garlic.

16-20 oz frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and roasted OR 2 cups of fresh chopped broccoli
8 oz grated sharp cheddar or the very full-flavored cheeses of your choice
2-1/2 cups stuffing mix or 6 slices of bread, toasted and processed to crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
2 eggs
2-4 green onions, or a small red onion or shallot
1 tsp red chili or cayenne
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Roast the broccoli as above. Let cool and chop fine in the food processor after grating the cheese.
2. Reduce the oven heat to 350.
3. In the food processor: grate the cheese. Remove to a large bowl.
4. In the food processor: process the stuffing mix or toast to crumbs. Remove to the bowl and mix.
5. In the food processor: process the eggs, onion or shallot with chili or cayenne and salt and pepper. Pour over the cheese and bread mixture. Add the melted butter. Mix thoroughly.
6. Add the broccoli. Mix well and form into small balls that hold together. One well rounded, packed tablespoon makes a good-sized Broccoli Ball.
7. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until they are brown and crisp-looking. Bake 30 minutes if frozen.
8. Dipping sauces: honey mustard, wasabi mustard...

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