Veal and Date Balls
If you do not have dates on hand, raisins can be substituted. However, it's a good idea to have figs in the house. They complement many different kinds of meat.
5 thick slices day-old or toasted Italian bread
1 yellow onion
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup dried dates
¼ cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ pounds ground veal
½ recipe Basic Italian Pork Sausage (page 214), unformed and uncooked
1 egg, lightly beaten
Fresh-cracked black pepper
Soak the bread in water for 1 minute. Thoroughly squeeze out all the liquid. Peel and finely chop the onion. Clean and chop the oregano and thyme leaves. Finely dice the dates and pine nuts.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Form the mixture into balls about 2 to 3 inches in size.
Bake or fry the meatballs: To bake, preheat oven to 375°F. Place the meatballs in a lightly greased baking pan, and cover. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and brown for 5 to 10 minutes. To fry, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium temperature in a skillet. Fry for 30 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until cooked through.
Transfer the meatballs to paper towels to drain. Serve plain, with sauce, or over pasta.
Dates can be purchased either semidry/fresh, or dried. The semidry/fresh type is softer and less sweet than the dried, and needs to be stored in the refrigerator unlike dried dates. Dates originated in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, but because of the proximity of these areas to southern Italy, dates are used in some Italian cuisine as well.