A day with two very active kids is already strenuous but that doesn't compare to having one meal with them. If I am preparing a dish that's a little bit out of the ordinary, or has one of the many ingredients, a hint of a flavor or even color that both kids don't like, expect a rollercoaster ride through dinner.
My 7-year old son has a very straightforward classic Italian palate. The kind that's surprisingly too mature for his age. He eats almost everything now (we went through hard years too) but when he sees anything white or anything artificially colored like blue, in his plate, he freaks out. He loves his chicken cooked with Marsala wine, his salad dressed with white balsamic vinegar, broccoli, beans, lentils, spaghetti con la bottarga (grey mullet roe), spaghetti con le vongole (clams) and McDonald's chicken nuggets packed in a Happy Meal box. How do I compete with that?
My 2-year old (almost 3) daughter on the other hand, copies everything that her big brother does and to my dismay, also his love for chicken nuggets. Aside from chicken nuggets, she eats a LOT of bread, white rice and white pasta dressed with extra virgin olive oil and mixed with parmigiano reggiano. If her brother doesn't like white and blue in his food, she doesn't like green and sometimes brown in hers. Go figure. She lacks the proper nutrients in her diet which worries us a great deal.
I had some frozen spinach in the freezer and some fresh chicken. I was very hopeful that both kids would give these chicken balls a chance. If they don't like the tomatoes I prepared, I thought ketchup should do the trick. They just came out too green but when covered with breadcrumbs, fried and smothered with ketchup, they became almost unnoticeable.
Our meal was miraculously quiet for once with just an occasional request for more ketchup or water. They both ate an impressive amount. After the meal, my husband turned to me and asked me to please write down the recipe immediately before I forget it because those chicken balls should go back to our table very soon again. A nice, quiet family dinner without any complaints from both camps is unheard of in our house.
If you have little ones like mine, give this a try. Chicken and spinach have mild flavors so adding the parmigiano reggiano, which both kids love, gave it a big boost in taste. I wanted to cook them in the oven at the beginning but I thought frying them in extra virgin olive oil can give more taste because that is what I am after. I will cook some in the oven next time to check the difference.
Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes
Makes around 40 balls
- 500 g. ground chicken (I used white meat.)
- 50 g. parmigiano reggiano, grated
- 150 g. spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw first then squeeze to send away excess water), chopped finely
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (adjust amount if the balls don't hold the shape)
- salt & pepper
- breadcrumbs for coating
- extra virgin olive oil (or another kind of oil for deep frying)
- 150 g. cherry tomatoes, chopped (optional, if serving with tomatoes)
- fresh basil leaves (optional, if serving with tomatoes)
- In a bowl, mix ground chicken, parmigiano reggiano, spinach, egg, 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs, salt & pepper. Mix well.
- Make little balls with the mixture then coat them with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
- If serving with the tomatoes, saute' tomatoes in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves at the end of cooking. Set aside.
- Fry chicken balls in a big shallow saucepan with extra virgin olive oil until all sides are golden brown or you can also deep fry them in a saucepan with a lot of oil that's good for deep frying like peanut or sunflower.
- When cooked, transfer them to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Serve chicken balls together with the tomatoes or you can serve them with any other sauce.