TURKEY-SPINACH MEATBALLS WITH CARDAMON TOMATO SAUCE

A considerably lighter version of the traditional Italian meatballs, this one takes ground turkey, almond flour and is baked instead of fried. The addition of dates in the meatballs and Middle Eastern spices in the sauce move it even farther away from Italy, but I promise you, it’s very good. You just need a light hand dealing with them, they are very delicate.

 

TURKEY-SPINACH MEATBALLS WITH CARDAMON TOMATO SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the meatballs:
2 tbsp olive oil
1  bag (4oz) baby spinach
¼ cup dates, coarsely chopped
1 lb ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 egg
1/2 cup almond flour
ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

for the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
6 cardamom pods
2 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground coriander (I used whole the first time, but ground works better here)
1 bottle or can of tomato passata  (about 15 ounces)
1 teaspoons ground Kashmiri chiles (or any pepper of your choice)
salt and pepper to taste

Make the meatballs. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large, 12-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the spinach and dates, sprinkle a touch of salt, and cook until the leaves begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to the food processor and run it a few times to chop a little.  Add the ground turkey to the processor, the egg, almond flour and the seasonings. Pulse until everything is starting to get combined, but do not let it turn into a homogeneous paste.

Form the mixture into little balls, keep them reasonably small (about 1.5 in) otherwise they might crumble too much. Place them in the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning them over half-way into baking time.

Make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks, and let them get very fragrant, about 1 minute. Carefully pour in the tomato passata. Add the Kashmiri chile, salt, pepper, and stir to blend. Simmer gently on low heat for 20 minutes. Discard the cardamon, bay, and cinnamon sticks.

When the meatballs are ready, place them in the warm sauce and gently simmer everything together for 10 minutes. Keep the heat very low. Serve with your favorite pasta or grain.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Kashmiri chile is a recent passion of mine. It has a special kind of heat that I like quite a bit, and it gives the food a beautiful red color, deeper than you would get from adding cayenne. I’ve been using it quite often and in this Middle Eastern-inspired sauce it does a beautiful job. I made this sauce twice since preparing this recipe, it is great as a milder substitute for the classic shakshuka, and if you add a bit of fresh orange zest right before serving you will be a happy camper. Passata is my favorite starting point, we have a very nice Italian brand available in town, but any type of crushed tomatoes will do. As to the turkey meatballs, feel free to start the recipe by sauteing onions and garlic before adding the spinach to the skillet. We omit those for food sensitivities but your kitchen, your rules!

The meatballs are super tender, moist, and with just a touch of sweetness from the dates.

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11 YEARS, TIME FOR GOODBYE

I guess it was bound to happen, sooner or later. Eleven years of blogging and all of a sudden I am forced to witness crowds and crowds of readers abandoning me. It hurts, but I feared that this post could cause it. Tofu. Has she gone nuts? Yes, now that you mentioned, cashews are also partners in this crime. If you are leaving me, I am sorry to see you go, and beg you to re-consider. I swear to you, this was one of the best things I’ve made in the past few months, and even “I” cannot quite believe how much we enjoyed it.  Soooo, will you stay? There shall be macarons soon…

JEN’S CURRIED TOFU WITH PEAS AND CASHEWS
(slightly modified from Jennifer Guerrero’s blog

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

1 pound extra firm tofu
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ cup water
2 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups peas (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup cashews (lightly toasted)

optional:
poached chicken breasts, sliced thin

Slice the tofu in a checkerboard pattern and then right across its equator as you see in my composite picture after the recipe. Wrap in plenty of paper towels and put a heavy pan on it to drain while you do the rest of the preparation of the recipe.

In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter with the soy sauce, then add the spices, honey and water. Toss with the drained tofu, coating nicely. Spray a baking sheet generously with cooking spray, tip the tofu on in a single layer,  and bake for 30 minutes, flipping them over at halftime.

Whisk together in a saucepan the vegetable broth and the cornstarch. Turn the heat to medium, and when the stock is simmering, add the tofu along with the peas and cashews. If using chicken, add it now.  Stir until it is all lightly thickened, and serve over rice or riced cauliflower.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I hope you stop by Jen’s blog to read her nice write-up about this recipe.  Interestingly, when I read her post about it, I had just bought some extra-firm tofu without any clear ideas of how to put it to use.  Serendipity. Don’t you love when that happens?

Now, I admit that I chickened out and added chicken (very sorry for this phrase, please don’t leave). I was unsure of how we would feel about the texture and taste of tofu, and decided that in case of a complete disaster, at least we could enjoy some animal protein with the peas and cashews. I used chicken breasts that I had previously cooked sous-vide, but you can poach it or saute with a bit of salt and pepper.

This was one amazing meal! It all works together nicely, the tofu gets a nice soaking with the spices and caramelizes a bit with the honey in that marinade. If you are vegetarian, you absolutely must make this. If you are not, you absolutely must make this, and go for the kill: omit the chicken. I guess that means going for the non-kill?  (very sorry for this phrase too, my apologies).

If you are anti-tofu, I hope this post will make you try it, just make sure you get the extra-firm. I know that tofu aficcionados like to use a special press to compact it before cooking, but I felt that the resulting texture was nice enough the way Jen recommended.

Jen, thank you so much for opening my cooking horizons, I love it…

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CHICKEN SHAWARMA, THE EASIEST WAY

As I mentioned not too long ago, I binge-watched all episodes of Nadiya’s show Time to Eat, and shared some of her recipes here already. I have one more for you, her take on Chicken Shawarma. Could not be simpler. Season the meat, pack it inside a loaf pan (preferably cast iron), and stick it in the oven. Come back 40 minutes later to tender, juicy meat, full of flavor. We enjoyed it over Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash. Quite a delicious meal…

CHICKEN SHAWARMA, MADE EASY
(slightly modified from Nadiya Hussain’s recipe)

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oven to 375F and lightly grease a] loaf pan (cast iron is ideal, but not mandatory).

For the shawarma, mix together the cornstarch, salt, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, cloves, cayenne and cinnamon.

Put the oil into a bowl, then add the chicken and stir it around. Add the dry spice mix and stir to coat all the chicken pieces well. Layer the pieces of chicken in the loaf tin and press down, then bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

When the chicken is ready, leave it in the tin for 10 to 15 minutes, before inverting the pan on a serving platter. Careful, as the pan will still be pretty hot, especially if you used cast iron.

Serve right away with the side dish of your choice or flatbreads.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I watched the show, I kept telling myself there’s no way this could have a happy ending. It all seemed too simple. I doubted the chicken would be fully cooked, and expected it to have too firm a texture. But something told me to just give it a try. My main modification was to reduce the salt and the cayenne. I am not sure if it was a typo in the recipe as published in the site, but it called for 2 full tablespoons of salt and it was truly too much (I made this recipe twice, the second time with my regular amount of salt, and that’s the version I share with you today).

I forgot the cilantro when I brought it to the table, and quickly fixed the problem, because a bit of green adds joy to the picture. Give this recipe a try, and you won’t be disappointed. To see exactly how she does it go to Netflix (this episode).  Around 6 min and 45 seconds she starts preparing it.

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KALE AND PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED CHICKEN BREASTS

Are you going to run away if I tell you this is a sous-vide recipe? No need, because you can make it on the stove. It will just require a little more hands-on attention so that the meat ends up properly cooked and still tender and juicy. With the sous-vide you can set it, forget it, and concentrate on making your side-dish, as the final preparation of the chicken takes literally minutes.

KALE AND PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED CHICKEN BREASTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 chicken breasts
kale leaves, tough stems removed
prosciutto slices
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Set the sous-vide to 148F.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, rub a bit of lemon juice all over them. Wrap with kale leaves, then with prosciutto slices.  If using the sous-vide, no need to worry too much about wrapping it all tightly because it will firm up as you seal the packages.  If not using sous-vide, try to wrap as tightly and neatly as possible.

Seal the pieces of in a vacuum-bag and submerge in the water-bath for 2 hours (up to 4 hours will be ok). When the time is up, remove the chicken pieces from the bag, dry them well and sautee quickly both sides in olive oil, preferably using a non-stick skillet. Let it cool briefly and slice to serve.

If not using sous-vide, sear both sides of the chicken in olive oil, also using a non-stick skillet. When both sides are golden brown, add a little chicken stock to the pan, a squirt of lemon juice, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the skillet. Cook until the chicken is done to your liking, it will probably take around 15 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Sous-vide does such a fantastic job for tender meats like chicken breast, and pork tenderloin, it’s truly hard to beat this method of cooking. I sometimes cook a few chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and keep it in the fridge, still vacuum-sealed in the bag. They are ready to use in stir-fries, or curries, anything you feel like it. The first time I made this recipe, I wrapped the kale outside of half of the pieces. It also works, but I prefer the prosciutto outside, it gets a nice texture once you brown it. This recipe is now part of our regular rotation, husband refers to it as “that prosciutto chicken.”  We both loved it!

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WHOLE CHICKEN SOUS-VIDE

No sous-vide? You can still make this recipe using a regular oven, very low and slow for the first part of cooking and then brush with the final glaze and roast under the broiler. But the texture you get from sous-vide is hard to beat. I just rubbed it with dry spices and sealed in the bag. Although on my first time I cooked a whole chicken inside the bag, I found it easier the way I share today. I cut the chicken in four pieces (two breast/wing, and two full legs, placing two pieces in a single bag. Works great and the final presentation is better than keeping it whole or even spatchcocking.

WHOLE SOUS-VIDE CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 whole chicken, cut in four pieces
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
for final roasting:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
squirt of lemon juice

Pat chicken dry.  Rub the skin with the mixture of spices. Place in bag and seal.

Heat sous-vide to 150 F. Cook chicken for 6 hours.

Whisk all ingredients for the roasting step. Once the chicken is done, remove from the water bath and transfer it onto a plate. Pat with paper towels.  Place on a roasting pan. Brush the skin with the olive oil mixture, run under the broiler until the skin is cooked to your liking.  The meat will be tender and juicy.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As usual, the timing with sous-vide is very forgiving, which is one of the reasons I love it. If you need to leave it longer than 6 hours, no harm done. You can change the spices to take this recipe in any direction you like. Gochujang will be happening soon in our kitchen.

We enjoyed it with sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Almonds, and a little couscous with roasted butternut squash (full disclosure: the squash was leftover from a previous meal).

The leftover meat can be pulled from the bone and used in many different preparations, we usually save it for a couple of days and then the husband turns it into chicken fajitas or tacos. It has such perfect texture, all it needs is a brief encounter with a hot skillet, some lemon juice and additional spices, if so desired.

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