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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OMG SPINACH PIES

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here. A video summarizing important tips can be found here

SPINACH PIES… Please, do not run away from me, I cannot take it. Times are stressful, I need your company. Hate spinach? Hate anything green? Fear not, this was quite likely THE tastiest savory recipe I tried this year. I know, it’s just April, but it’s a year that feels like a lifetime passing by. I will ask you to steam a ton of spinach and you might be a bit annoyed by that step. But once that’s done, you are basically there. Ready to enjoy one amazing side dish or fancy brunch item. Locked inside with no guests? Fancy Brunch for Two. Go with the flow…

SPINACH PIES
(slightly modified from The Washington Post)

(5 to 6 tartlet pans, about 4.5 inches in diameter)

20 ounces fresh baby spinach, rinsed
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
10 ounces small-curd, low-fat cottage cheese
10 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Set a steamer basket above simmering water. Place half of the spinach in the steamer. Cover and steam until just wilted, then drain and coarsely chop. Press with paper towels to remove as much moisture from the spinach as possible, then transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining spinach.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking oil spray to grease the tartlet pans, then arrange them on a baking sheet. Add the diced shallot to the spinach, along with the eggs, cottage cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pepper and nutmeg; stir to blend well. Divide evenly among the tartlet pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned on the edges and set in the center.

Wait 5 minutes before removing the little pies from the pans. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Credit should go for the husband who noticed the recipe in The Washington Post and sent me the link. It was part of an article on Irish cooking, published right around St Patrick’s Day.  We were so impressed by these pies, not only tasty the day I made them, but two days later, very gently warmed in a low oven. I normally don’t care for low-fat cottage cheese, but it worked perfectly in this preparation. If using low-fat goes against your principles, by all means grab the regular kind.

I used tartlet pans from Wilton that have a loose bottom, so it’s easy to push them out to serve. The original recipe mentioned you could make 6 tartlets, but using these pans I made only 5. The same type of filling could work well as a real tart, over a crust (like the olive oil crust of my recent past), but this version is as light as it is flavorful.

I hope you make these pies. It is possible that it would work well with frozen spinach, but I much prefer the brighter taste that you get once you steam it yourself and use right away.

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LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH

This recipe used to be a regular rotation in our kitchen then I totally forgot all about it. I was sure it was in the blog already, so I wanted to make it the other day and was shocked because… it has never been shared here. Shame. Shame. Shame. I will not walk through the streets of Manhattan in GoT fashion. Instead, I will quickly share it today, and hope to be forgiven.

LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Fine Cooking)

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (save peels for stock)
1/2 large onion, skin on
1 lemon, cut in slices
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 cup + 1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup black olives, pitted, cut in pieces
zest of 1 lemon

Make a shrimp stock simmering the shells with the half onion and lemon slices. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve.  You will use about 2 cups of the stock to cook the barley.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the shrimp seasoned with a little salt until almost fully cooked. Remove and reserve, covered with foil. Add a little more oil if needed, and saute in the same pan the onion and celery  until fragrant, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

 Add the barley and stir until coated with the oil and veggie pieces. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Pour in 2 cups of shrimp stock, 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, 12 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add in the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the reserved shrimp, black olives, and lemon zest.  Adjust seasoning if needed and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is truly delicious, and I am kicking myself for taking so long to bring this back to our table. It is quick to prepare, and if you like to make it even easier, use chicken stock, store-bought, which is actually part of the original recipe from Fine Cooking. I just feel that if you have the peels available, shrimp stock is ready so quickly, why not up the flavor of the dish with it?  Your kitchen, your decision.
.

 

SOUP SATURDAY: QUICK WEEKNIGHT SOUPS

Third Saturday of the month, which means it’s time for soup! I regret to admit I haven’t joined this fun event for the past 4 months. Too many trips and work commitments made it impossible. But I am back now, and thrilled to join their party. This month’s event is hosted by Amy, from  Amy’s Cooking Adventures.  She chose Quick Weeknight Soups as the theme.  My choice is so easy that I made it for lunch, from start to finish. On a working day. Are you absolutely amazed, mesmerized, intrigued, and anxious for the recipe? I thought so. I adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe that called for soba noodles. I zoodlelized it, and made a few other minor changes.

ZUCCHINI NOODLE SOUP WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart)

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 large zucchini, spiralized
4 cups flat-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 minutes.

Add broth and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini noodles; reduce to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve very hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the easiest soups to make ever! It surprised me how much flavor it packed with so few and humble ingredients.  The soy and the lime juice added at the very end, right before serving, deliver a mixture of umami and brightness. Umami echoed by the mushrooms, brightness intensified by the ginger. Really delicious and so very light. I picked this soup as my lunch on a day we had a departmental seminar scheduled for the afternoon, so anything that is too heavy makes it a bit hard to stay awake. Unless, of course we are talking about a fantastic speaker on a subject that is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, not always the case.

If you like, use soba noodles which will be perfect with the mushrooms and spinach. I actually love soba and have not had any in a long time. As to that seminar, it was not my area of research, but I lucked out, great speaker, wonderful talk! I could have loaded up on soba. Such is life… best laid plans…

Amy, thanks for hosting this month, I feel so bad for staying away from the group for so many months, but what matters most is to be back…

To see what other #Soupswappers are sharing,

visit Amy’s post with a click here

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PAALAK PANEER, A FAREWELL POST

the-end11Not sure even how to break this to my readers. This will be my last post with The Secret Recipe Club. Not because I am leaving, but because the club as a whole will be shutting down. It is sad, very sad, I’ve been a member for a long time. My first post was in October 2011. Five long yeas, and I enjoyed every single month of it. But, many members were quitting, not enough new members joining, so that is that, folks. We knew about this for over a month, and I’ve been dreading this post with the bitter taste of farewell. Farewell to a good thing. Anyway, my last assigned blog was My Hobbie Lobbie, hosted by Trisha and I can say it allowed me to close this blogging chapter with a golden key. I learned so much by stalking her site, Trisha cooks a lot of authentic Indian food, a cuisine I adore but find a bit intimidating.  I had a mile-long list of stuff bookmarked, will share a few of my choices to give you a taste (pun intended) of what her site is all about.  For starters, her take on Tiramisu…   But then, she tempted me with Homemade Samosas (sigh). Or Methi Namakpare, something you probably don’t know what to make of, but jump over there to start dreaming about it.  Her take on Chicken Tikka is another show-stopper. But the one that I really wanted to make and if life was a little less frantic I would have: Chicken Biryani, the very best according to Trisha. I even bought all the ingredients to make it, just never got to it. Not yet, that is…  Another heavy contender – a very unusual daal using black chickpeas. Guess what? I found those in our Oriental market, so stay tuned, it will be on the blog sometime soon. Anyway, you can see how much I adored getting her blog for my final assignment.  Final assignment. This is really sad.

Note added after publication. For this final adventure in SRC, my blog was assigned to Sawsan, from Chef in Disguise. I woke up today to read her post that shall stay with me forever.  I am touched beyond words. If you’d like to see what she cooked from my blog (it’s a great bread!), visit her wonderful site.

paneer

 

PALAAK PANEER
(slightly modified from My Hobbie Lobbie)

750 g spinach, washed and drained
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 green chile, whole
2 tsp coriander powder
250g Paneer cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala powder
6 tbsp whole milk
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt, to taste

Blanch the spinach in hot water till wilted. This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain using a colander and run under some cold water till it cools down. This will help maintain its lovely color and will prevent it from cooking any further. Blend it to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add the cumin and fry till it is fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add the shallot and let it fry on low heat till it turns soft. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add the ginger  and chile and cook for another minute.
Add the coriander powder and salt and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spinach puree and a tiny splash of water if necessary. The puree should be loose, but not watery.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the garam masala powder, paneer cubes and milk. Stir and cook for a few minutes till the spinach is nice and creamy. Add lemon juice to taste. Serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite
Comments: I’ve had Paalak paneer in Indian restaurants quite often. Love the stuff. The creaminess, the spices, but I never attempted to make it at home. Like sushi, palaak paneer is something I reserved for dining out. Once I got this assignment and spotted the recipe on Trisha’s site, I could not quite get it out of my mind. Plus, our Oriental market carries paneer cheese, so the trickiest ingredient involved did not pose a problem. My only advice is, get a lot of spinach. A LOT. I did not bother weighing, but I just got a lot more than I thought I needed, and that was a wise decision. I intended to  make some of her Jeera rice, but ended up serving it with normal, plain Basmati. My favorite rice in the whole wide world.

served

After we enjoyed it at dinner, there was a little bit of Paalak left. Not enough to stand on its own as a side dish. I considered adding to a frittata or omelette for my lunch next day, but then it hit me: why not use it as the flavoring base for a soufflé? At first I tried to fight that idea. The spices seemed wrong and out-of-place. But shouldn’t we try to open our horizons instead of accepting preconceptions?  I went ahead with it. Used my basic Julia Child’s method, and… one word for you: WOW!

indiansoufflee
We devoured this soufflé with abandon… it was spectacular. So, yes, I recommend that you not only make the Paalak paneer, but then save a little bit of it to use in this quite successful fusion cuisine experiment.  It was creamy, tasty, the spices made it absolutely special.

creamyDinner is served: Paalak Soufflé with grilled flank steak and mushrooms… 
Life is good!

goodnight

Well, folks this is it for the Secret Recipe Club. It was great while it lasted, that’s for sure.
Like the beautiful full moon that was shinning the night we enjoyed the Paalak Paneer…

A big thank you to the organizers, moderators, members,
that kept such great atmosphere in the background.
I had a blast with all of you.

palaak-paneer-souffle-from-bewitching-kitchen

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