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.


(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.


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.

ONE YEAR AGO: British Baps, a Technical Challenge

TWO YEAR AGO: Japanese-Style Cupcakes with Cherry Blossom Icing

THREE YEARS AGO: Quick Weeknight Soups

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

NINE YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

TEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers




Our friends and neighbors who are also ultra-prolific gardeners went away on a trip and gave us a load of tomatoes before their departure. Some were big, heavy, and seemed very juicy, others were on a smallish side. I wanted to do something special with our gift, and went on a road never traveled before by making a grilled tomato sauce.  A final touch was wilting some arugula in it.  I will be traveling around this road on a regular basis from now on, this was a tasty sauce, and so simple to put together!


(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

8 to 10 tomatoes, preferably from a friend’s garden
a little olive oil
salt and pepper
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cups of arugula
Orechiette pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

Rub the tomatoes with a little olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and place on a hot grill until the skin gets nicely charred. Turn them every few minutes to get grill marks on all sides.   Different sizes of tomatoes will be ready at different times (obviously), so remove them from the grill accordingly.  Take the stem and central core out, place the flesh, skin, and seeds in a food processor and process until smooth, or retaining some chunks, if you prefer.

Saute the diced shallot in olive oil with a little salt and pepper until golden.  Add the processed tomatoes, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until it gets the consistency  you like.  Season with more salt and pepper if needed, and in the final couple of minutes add the arugula, cooking gently until it wilts.

Meanwhile, cook the orechiette pasta according to the package instructions, drain, and mix with the sauce, warming everything together for a few minutes.  Add to a serving bowl, and shave some Parmigiano on top.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: All modesty aside, this sauce was a perfect use for tomatoes that were not uniform in size and type, all I had to do was pay attention to the grill and remove each one as they got done. Grilled tomato sauce would work well on many venues: as a topping for pizza, bruschetta, over a mild, grilled fish, or as a basis for pasta sauces with different herbs and/or greens.   Not bad as a starting point for soup, I suppose, although the idea of soup with the heat wave we are having is not very appealing.  I never quite got the taste for cold soups, maybe next year I’ll explore that untraveled road.  😉

ONE YEAR AGO Twice-baked goat cheese souffles

TWO YEARS AGO:  Hearts of Palm Pie

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I prepared this recipe the week before our departure to the “nano-kitchen,”  (which I’m still adapting to), but using only the appliances I took with us, as a warm up for the “adventure.”   I’d also  like to say that this is a simple and straightforward recipe.   In some ways it’s not, but in other ways it is:  it takes  time and effort in the prep work, but once that’s completed it’s painless.  After tasting it, I predict that you won’t mind the road you traveled to make it.  I suggest that you assemble it on a weekend afternoon with nice music playing, perhaps this excellent  CD from Yo Yo Ma (skip the Metallica, or you may lose some fingertips).  I made individual servings with 3″ ring molds that I originally bought for cakes, but never used for that purpose.

(adapted from Michael Bauer’s Secrets of Success)

for the tomato sauce:
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 lb tomatoes, seeded and diced
2  garlic cloves
5 basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

for the veggies
1/2 pound eggplant, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 pound zucchini, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 pound kabocha (or other squash), peeled, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 pound celery root, peeled, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 bunch basil  + 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 pound soft goat cheese (Montrachet type)
salt and pepper

Make the tomato sauce by sauteeing the garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds, adding the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes and reserve.

Heat a non-stick skillet (or preferably a large electric griddle), sprinkle each slice of vegetables with a little salt and pepper, and add to the hot surface of your non-stick pan (or griddle) for a couple of minutes on each side, until it just starts to show some color.  Do not let it burn, or completely cook.  Reserve the slices.

Mix the olive oil with the basil (you can use a food processor or finely slice the basil to help releasing its flavor.

Assemble the dish: coat a 8 x 8 inch baking dish slightly with olive oil to prevent the veggies from sticking.  Layer the eggplant slices, zucchini, squash, and celery root.  Add a little basil oil as you form each layer.  Continue layering the veggies until they are all used up.   Spoon some tomato sauce over the top, crumble the goat cheese and bake in a 450F oven for 10-15 minutes until the veggies are hot and the cheese shows some golden brown spots.

(If making the dish in individual rings, coat them slightly with olive oil to help removing the rings before serving – bake on a baking sheet, and use a flat spatula to remove each ring to the serving plate).


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Michael Bauer states that the secret of this dish is to thin-slice the vegetables,  and he’s absolutely right.  By doing so, the different layers bake into a single entity in which each flavor mingles with that of its  neighbors. It’s a feast for the taste buds.   I advise you to avoid excess  tomato sauce, because this is not about the tomatoes,  which just give it some extra moisture and flavor.  This recipe lets the veggies do the talking.  I couldn’t find celery root, so instead I used butternut squash, for its texture and color.  “Dry sauteéing” is an interesting, low-fat technique.  You’ll still need some oil while layering the dish, but it will finish lighter than similar versions that rely on “regular” sauteéing.  Eggplant, in particular, absorbs oil and I usually avoid frying it, so this preparation suits my style.  Play with different vegetables, as it’s fun to change this basic recipe.  It’s perfect for entertaining:  assemble it ahead of time, and bake it just before serving.

ONE  YEAR AGO: A peachy salad for a sunny day!

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Strange things happen in my kitchen.  Countless recipes wait in an imaginary line,  that most will stay in for years, until I finally get around to making them.  But occasionally a recipe casts a spell on me, forcing a menu change, a search for exotic ingredients, the abandonment of seasonal cooking, and my personal resolve to drop everything else and cook it right away, as soon as humanly possible.  I bring this up because it happened last weekend, when the  Barefoot Contessa’s guest chef, Joseph Realmuto,  shared the recipe for his restaurant’s favorite tomato sauce (for the past 22 years).  It involved vodka,  slow roasted tomatoes and onions, and was finished with heavy cream.   I stopped in my tracks, slowly turned, headed  to the kitchen,  and made it.  And that, my friends, was the right move… 😉


(adapted from Joseph Realmuto, original recipe from La Vecchia Bettola, Firenze)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 T dried red pepper flakes
1 T dried oregano
1/2 cup vodka
1 can best quality whole tomatoes (28 ounces)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh herbs of your choice (oregano, basil)
parmiggiano reggiano cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano, and saute for a couple of minutes, mixing constantly. Add the vodka and simmer until the mixture is slightly reduced. Drain the tomatoes and add them to the skillet, crushing them slightly with your hands or a large wooden spoon (careful, they will splatter!). Season lightly with salt. Cover the skillet and place in the oven for one and a half hours. Remove the skillet from the oven, let it cool for 15 minutes, then place the contents in a blender. Puree until smooth.

While you cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water, finish the sauce back in the skillet, setting over medium heat, and adding heavy cream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, add the cooked pasta, and allow them to gently simmer for a few more minutes. Add fresh herbs and parmiggiano cheese right before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: In this day and age it’s hard to believe I’d even bother with another recipe for tomato sauce.   I usually alternate between my two favorites: the first involves a quick saute of onions in olive oil, a can of tomatoes, salt, pepper and some herbs; the second is a   very popular recipe from Marcella Hazan, worth all the butter it calls for.  😉

With the addition of this recipe I have my own tomato trilogy. It’s a breeze to prepare, but the combination of vodka and slow roasted tomatoes makes it taste complex. I reduced the cream  because 1 full cup of heavy cream seemed excessive;  feel free to do as your heart (and palate) desires. The vodka provides a background of heat that’s perfect with the intense flavor of tomatoes, concentrated by roasting.  It’s a delicious sauce that may be prepared in advance and blended right before finishing.