TURKEY JALAPENO MEATBALLS

I’ve been playing with an ingredient that is quite likely very popular in many kitchens, but new to me. A bit embarrassed to admit, but here we go: pickled jalapenos. They are sold in big jars, cute slices of pepper swimming in a liquid that makes your tastebuds tingle. I may have developed a slight obsession. These meatballs are very light and super flavorful. Contrary to most recipes, you won’t have to brown them, but you can if you prefer. My method of choice is the pressure cooker, but I offer you other ways to cook them too. Just in case you are a pressure-phobe.

TURKEY-JALAPENO MEATBALLS
(inspired by The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book)

for the meatballs:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pickled jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon brine liquid from pepper jar
cilantro leaves and stems (to taste, I like to use a lot)
1 + 1/2 pound ground turkey
½ cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the tomato sauce:
(you can also use your favorite store-bought tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes with juices (28 oz)
2 shallots, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 carrot, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Add the jalapeno slices, the brine, the olive oil and the cilantro leaves into the bowl of a small food processor and process the mixture a few times. Add it to the ground turkey in a large bowl, together with all other ingredients for the meatballs. Mix with your hands without compressing the mixture too much. For into twelve large meatballs. Reserve in the fridge. Can be made hours in advance or even the day before.

Make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker, add the shallots, celery and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes. Place the meatballs on the sauce, if the sauce does not reach half the height of the meatballs, complete the volume with water. Lock the lid onto the pot. Set the pot over high heat and bring it to high pressure then cook for 10 minutes. Release the pressure and open the pan. If needed, reduce the sauce by simmering gently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you are serving these meatballs as an appetizer, I recommend that you make them smaller, and either fry them, air-fry them (about 12 min at 390F), or bake them. As an appetizer, I think they profit from a nice browned crust. But as a main course, I prefer to cook them straight in the sauce. The pressure cooker makes them perfect to my taste, but if you don’t own one you can make them in a crockpot set for 6 hours on low. Alternatively, you can simmer them on top of the stove, until they are fully cooked, but the sauce won’t have the same depth of flavor as the pressure cooker offers. Pressure cooking tames the spices a bit, so if you opt for another method, consider reducing a little bit the amount of pickled jalapenos you use.

I find them delicious next to a simple salad, but of course the traditional way would be alongside a nice helping of pasta. It will keep you satisfied, even if much lighter than the usual Italian style meatballs.

The best compliment a recipe gets in this kitchen is the husband saying “you must put this one in our regular rotation.” I fully agree. And I suspect the bottle of pickled jalapenos will have a dedicated spot in our fridge from now on.

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THAI-STYLE TURKEY & ZUCCHINI MEATBALLS WITH SPICY GLAZE

We arrive at mid-November and I must tell you that this simple recipe goes into the top 10 of this crazy year. For sure. I used the air-fryer, but it can be made in a regular oven adjusting time and temperature as I mention in the recipe. It was simple to put together, short list of ingredients, great flavor.

THAI-STYLE TURKEY & ZUCCHINI MEATBALLS WITH SPICY GLAZE
(from The Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for the glaze:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
50g granulated sugar (about 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (optional, but advisable)
1 tbsp sambal oelek
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water

for the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat preferred)
1 cup zucchini, grated and squeezed as dry as possible
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the glaze. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce to a non-stick pan. Heat while stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for about 3 minutes in medium-low heat. Add the sambal oelek, mix stirring gently until the sauce starts to thicken (about 3 minutes).

Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, add to the sauce. Simmer, constantly stirring for another couple of minutes. The sauce will thicken quite quickly. Remove from heat, pour into a small bottle or bowl, cool and refrigerate until needed.

Make the meatballs. Combine the zucchini, ginger, cilantro, lime zest, salt, pepper, ground turkey and almond flour and mix them well with your hands. Add the beaten egg and gently finish incorporating it all. Mixture will be a bit loose. Shape as 12 golf-sized balls. Place over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. If they seem too fragile to move around, stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes, it will not affect their roasting, maybe require just a couple of extra minutes.

Heat the air fryer to 390°F, and keep your regular oven at around 300F to keep the meatballs warm as you finish them. If not using an air-fryer, set your oven to 400F to roast the meatballs.

In the air-fryer, they will be ready in about 12 minutes, flip them over mid-way through. In a regular oven they will take 20 to 25 minutes.

As soon as the meatballs are finished cooking, coat them with the spicy glaze. If preparing them in batches, keep the first batch in a 300F oven as you cook the second batch. Serve with your favorite side dish, steamed rice and/or vegetables.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The glaze is the same kind used to dip Spring rolls made with rice paper. You can conceivably buy it ready in the grocery store, but making it from scratch is easy and the pay off is huge. If you like it really hot, add a touch of cayenne. For us, it was the perfect level of heat. Sambal oelek is a wonderful ingredient to keep in the fridge.

As to the zucchini, better avoid using a food processor to shred it. There is something about the size and texture of grating by hand that makes it perfect to combine with the meat. The only variable to keep in mind is the amount of water retained in the zucchini. Squeeze as much as you can, but consider increasing the amount of almond flour to have a consistency that allows you to form the meatballs. Use your intuition.

The meatballs can be formed in small size and served as appetizer with small lettuce leaves to grab them. We enjoyed them as a regular main dish, with white rice and sugar peas made in 5 minutes. Those must go into a future Incredibly Easy post. Stay tuned!

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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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SECRET INGREDIENT TURKEY MEATBALLS

served22No worries, I won’t take my sweet time to divulge it.  The secret ingredient in the meatballs is… rolled oats!   And, I have one word for you:  WOW!  I loved their texture and taste, no way you can detect oats in them (not that there’s anything wrong with it… ;-)). They are soft and tender, very light and flavorful. The meat? Ground turkey, white meat only, not the mixture of 50/50 white and dark I normally go for. Ginger and lime tie it all together.  Smoked paprika adds some warmth.

TURKEY MEATBALLS WITH ROLLED OATS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by my niece Raquel)

1 to 1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey meat
1 egg white
1/2 cup dried quick oats
2 tsp grated ginger root
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
ketchup for brushing (optional)

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, then add all other ingredients.  Mix well with your hands,  but do not squeeze the meat too much.

With wet hands, form large balls and place them in a muffin tin or on a roasting pan covered with parchment paper.  Brush the surface with a little ketchup, if you want.  Cook the meatballs in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes, turning them midway through cooking time and brushing the top again with ketchup.  Serve them right away, or simmer gently in the sauce of your choice for 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here
IMG_1635

Comments:  I made these meatballs on a Saturday to freeze and enjoy later in the week.  I thought they would go well with plain rice and a simple salad.  But then, Phil saw them thawing in the fridge and got all happy about “spaghetti with meatballs”.  Some major change of gears was needed, so I prepared a simple tomato sauce with some orange zest added to it. Simmered the meatballs in it for a few minutes, cooked some whole wheat pasta, and we were all set. Unexpected fusion of east and west…

I must thank my niece Raquel  who raved about meatballs with oats and urged me to make them. A softer texture than breadcrumbs, they end up more like the traditional meatballs prepared with bread soaked in milk. But, of course, considerably lighter in terms of calories.  Next I will be adding rolled oats to my meatloaf, I bet it will be equally awesome!  And, by the way, feel free to add onions and garlic to your meatballs, by now those who follow my blog know that we use those ingredients sparingly.

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SPANAKOPITA MEATBALLS: NO SECRET!

Four months ago I joined “The Secret Recipe Club”, and my first assignment was making a recipe from the moderator of our group, Tami’s Kitchen Table Talk.   I picked this recipe as my first choice, but her “Spanakopita Meatballs” were a serious contender.  First, the meatballs seem perfect for a light dinner or even for an appetizer, if made small and served with toothpicks. Plus,  I love the name spanakopita…  spanakopita…  a happy word, always makes me smile! 😉
I  combined Greece with Italy and enjoyed them with pasta in tomato sauce perfumed with orange zest.
SPANAKOPITA MEATBALLS
(adapted from Tami’s Kitchen Table Talk)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Defrost the spinach in the microwave, then place in a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove all the excess water. Place in a large mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well, but don’t over mix, or the meatballs will get tough.

Roll into balls the size you prefer (I made 16 balls 1.5 inches in diameter), and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or foil lightly sprayed with olive oil).  Bake for 12 minutes, turn them around and bake for 15 more minutes, or until cooked all the way through (it will depend on the size of the meatballs).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I don’t even remember the last time I fried a meatball.  Using the oven is soooo much easier, all meatballs are ready at the same time, there’s no extra oil added to the recipe, and clean up is a breeze if you protect your baking sheet with foil.  Sometimes I use a rack like you see in this photo (these are pork meatballs with fennel, by the way), to encourage browning all around, but it’s not mandatory.  I’ve been on a meatball kick lately, trying all sorts of recipes and improvising a bit too.   But the “Happy Spanakopita” are still at the pole position. And, by the way, did you know that the term pole position originated in horse racing?  Live and learn…

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