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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ROCKING THE ZUCCHINI BOAT

This recipe is perfect to put those very large zucchini to use. Maybe they grew a couple of days too long in your backyard, or they were sitting neglected at the grocery store (size-shaming is a cruel thing in the Cucurbitaceae world). For this recipe, a delicate, small creature just won’t be as good.


MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE ZUCCHINI BOATS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Foodie Crush)

3 large zucchini (yes, LARGE)
3 fresh sausage links of your choice (I used chicken/apple)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, to taste (probably 1/3 cup or so)
kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped, to taste (another 1/3 cup or so)
1 to 2 tablespoons capers
fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup almond flour
1 egg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp, coarsely chop, and reserve.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and the sausages (remove them from the casing, and crumble) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking it up into smaller pieces.  Add the reserved chopped zucchini pulp and cook until the meat is cooked and the zucchini tender. Season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you have two options, keep it coarse the way it is, or run it BRIEFLY in a food processor. I decided to do this extra step  because I wanted a smoother texture to fill the zucchini, but I admit it is a bit of a hassle. Skip this step if you are in a hurry, the dish will be a little more rustic, but nothing wrong with it.

Whatever you decide to do, stir in the mixture the egg, almond flour, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and almost all the cheese. Reserve some to sprinkle on top. Spoon the stuffing into the zucchini boats and place in a suitable baking dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 more minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you do the food processor step, it will be a two to three pulses kind of thing. You will be asking yourself… did I really dirty my food processor for just these three little pulses? Yes, you did. But that brief encounter with the blades makes the texture super nice, and in my opinion, worth the trouble.

Quite often when you see recipes for stuffed vegetables, they involve a dense blanket of melted cheese covering everything. Not the case here. The cheese is a minor component in the mixture and a sprinkle on top. I imagine that a vegetarian version could depart from this one, using mushroom ragu in place of the sausage, but we really liked it exactly this way. A serving of couscous, a little salad, and we called it dinner… 

Leftovers keep very well, and also heat without issues in the microwave.

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CHICKPEAS AND ZUCCHINI WITH TAHINI SAUCE

This side dish was the marriage of two regular appearances in our kitchen: quickly sauteed zucchini and air-fried chickpeas. The union was celebrated with a nice amount of tahini sauce.  I tell you, this worked very very well. If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast the chickpeas in a 400-420F oven. It takes longer and the texture won’t be quite as crunchy, but it will work just fine.  I intended to sprinkle pomegranate seeds right before serving for a little extra bling, but of course that day the grocery store had ran out of them. Best laid plans.

LEMONY ZUCCHINI AND CHICKPEAS WITH TAHINI-SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tahini-sauce:
1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/8 cup tahini paste
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
salt to taste
water if needed
for the veggies:

3 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chickpeas, well drained and dried
olive oil to coat chickpeas
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
fresh parsley
(pomegranate seeds if you have them)

Make the tahini sauce: whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Make the air-fried chickpeas.  Coat them lightly with olive oil, add the spices and place them in the air-frier set at the highest temperature (usually 390F) for about 12 minutes. They should be crunchy and golden brown.  Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet, add the zucchini covering the whole surface, season with salt and pepper. Let the slices cook undisturbed until the side in contact with the pan is well seared. Move the slices around and cook until done. Sprinkle lemon juice all over, cover the pan for a minute, remove the lid, add the chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I was a child, teenager or even young adult, you could not bribe me to eat chickpeas, which in Portuguese have the non-appealing name of “grão-de-bico”. It translates – loosely – as “the grain of the beak”. They can also be called “ervilha-de-galinha”, which ends up as “chicken’s green peas”. Yeah, very sexy. How could anyone consider that a delicacy? Anyway, now I crave it. Go figure.

Leftovers were delicious a couple of days later. In fact, I found out that air-fried chickpeas, when microwaved just enough to make them warm, get a nice texture, a bit more creamy inside. My lunch coupled this tasty concoction with a fried egg on top.  I was smiling the whole afternoon.

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ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD

You know that kind of recipe that shows up in one of your favorite food blogs and you just have to make it right away? This was it. I saw the picture, the list of ingredients, and fell in love with it. Plus, human beings who have braces on their upper and lower teeth live in a permanent state of craving corn on the cob. The type of pleasure that is far removed from their reality. This salad brings corn back into play. Still a bit hard to negotiate, but doable. Totally doable. Or I should say chewable… Sorry. Got carried away…

ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD
(very slightly modified from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ears roasted corn, cooled, and kernels cut off
2 zucchini, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Whisk the olive oil,  lime juice and zest together in a small bowl until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the corn, zucchini, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss until combined. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 12 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can grill the corn as Karen suggests, but also broil in the oven, which is what I ended up doing. Quick, easy, you just have to keep an eye to avoid burning the delicate kernels, in case you set up your rack too close to the broiler. I prefer to keep it about 6 inches below, which is a good compromise.  Simply rub the corn with a touch of olive oil, and set under the broiler, moving the cob to get all sides nicely charred. Once that is done, let them cool a bit and shave the kernels off to use in the salad.

My recipe was almost exactly like Karen’s, but I made half the amount, and reduced a little bit the proportion of olive oil in the dressing, making it slightly more lemony.  This was refreshing, light, delicious, it will be a regular dish in our rotation, as the husband already requested it for next week. He lives in fear that a dish he really likes might never show up at our table again. No risk with this one.  Raw zucchini, when cut in small dice and allowed to sit with the acidic dressing for a few hours, turns out perfect. I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

We enjoyed it with turkey burgers (my default recipe which we adore), sweet potato fries, and avocado slices.

Karen, thank you for being a constant source of inspiration in my cooking…

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FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS

I tend to fall in love with things and get into an obsessive-compulsive mode about them. Right now freekeh is a good example. I’ve been making it regularly, so finding news ways to prepare it is always on my mind. If you have never tried this grain, I’d say it is a mixture of farro and barley. Hearty, tasty, and goes well with many main dishes. You can find two types of freekeh, whole grain and cracked. The main difference is the time it takes to cook them. If you go for whole grain, be prepared for 40 to 45 minutes cooking time, whereas the cracked form will be ready in 20, 25 minutes maximum. In our neck of the woods, it is easier to find cracked, so that’s what I normally go for.

FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 stalk celery, finely diced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup cracked freekeh
2 cups water
toasted slivered almonds to taste
fresh dill to taste
whole yogurt for serving (optional)

Sautee the zucchini. On a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the zucchini pieces seasoned with salt and pepper and allow it to get golden brown before moving the pieces around. When it’s tender and fragrant, squeeze a little lemon juice and reserve.

Cook the freekeh. In a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon (or a bit less) olive oil, add the celery seasoned with salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant. Add the freekeh, cook a minute or two, then add the water. Cover the pan and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it sit in the pan for five minutes with the heat off.

Add the freekeh to the skillet with the zucchini, warm everything together briefly, add toasted almonds, and fresh dill. Serve immediately with whole milk yogurt on the side, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I realize that I am asking you to use one large skillet and one sauce pan to make this recipe. In theory, you could saute the zucchini in the sauce pan, remove it, and proceed to cook the celery and freekeh in the same pan. However, I prefer a very large surface to get the zucchini perfectly cooked. And in case you don’t know, I love doing dishes, so one more pan to wash has never been a problem for me. I know… crazy, right?

This turned out very good, and almost a complete meal, actually. We enjoyed it with roast chicken, but next day my lunch was a nice serving of freekeh with a fried egg on top. Maybe not the most gorgeous picture in the blogosphere, but trust me, it was tasty…

If you never cooked freekeh, I urge you to give it a try. It is a nice alternative to rice, and you can also enjoy it cold in salads, or as addition to soups. Pretty versatile item.

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