The Daring Kitchen Cooks June 2013 Challenge - Meatballs
It has been a while since I have cooked with this amazing group, but this month's theme was too good to pass up. "The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice." I think June just might be meatball month, since they are popping up all over the internet lately; here, here, here and here... and many more!
Just say "meatball" and boom! I think Italian spaghetti and meatballs, then Swedish meatballs with potatoes and lingonberry jam, followed by Mexican albondigas soup, Greek avgolemno soup with meatballs, and the list goes on. Then my foodie brain slowly wanders off into non-meat territory with Japanese rice balls, Italian arancini, Middle Eastern falafel... Which to choose for the June DC challenge? Even though polpette are not typically served over pasta or even sauced, I decided to prepare Italian spaghetti and meatballs with a red sauce and got busy organizing ingredients. The first sample meatball was just fine naked, all by itself, it didn't need any sauce for flavor. But I continued on with the plan and oven-simmered a batch of 12 meatballs in Spicy Red Bell Pepper Pasta Sauce from my local Safeway store. We loved the result. Go with the sauce.
My personal challenge was to create a moist, tasty meatball using lean ground turkey, a protein often thought of as bland, often dry and easily overcooked. So why use turkey? "Outside pressures" to cook healthier and cut back on red meat prompted the choice, and I'm delighted to report that this experiment was deeeeee-licious. RL loved the meal and
nagged coached me to write down the recipe before I forgot quantities and procedure.
The Daring Cooks Challenge suggested we plan a meal to incorporate the meatballs. My imaginary multi-course Italian menu begins with Fruit and Nut Crisps served with a soft cheese, followed by Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs, then a salad of Greens with Grapes and/or Italian Pepper Salad, and finished with Almond Cookies and Nutty Chocolate Apricot Bites. Reality check: instead of that big meal, we will likely dine on a small plate of this recipe, accompanied by a green salad dressed with citrus vinaigrette. I know I will make these meatballs again and again, and continue to marvel at turkey meatballs that are packed with flavor, have a nice crunchy bite and are healthier than any of my previous versions!
Turkey Meatballs with Spinach, Walnuts and Cheese
(plus homemade or store-bought marinara sauce)
makes approx. 24 meatballs
Add to a blender jar and mix until combined into a very moist, green paste with no big chunks remaining.
· ½ cup crushed saltines (or homemade bread crumbs)
· 1 small package frozen chopped spinach (thawed but not drained)
· 1/8 cup chopped Italian parsley
· 2 chopped green onions
· 1 clove garlic, peeled & minced
· ¼ cup feta cheese crumbles (or grated fresh parmesan)
· ¼ cup walnut pieces
· 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
· salt and pepper to taste
· 1 tablespoon lemon zest
· juice of 1 small lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)
· 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Place that luscious green blend in a mixing bowl, add the following 4 ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly by hand or with a spatula.
· 1.25 pounds lean ground turkey
· 1 egg
· ¼ cup chopped walnuts (yes, in addition to those above)
· ½ cup dry parmesan (yes, from the green can)
Note: this is a good time to cook a small patty in a skillet, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. You really don’t want to skip this step.
Use a scoop or tablespoon to shape the mix into small meatballs. Brown in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray OR broil briefly until browned.
Add enough of your favorite marinara sauce to surround or even cover the meatballs and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat, covered, on the stovetop OR bake uncovered for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 F oven. Serve alone or over pasta, they are delicious either way.