Friday, March 1, 2013

Sesame Turkey Meatballs with Spinach Chickpea Salad

This is another adaptation from Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which has obviously been a success at our house since a few of the recipes posted here over the past couple of months have their origins there. These turkey meatballs are deliciously-spiced with cumin and paprika, and can be made with either ground turkey or ground chicken (I've tried both: yum). I throw a few handfuls of spinach to the original recipe to make it more of a green salad with chickpeas, and add paprika here and in the meatballs themselves, because smoked paprika is always a good idea.
Sesame turkey meatballs with spinach chickpea salad @ SouthernSpoonBlog
sesame turkey meatballs spiced with cumin, paprika, and a little chili,
served over spinach chickpea salad
A tip to the wise: you'll be tempted to brown as many meatballs as possible in the sauté pan, but trust me on the two-batch method. By browning only half of them at a time, you'll have room to flip the meatballs as they cook without accidentally breaking up others in an over-crowded pan.
Sesame turkey meatballs over spinach chickpea salad @ SouthernSpoonBlog
Sesame turkey meatballs over spinach chickpea salad
I imagine the meatballs would also be great served over a Moroccan-flavored couscous salad, and the spinach chickpea salad could also serve as a base for chicken baked with paprika and a little cumin. The entire meal is fairly simple to bring together in spite of all the combining, rolling, then browning and baking of the meatballs. It's a lean, protein-rich dinner option, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day (you could even serve it in pitas, as Deb Perelman suggests in the cookbook). Enjoy!

Sesame Turkey Meatballs
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 4

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 pound (455g) ground turkey (or chicken)
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (or 1 cup roughly torn pieces of bread, from 1-2 slices bread: use gluten-free bread if cooking g-f)
1/4 cup water
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine, too)
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for pan

Preheat oven to 400F / 204C.

Warm a large sauté pan to medium-low heat on the stove. Add the sesame seeds and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Cook the sesame seeds for about 1-2 minutes, until they are beginning to brown, stirring around the pan to encourage even browning. (Sesame seeds will burn quickly so keep a close eye on them). Remove toasted sesame seeds from pan and pour into a large bowl; remove pan from heat.

To the large bowl, add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil. Mix thoroughly with a potato masher or a fork, until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll the meat mixture by hand into golfball-sized meatballs, setting meatballs on a large cutting board or plate.

Heat a large sauté pan (preferably one that can go into the oven) on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread it evenly around the pan. Carefully place half of the meatballs in the pan, taking care not to overcrowd. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, carefully turning the meatballs as you go so that they brown on multiple sides. Remove browned meatballs and place on a large baking tray or cookie sheet. Repeat browning with the remaining meatballs.

If your sauté pan can go into the oven, return all of the meatballs to the pan and place in the oven. If you don't have an oven-proof sauté pan, simply place all of the meatballs on the large baking tray or cookie sheet, and place the baking tray in the oven.

Bake at 400F / 204C for about 12-18 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of at least 160F / 71C. Serve warm with the spinach chickpea salad (recipe below).

Spinach Chickpea Salad
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 4

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas)
Handful of pitted green olives, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley)
Juice from half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of dried chili flakes (or a dash of cayenne pepper)
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
2 cups washed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place the chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl, and mash with the back of the fork for a minute to rough them up a little.  Add remaining ingredients except the spinach leaves and olive oil (through sea salt).  Stir to combine thoroughly, then add the chopped spinach leaves and olive oil.  Toss carefully to evenly distribute the spinach.  Serve with sesame turkey meatballs.

*Serving Tip: Arrange the spinach chickpea salad on a large serving plate, and top with the turkey meatballs.  Place serving plate on the dining table and serve family style.   

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