Turkey Meatballs

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This is another recipe I normally don’t measure, and it’s also easy to customize- use different ground meat like beef or pork or veal, add different herbs, etc etc.  I also bake the meatballs, because it does make a lot of small meatballs and you would have to cook them in batches in a saute pan so baking the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan is faster and makes for easier cleanup.  This ground turkey was fairly lean, so I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the meat because dry meatballs make baby angels cry.

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1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, pureed or shredded- I like pureed so there aren’t chunks of onion in the meatballs

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup bread crumbs (regular or panko are fine)

2 Tablespoons milk

1 oz shredded parmigiano reggiano (I may have used 2 this time, just because)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 

1 egg

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Preheat your oven to 400F.  Mix all of the ingredients except for the ground turkey together in a large bowl. This is so you don’t over-knead the ground turkey.  Ok. So noooow that it’s all mixed together, you can add the ground turkey to the bowl and mix just until everything is evenly incorporated into the meat. I mixed with my hands, since they were going to get meat-y when I rolled them anyhow.  Scoop 2 Tablespoons of the mixture and quickly roll it into a ball and place on the parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the meat until you have a sheet pan full of meatballs.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, turning the pans halfway through the cooking time, until browned on both sides.  Serve 6-8 hungry people with spaghetti and meatballs (you made your marinara, right?).  Don’t forget, you can freeze some of the uncooked meatballs if you’re like me and only have 2 people to feed instead of 8, as they will keep for awhile frozen. It’s also a good recipe to double or triple so you can have even more meatballs on hand.

Marinara Sauce

I have a confession to make.  I used to eat jarred marinara sauce. No really.  When I was a freshman in college and living in the dorms, I would fill up a shallow bowl of water, microwave some spaghetti in the water, and then carefully drain it over the bathroom sink (don’t want to use any dropped noodles), and then mix in some marinara from a jar I kept in my tiny tiny dorm fridge.  That was what I would eat when I got sick of endless meals from the salad bar/sandwich bar/french fries-dipped-in-ranch-dressing (you know you would eat that too).  But those shameful days are behind me now.  

For just a few dollars more than 1 jar of (semi-decent) marinara, you can make a large pot of your very own, much tastier marinara. It freezes beautifully.  This recipe made enough for me to both freeze 3 quart-sized ziploc bags, each with about 2 cups of sauce, plus make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with the rest of the sauce.  It’s also great to use on homemade pizzas too (mmmmm). This sauce recipe is easily adaptable; in fact, I never measured my ingredients until now, for this post.   Also, as I dumped the “oregano” into the pot, I thought to myself, “Weird, this oregano smells like tarragon!” Then I looked at the herb bottle and said out loud, “Ohhh….right.” But tarragon didn’t ruin it and added a little extra sweetness, so happy accident?  

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2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped (I normally use yellow, but red was what I had on hand today)

2-ish tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small (or 1 medium) sized carrots, roughly chopped

4-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

3 (28 oz) cans of diced tomatoes (you can see from my eclectic mix that I buy whatever brand is on sale, plus I only had 2 28 oz cans and 1 14.5 oz can on hand today)

1 tsp Kosher salt- start with this and then add more to taste later

1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp or so dried)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

Optional fresh basil, to add after the sauce has finished cooking

pepper to taste

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Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan, and then add the onions, carrots and garlic. Saute them until soft, 10-15 minutes. Then the next step is optional; I like a relatively smooth sauce, so I pureed the cooked vegetables in my blender, along with 1 (28 oz) can of the tomatoes. If you do this, remember to remove the little thingy on the blender lid (so the hot liquid doesn’t expand and blow up all over the kitchen) and cover the top with a dish towel to prevent splatter- I personally just want to eat my marinara, not wear it.

Add the pureed vegetables back to the saucepan, then add the herbs (except for the optional fresh basil that you want to add at the end so it has the most basil-y flavor), salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, then put a lid on it and turn down the heat to low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until thickened (I let mine cook for 2 hours while I was doing other stuff, and it was even better).  Cool down the sauce a little if you’re going to freeze some of it in ziploc bags, then congratulate yourself for not needing to buy jarred sauce any more! 

Shepherd's Pie by way of the Middle East

If you asked me if I have a favorite cookbook, I wouldn’t be able to choose just one. The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden is in my top 10 though! If you’re tired of eating Thanksgiving leftovers by now, but can’t bring yourself to waste that large bowl of leftover mashed potatoes, try Roden’s recipe for

Meat Pie with Mashed Potatoes

. The meat is cooked with cinnamon and allspice and pine nuts, so it was enough of a change from turkey and stuffing that I was quite happy to eat it for dinner today.

The original recipe includes instructions for making mashed potatoes, but I left that out since I had about a pound of leftover mashed potatoes to use up, and instead of cooking in a 10x14 pan (does anybody even have that size?!), I made this a one-pan meal in my trusty oven-safe stainless steel pan. Word of caution: Maybe I’m just scatterbrained, but on more than one occasion I have grabbed onto the very hot handle, so now I place an oven mitt on the handle immediately after I remove the pan from the oven. All of my fingers are rather appreciative of this new precaution.

Serves 4-6

1-2 lbs leftover mashed potatoes, depending on how thick you want your mashed potato layer

2 medium onions, small dice (I used 1 1/2 because my onions were bigger

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

2 lbs ground lamb or beef

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp allspice

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet until golden brown

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons raisins (optional; I left them out because I wasn’t sure about raisins+potatoes, but then sprinkled a few dried currants on my plate and I liked the little sweetness they added.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 12-inch deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and sauté the onions and garlic until softened and starting to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add the ground meat, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper and break up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink,about 10 minutes. Drain off most of the fat from the pan, and then evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top.

Bake the meat pie for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. I turned on my broiler after 30 minutes so I could get a nice golden crust, just keep an eye on it so you don’t burn the potatoes!