This summer, I visited my friend in New York and made it very clear that I HAD to find the best falafel truck in the city. It was really the most unique food I had ever tried at age 8 when I went to visit my cousins one year for Thanksgiving. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for gyros, lamb shwarma, and yummy meatballs like these that would fit snugly in a those aluminum-wrapped pita pockets. No, they’re not fancy, but seriously I find turkey meatballs to be some of the most flavorful, moist, and easy meats to cook. While I was making these, I started to dream of a falafel-esque sesame spiced meatball sub with a tahini sauce instead of marinara. Plans to come…
So these are adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and I’ve made them a bit less spicy than the recipe calls for. Deb suggests serving these over a smashed chickpea salad, but I really love white beans, so I made a quinoa bean salad. Somehow most of the food I make makes you want to curl up on the couch and snuggle. I think that’s why I’m trying to eat more quinoa. It screams pop culture, civilization, getting on with my healthy self. Basically it helps me get off the couch 🙂 Last week I made another version that came out of Mardi Gras angst: black eyed pea, okra, cajun seasoning quinoa salad. Try it!
With this meatball recipe comes a chance to use the cast iron skillet! Which just happens to be another chance for me to build some arm muscle (transporting a skillet from stove to oven takes MUCH more effort than I thought). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people love pie so much and it kind of makes me think of meatballs too. Go with me for a second. I really think that part of the obsession with pie is its perfect circle shape. Putting something in the oven and it coming out the exact same shape as when it goes in is weirdly comforting. Maybe it’s the blanket of dough on the top that snuggles in the filling that’s so comforting? Anyways I think the same is for meatballs. Some people are kind of weirded out by ground meat, but then others of us love the rich, moist, decadence of a good meatball. Maybe it’s breaking into a perfectly round piece of goodness. Well, now that my understanding of basic shapes is out there, on to the recipe!!!
Sesame-spiced Meatballs – adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
1 lb ground turkey – I like to use 93% lean, but you can use 99% if you like
2/3 cup French breadcrumbs (Take some leftover crusty French bread and turn it into crumbs in your food processor)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp table salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne (or more depending on your taste)
2 TBS sesame seeds, toasted
Quinoa- Bean Salad ingredients – measurements up to your taste buds, cheffy-friends
White quinoa (I used 1/2 cup)
Half a can of white great northern beans, drained and rinsed
diced celery and carrot, sliced red onion
dressing of : dijon + red wine vinegar + olive oil + lemon + honey
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and stretch your arms. After stretching, dig out your cast iron skillet and heave it up to the stove. (Yes I do find the stretching important here, lol). In a large bowl, add all of the meatball ingredients and mix together lightly with a fork, your hands, or a spoon. I say lightly here because you want the meatball ingredients to be evenly spread through out, but with turkey I never like to overmix.
2. Once the mix looks evenly incorporated, get a plate ready for your meatballs. Take a clump of the mix and start to cup your hands into the shape of a meatball. That’s how I like to start to form the ball, then roll it gently between your hands to make the ball compacy. These should be about the size of golfballs. Place them on the plate, waiting to jump into the skillet!
3. After prepping the meatballs, heat the skillet to about medium-high and pour a thin layer of olive oil on the pan. Add the meatballs carefully (don’t break them!) and give each enough space to brown. I have a 12 inch skillet and managed to fill all of them in one batch, but if they need more room in your skillet, make a few batches.
4. While you’re testing your patience waiting for these to brown, mix up your salad. In your bowl, start with some spoonfuls of quinoa, then add your toppings, I like equal parts of everything, but I get it if you wanna skip the veggies and just have a simple quinoa bed for the meatballs. In a small glass, mix together dijon, honey, vinegar, and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Dress your salad and toss with some fresh sprigs of parsley!
5. After about 3-4 minutes of browning, start to rotate your meatballs to get them browning on all sides. Give the other side another 3 minutes or so to brown. Once the outsides are browned and a lil crispy, turn off the heat and transfer the skillet to the oven using a thick potholder. Muscle-building, here.
6. Cook the meatballs in the oven for between 10-15 minutes, until they reach 160 degrees F. You can test this by sticking a meat thermometer in one of the meatballs. Mine took about 11 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve over your yummy quinoa salad!