This year, after the holidays I was on the hunt for interesting healthy, flavorful recipes. I found just what I was looking for in turkey zucchini meatballs. The original recipe was for turkey and zucchini burgers from chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful book, Jerusalem. Just like all the other recipes I have tried of his, the results were delicious.. It was easy enough to adjust the size of the original slider sized burgers to make into meatballs instead. Grated zucchini gives the typical ground turkey meatball the additional moisture that it needs. Since zucchini is 95% water, it is very important to squeeze all of the excess moisture out of the shredded zucchini so the mixture holds together well. The turkey and zucchini are combined with fresh cilantro and mint, along with garlic, cumin and spicy cayenne pepper to give them a little kick. I served them as suggested with a sauce of Greek yogurt, lemon and sumac. At that time in the middle of a cold snowy January I was bemoaning the fact that I had to buy the zucchini and the herbs and if it were July, well, those ingredients would be from our garden.
It’s July now and I remembered to make the turkey zucchini meatballs again, this time with our fresh picked zucchini and herbs from the garden. Back in January I also thought it would be a good summertime variation on the recipe to serve the meatballs with tomato sauce and zucchini “noodles”. Our zucchini vines are producing like mad, I am picking four to six zucchini and yellow squash a day. That doesn’t count the ones that hide under the large leaves and turn into baseball bats!
To make the “pasta” choose straight sided zucchini or yellow squash, preferably of a medium size in diameter, the longer the better. My tool of choice for making the strands is the Kuhn Rikon stainless steel julienne peeler. Steady the zucchini with one hand, start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the flesh and pull down. Keep shredding on all sides until you reach the seedy interior. Place the strands in a bowl and separate the strands that stick together with your fingers. I lightly salt my pile of “pasta” to extrude any excess liquid. I cook the strands in a saute pan, just long enough to warm them up a little and evaporate any additional excess liquid. I still want my zucchini to have a little crunch. If you prefer you can serve the meatballs with the pasta of your choice.
Our tomatoes are just starting to come in now, not quite enough to start making sauce. Until then I will use a good quality store brand. I like to warm the sauce and add the meatballs that I have kept warm after cooking them. Next time I will adjust the herbs in the meatballs for this dish, I think basil and a little oregano would complement the sauce and zucchini noodles nicely.
Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs
Makes 18-20 meatballs
Ingredients for Meatballs
- 1lb ground turkey, I used a 93/7 lean to fat ratio
- 2c grated zucchini-wrung out in a clean tea towel to remove excess moisture
- 3 scallions, white and green, thinly sliced
- 1 large egg
- 2T chopped mint
- 2T chopped cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1t ground cumin
- 1t table salt
- 1/2t freshly ground pepper
- 1/2t cayenne pepper
- about 1/8c of a neutral cooking oil, canola, safflower
- 3-4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, warmed
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the meatballs, except the cooking oil. Mix well with your hands. Shape into 2″ balls. Place meatballs on a well greased baking sheet to ready for cooking. Pour enough oil into a large heavy frying pan to form a layer about 1/16 inch thick on the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering, sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes adding oil as needed, until browned.
- Transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm with tomato sauce
Ingredients for Zucchini “Noodles”
- 3-4 large straight sided zucchini and/or yellow squash
- Kosher salt
- Wash and trim zucchini and/or squash. Cut stem and root end off. On a cutting board, steady your squash with one hand and shred with a julienne peeler. Start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the squash and pull all the way down.
- Shred on all sides of the squash until you reach the seeds. Repeat with the rest of the squash. Place the strands in a very large bowl, separate the strands that stick together and salt evenly. Let sit for 10 minutes to extrude any excess water.
- Over medium heat cook the strands in a large sauté pan to warm up the squash and remove any excess water.