Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bekah's Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs are traditionally found in cuisines throughout Europe, Middle East, and South and East Asia. Largely through the European culinary heritage, they are also staples in North and some parts of South America. In a number of cultures, the term for meatballs is derived from the Persian word kufta which means "to beat" or "to grind". Examples include the term kofta (India/Pakistan), keftes (Greece) and qofte (Albania). The Spanish word is albóndigas, derived from the Arabic word al-bunduq which means hazelnut (referring to their shape). Albóndigas were introduced to Spain during the period of Muslim rule. Similar words are used in Portuguese and Tagalog.

Meatballs are typically made with beef or pork though many other kinds of meat are used including veal, reindeer, lamb, chicken and turkey. They are usually a combination of ground meat, grain (breadcrumbs, rice, bulgur), vegetables or onions, eggs and spices/seasonings. Some varieties contain cheese. They can be fried, baked, boiled or steamed and served on their own, or in a sandwich, gravy, soup or pizza.

This recipe comes from my friend Bekah. She made these delicious meatballs for dinner when we visited her in Montreal this summer. I tried them last week when I had visitors from Rome and Chicago. They were a hit. Don’t skip the yogurt sauce – it’s a key element of the meal.

Makes 15-20 meatballs

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt (whole or low-fat)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
cayenne powder, to taste

1 cup bread crumbs
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 lb ground turkey
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

large lettuce leaves, to serve

1. To make the yogurt sauce, in a small bowl mix all the ingredients and set aside.
2. To make the meatballs, in a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients with a spoon. Add the egg and mix well. Then add the turkey and use your hands to incorporate with the dry ingredients.
3. Roll into 1-inch meatballs. [see photo above]
4. Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until well-browned on all sides. To make sure the meatballs are tender and fully cooked, add 1/4 cup water to the skillet and cover to steam the meatballs for about 5 to 7 minutes. To test for doneness, cut the largest meatball in half and make sure there is no pink meat in the center. If there is, continue to cook.
5. Serve meatballs rolled inside lettuce leaves and generously drizzled with yogurt sauce. Serve with cous cous, flatbread and a salad.

Double or triple the recipe - if you make a big batch freeze most of the meatballs raw for a future meal, and freeze a few cooked so they can be used on a whim to add heft to a marina sauce or for a midnight meatball sandwich. Frozen raw meatballs should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator and cooked well.

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