Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Meatballs

Looking for an appetizer and wanting to make something for the meat-lovers coming to visit, I decided meatballs were the perfect thing.  I thought about what I would love in a meatball, and decided to improve on what I’ve done in the past.  I combined some favourites that I thought would work well together – the spice of the hot Italian sausages, the lightness of the turkey, a punch of flavour from the sun-dried tomatoes, and then some pistachios for a twist.  I put it all into a homemade tomato sauce, which is so easy, and I cooked them for a long time to make the sauce really thick and to give the flavours time to mingle.

I served them on skewers for appetizers, and the leftovers made a great topping for spaghetti squash.  Of course you could always go with the standby comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs.

What you need for the meatballs:

400 grams ground turkey thigh

400 grams hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (or chorizo)

1 egg

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or oven-roasted)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios,  finely chopped

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you need for the sauce:

1 small onion

1 large can pureed tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter

a little red wine (optional)

a rind from parmesan cheese (optional but amazing! save your rinds for this purpose!)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil, optional

What you do:

The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you need it.  The whole recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated.  I think it`s even better the second time around.

1. Start the sauce first by simply emptying the can of tomatoes into a pot, then adding the butter and the cheese rind.  Put the whole onion into the pot – it will simmer to add flavour, and you will remove it at the end.

2. Bring the sauce to a low boil, and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour.  Add a little red wine or water if it`s getting too thick.

3.  Remove the rind and the onion, and add salt, pepper, and the optional basil to taste.  If you think it needs it, you can add a little brown sugar to the tomato sauce.

4.  If you made the sauce ahead of time, heat it up in a large pot.

5.  Combine all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. I mix it with my hands because I’m going to use my hands to make the meatballs anyways.  Don’t mix the meatball mixture too much, just until it is combined.

6. Drop the meatballs directly into the sauce, on a low simmer.  Try not to stir them until they’ve had some cooking time, so they solidify and won’t break as easily.  Spoon some sauce over the tops of the meatballs, so they are all covered.  Cook for at least half an hour, but preferably longer, until the sauce is nice and thick.

Serve on pasta, spaghetti squash, or on toothpicks as an appetizer.

Maple Butternut Squash Soup

The sun came out today and reminded me that I only have a little more time to make winter soups!  So here is a squash soup I’ve been meaning to post for a long time, one that I’ve been making for years.  The baked cauliflower topping, however, is a new addition, and I’m going to make it like this again.

I know that the sticker on your squash probably tells you that the easiest way to cook it is in the microwave.  This may be true, however, I find oven-baking it makes it taste sweeter, and it’s also more satisfying.  Also, you can cook the cauliflower while the squash is baking.

What you need:

1 medium-sized butternut squash

2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)

2 stalks celery

1/2 large sweet onion (I cry less over sweet onions – you can use a regular one if you wish)

1 red or yellow sweet pepper

1/4 cup white wine (I used riesling)

1/4 teaspoon dry tarragon leaves, crumbled (1/2 teaspoon fresh)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

3-4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

maple syrup to taste

salt to taste, unless your stock already has salt in it

1/4 cup dry sherry – optional but amazing!

1 cauliflower, an optional topping

What you do:

1.  Cut the squash in half, de-seed and lay on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes or until it pierces easily with a knife.  At the same time you can cut the cauliflower into florets and bake for the same amount of time, until browned.

2.  Cook the onion, celery and pepper in butter for several minutes.  Add the spices, then the wine, and cook for a few more minutes.  Add half of the stock and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

3.  When the squash is cooked, allow it to cool enough to be handled.  Puree it, along with a cup of the stock, then add it to the vegetables.

4.  Heat the soup through, then add the maple syrup, sherry, and salt to taste.

5.  Top with chopped roasted cauliflower to serve.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Here is a recipe from the old Moosewood Cookbook that I’ve been making for years in the winter time.  It’s a really tasty vegetarian recipe that’s also quite hearty.  It also looks pretty impressive when it’s served – it’s best to use quite small squash if you’re going to serve a half for each person.

What you need:

2 medium-sized acorn squash

1 cup uncooked brown riced

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium-sized tart apples, diced

2 oranges, sectioned

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice or cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

What you do:

1.  Cook the rice in 1 & 3/4 cups water for 45 minutes, then let it rest off the heat for 10 minutes.

2.  Cut the squash in half, de-seed and place cut-side-down on a baking tray.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350F, or until very soft.

3.  Melt the butter, then cook the onions until slightly browned.

4.  Add garlic, apples, oranges and spices and cook for about 5 minutes more.

5.  Add the apple mixture to the cooked rice and season with salt and brown sugar.

6.  Fill the squash with the rice mixture, top with nuts and a little more brown sugar if you like.

7.  Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.

I like to have some for leftovers – I scoop it all into a container to save in the fridge, so it doesn’t look fabulous.  But it sure tastes great!

Palak “Paneer” aka silken tofu

I’ve had this recipe in draft mode for months because I can’t seem to get a picture that makes it look as appealing as it truly is.  So now I’m going to be okay with the photo, and just let you know that it’s so good – it’s vegan comfort food.

Paneer is a fresh cheese you can make at home with milk and lemon – the silken tofu does a great job of representing the creamy, almost melty texture of paneer.  Tofu will also satisfy your umami cravings – umami is known as the fifth or savoury taste, which is often satisfied by meat.  Tofu also contains the compounds that the taste buds register to satisfy the savoury cravings.  Maybe that’s why this one seems like comfort food to me.

You need:

2 red onions

1 garlic clove

3 small green chillies

2 cm piece of ginger, grated

5 tablespoons vegetable oil (butter if you eat dairy)

500g/2 bunches spinach

1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch

1 block soft silken tofu (the “paneer”)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 or more cups plain yogurt

salt to taste

What you do:

1.  This is great served on Brown Basmati Coconut Rice, so you’ll want to start that first.  White rice won’t take as long, so if you’re using that you don’t need to start it yet.

2.  Put onions, garlic, chillies and ginger in food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  You may need to add a little water.

3.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil/butter in a large frying pan, then cook the spices on medium heat until fragrant.  Add the other 3 tablespoons of oil/butter and the onion paste,  cooking for about 10 minutes.

4.  Cook the spinach until wilted and add to the food processor along with the cornstarch and puree it.  Add the spinach, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to the paste. Bring it to a boil and cook for about two minutes.  At this time have a taste and see if it needs more salt; it probably will.

6.  Cut the tofu into squares and add it to the pan to heat it.  Once it is hot, stir in the yogurt carefully so the tofu doesn’t break too much, and serve right away.

I enjoy this one for leftovers too!

You can substitute the spinach with swiss chard if you like.