Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Shortcut Chicken & Dumplings

More weeknight comfort food! This dish uses rotisserie chicken meat and store-bought gnocchi as shortcuts to create a close match to traditional chicken and dumplings. It was quick to prepare and very tasty.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Alexa Weibel. I incorporated my CSA parsley, leeks, carrots, and collard greens. In addition, this soup could easily gobble up many other vegetables such as frozen peas, fennel, squash, parsnips, or mushrooms. We ate it with a green salad. Great.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 to 5 cups 1/2-inch ribbons of collard greens or kale, ribs removed (optional)
  • 2 medium carrots or 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed, white and pale green portion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup) (can substitute 1 large shallot, if desired)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2/3 cup)
  • additional vegetables such as frozen peas, or diced parsnips, fennel, or mushrooms, optional
  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)(I omitted it)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (16 to 18-ounce) package fresh or shelf-stable store-bought gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s 17.6-ounce gnocchi)
  • 1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 to 3 cups shredded meat)
  • fresh tarragon, parsley or dill, for garnish

Spinach Lasagna

Compared to the dish in my last post, my family prefers to eat leafy greens in this fashion. (I love greens in every fashion!) Cheesy pasta casseroles definitely make greens a crowd-pleaser. 🙂

This vegetarian lasagna was absolutely fabulous. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I incorporated nutmeg, garlic, and an egg into the ricotta mixture, incorporated Pecorino-Romano cheese, and used no-boil noodles. I also modified the baking method. Yum.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 16 dried (no-boil) or fresh lasagna noodles
  • 3 to 4 cups good tomato sauce (I used 28 oz jar Rao’s marinara)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and chopped (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 cups) whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 2 cups finely grated Parmesan (I used 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 cup Pecorino-Romano)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, cut them into long wide noodles approximately 3 inches by 13 inches, or a size that will fit into your lasagna dish. (I used 16 dried no-boil lasagna noodles from Trader Joe’s)
  2. Steam the spinach until wilted, and drain. (I steamed it in a large pasta pot for 3-4 minutes.) In batches, use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop.
  3. Combine the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, and garlic in a bowl.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  5. Grease a rectangular baking dish with the olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce and spread it around.
  6. Put a layer of noodles (use four per layer) in the dish; top with a layer of tomato sauce, one-third of the spinach, and one-fourth of the ricotta mixture (in dollops), the mozzarella, and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Repeat the layers twice.
  8. Top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan; the top should be covered with cheese; add more ricotta and Parmesan as needed. (The lasagna may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to a day or frozen. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
  9. Cover with parchment paper topped with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Uncover, and continue to bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Note: Lasagna can be baked, cooled completely, covered well, and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or stored in the freezer.

Chicken Baked on a Bed of Bread & Greens

This healthy one-pot dish is for fans of greens. 🙂 I thought that it could even work as a dish to serve for a small-scale Thanksgiving feast because it incorporates bread (stuffing), greens (vegetables), and chicken (poultry). It would just need potatoes on the side- which is actually how my husband ate the leftovers. 😉 It was a pre-Thanksgiving meal for us because my crowd prefers a more indulgent feast on the big day. We did end the meal with apple pie bars.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Melissa Perello. It was inspired by chef Judy Rodgers’ famous wood-fired roasted chicken at Zuni Café in San Francisco. I kept waiting for chard to appear in my CSA box so that I could make it. This dish gobbled up all of the chard, kale, and beet greens from my share! The capers and golden raisins made the base of the dish extra delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 8

  • 8 to 10 oz (about 1/2 loaf) day-old peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a pain au levain boule)
  • 4 to 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 T salted capers, rinsed well
  • 4 T golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 pounds tender fresh greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or beet greens (the original recipe uses Swiss chard)
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs or one 3 1/2 pound chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces
  • fresh thyme and parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Prepare the Greens: If using Swiss Chard: Remove the stems and finely slice or chop; slice leaves in half through the ribs and cut into 2-inch ribbons. If using Kale: Remove ribs and discard; tear leaves in half and slice into 1/2-inch ribbons. If using Spinach or Beet greens: Remove stems and slice leaves into 2-inch ribbons. Wash and spin dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, capers, raisins, prepared greens, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Spread the bread-greens mixture in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. (My pan was almost overflowing!)
  5. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange them over the bread. Sprinkle with dried thyme.
  6. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper and close the casserole with a heavy lid. Bake the chicken for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and parchment paper and increase the oven temperature to 400°.
  8. Bake the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until golden on top and cooked through.
  9. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with the bread and greens, garnished with fresh herbs.

Skillet Phyllo Pie with Butternut Squash, Kale, & Feta

This is another “healthyish” cast iron skillet recipe from Bon Appétit. It was almost my entire CSA box in a pie. 🙂 I incorporated CSA leeks, butternut squash, and Toscano kale. Very seasonal- perfect.

I had an abundance of kale, so I made the pie in a large (12-inch) skillet. I also incorporated kohlrabi greens. Because this recipe is very adaptable, the finished pie size can be modified depending upon the volume of filling. Any other greens would work too.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Anna Jones. The lemon zest was essential. We had a green salad made with my CSA romaine lettuce on the side. 🙂

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions, cut into 1/4-inch half-moons and soaked OR 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small butternut squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, thinly sliced into 1/4-inch crosswise ribbons (I used about 8 cups) 
  • 2 to 3 large eggs, beaten to blend (I used 3 eggs for a 12-inch pie)
  • 3 ounces Parmesan, grated (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of one lemon)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces frozen phyllo pastry, thawed (half a 1-pound package)
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh goat cheese or feta, crumbled, divided
  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium. Add leeks or onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Mix in thyme and red pepper flakes and transfer to a large bowl; let cool.
  5. Wipe out and reserve skillet.
  6. Add kale, eggs, Parmesan, and lemon zest to squash mixture and gently mix to combine; season with salt and pepper.
  7. If using 6 ounces of cheese, incorporate 2 ounces into the kale-squash mixture.
  8. Working quickly so that the phyllo doesn’t dry out, layer phyllo sheets inside reserved skillet, letting 2-3 inches hang over the edge. (I placed them in a circular fashion. I also brushed some oil between every few layers.)
  9. Spoon kale-and-squash mixture into phyllo and dot top with cheese.
  10. Brush edges of phyllo lightly with oil and fold over filling, overlapping slightly, leaving center exposed.
  11. Cook pie over low to medium-low heat until bottom of pastry is just golden (carefully lift up on one side with a heatproof rubber spatula so that you can take a peek), about 3 minutes.
  12. Transfer skillet to oven and bake pie until kale is wilted and tender and phyllo is golden brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes.
  13. Let pie cool in skillet at least 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into wedges.

Do Ahead: Pie can be baked 6 hours ahead. Let cool; store uncovered at room temperature.

Chickpeas & Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

This dish was also named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best” in their 40th anniversary issue. It was super delicious.

The recipe was contributed by Missy Robbins of Lilia in Brooklyn. She was also named a “Best New Chef” in a previous issue. The genius of this dish is that Robbins substitutes chickpeas and kale for pasta in her spicy pomodoro sauce. It still tasted rich and indulgent for a “healthy” dish. I increased the amount of garlic and incorporated my CSA red kale. The inclusion of fennel seeds added subtle sweetness. We ate it with a crusty baguette to soak up all of the sauce- a little bit less healthy but crazy good.

I hope to make this dish repeatedly with my CSA kale. I absolutely love dishes that make kale a crowd-pleaser! 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.
  4. Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
  6. Spoon into bowls and garnish with herbs. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

Pork & Asparagus Stir Fry

I loved that this was a veggie-loaded dish. Other members of my family may have complained that they wished it had more meat. 😉 Everyone enjoyed it!

I used asparagus combined with farm stand sugar snap peas and my CSA garlic scapes and bunching broccoli. Any crisp vegetable could be incorporated. We ate it over rice drizzled with Sriracha to add extra heat- perfect.

This Sichuan-inspired stir-fry recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Deb Perelman.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 to 2 T peanut or vegetable oil, divided (I used 6 teaspoons)
  • 2+ lbs crispy green vegetables (I used 1 lb asparagus, trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1″–2″ pieces with 1 lb bunching broccoli, cut into 2″ pieces, and 2 cups sugar snaps)
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • pinch or dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 4 to 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped, optional
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • white or brown rice, cooked, for serving
  • store-bought chili crisp or sriracha, for serving, optional
  1. Heat 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high. (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet.)
  2. Once pan is hot (oil will be lightly smoking), add half of the vegetables and a couple pinches of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces have a chance to blister, until crisp-tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add another 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet (no need to wipe it out) and repeat process with remaining vegetables.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet, then add pork, spreading out into an even layer. Season with a couple pinches of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Cook, undisturbed, until meat begins to brown underneath, about 2 minutes.
  4. Break up meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions, garlic scapes (if using), garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until pork is crisp and mixture is very fragrant, about 2 minutes. (I used a mini-food processor to finely chop the scallions, garlic, garlic scapes, and ginger.)
  5. Add wine and soy sauce and return the vegetable to the skillet. Cook, turning to coat with pork mixture, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer stir-fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with rice and hot sauce.

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