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.

Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas with Mustard Vinaigrette

My daughter and I made this lovely dish as a side for our Thanksgiving feast- although it was practically her entire meal. She absolutely loves cauliflower and garbanzo beans and is not a big fan of other Thanksgiving dishes. Dessert is her exception. 😉

This dish was adapted from It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen, via theyellowtable.com. Healthy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 14 oz can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and dried
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain seeded mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  1. Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Toss the chickpeas and cauliflower florets together on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet or in a large roasting pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.
  3. Roast, stirring now and then, until everything is dark brown and the cauliflower is quite soft, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, or to taste.
  5. While the chickpeas and cauliflower are still warm, toss them with the mustard dressing and the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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.

Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns with Vanilla Glaze

The photo of this special breakfast is on the cover of the April issue of Bon Appétit. I made it almost immediately after seeing the magazine! I really liked the idea of using dates in the filling to add a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber- and to reduce the amount of sugar. Yum.

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly, and Sarah Jampel. It was included in an article titled, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Magic: A Basically Guide to Better Baking.” There are a lot of other delicious treats included in the article. 🙂 I made the dough and the date filling the day before assembling and baking.

It would be a lovely breakfast to serve on Easter morning.

Yield: 9 sticky buns

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 7 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4-oz (2 1/4 tsp) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) packed Medjool dates, halved, pitted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (83 g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

To Make the Dough:

  1. Combine the buttermilk and 6 tablespoons of oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. (It won’t get smooth.) Heat in the microwave in three 10-second intervals until just about body temperature, or when it registers 98°F with an instant-read thermometer. (Alternatively, the mixture can be heated in a small saucepan on medium-low for about 1 minute.)
  2. Whisk egg, brown sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk mixture.
  3. Pulse the flour, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  4. With the motor running, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Process until about 80% of the dough comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. (The mixture will look very wet at first, then the sides will begin to pull away.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto an unfloured surface. (It will be wet and sticky.)
  6. Knead, pushing it away from you, then pulling it back toward you, until a smooth ball forms, about 3 minutes. (You can lightly oil your hands if the dough is too sticky.) The dough will grow silkier, tighter, and easier to work with as you knead.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rough 8-inch square.
  8. Fold dough over onto itself to make and 8×4-inch rectangle, then flatten it slightly and fold over once more to make a 4-inch square.
  9. Roll dough back out into an 8-inch square.
  10. Repeat the folding process (Step 8); you will finish with a 4-inch square.
  11. Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium bowl and add dough (still folded); turn to coat.
  12. Cover bowl tightly and chill dough until doubled in volume, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (I refrigerated my dough overnight.)

To Make the Filling and Assemble:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water to cover. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain dates and transfer to a food processor; discard soaking liquid.
  3. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Purée, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth, about 4 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 cup purée.)
  5. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. Transfer dough to a clean, unfloured surface and roll out to an 8-inch square.
  7. Fold in half into an 8×4-inch rectangle, then fold rectangle over itself to form a 4-inch square. If dough feels tough and uncooperative, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax and try again.
  8. Roll out dough into a 12-inch square, about 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Dollop date purée all over. Using a small offset spatula, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border without purée along edge farthest from you.
  10. Sprinkle brown sugar over purée.
  11. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up dough into a tight log.
  12. Using a sharp serrated knife and long sawing motions, trim about 1/2-inch of dough from both ends. (These ends can be discarded, but I baked them in a separate small ramekin.)
  13. Slice log crosswise into 3 sections, wiping knife clean between cuts.
  14. Slice each section crosswise into 3 buns. (I used a ruler.) You should have 9 buns total that are each about 1-inch thick. Transfer buns to prepared pan as you go.
  15. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Place in a warm, dry spot. (I used plastic wrap so that I could monitor the rising process. I also placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  16. Let buns rise until they’re doubled in volume and spring back when poked, leaving only a small indentation, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the humidity and warmth of your kitchen.
  17. Remove plastic wrap, if using, and cover pan with foil.
  18. Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  19. Bake buns, still covered, until puffed, pale, and mostly set, about 20 minutes. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces, covered with foil, at the same time.)
  20. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes if you prefer a soft and squishy bun and up to 25 minutes for a more toasted bun. Let cool slightly. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces at this point for about 5 minutes- uncovered.)
  21. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl to combine.
  22. Brush glaze over warm buns and serve in skillet.

Do Ahead: Purée can be made 3 days ahead. Place in an airtight container, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Farro

It is hard to relay deliciousness when looking at a bowl of “green!” This healthy soup was beyond delicious. Similar to the soup in my last post, this soup also gets its creaminess from puréed potatoes. I also loved that it was loaded with greens and herbs and also incorporated farro (one of my favorites) as a bonus.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used a combination of olive oil and butter, homemade turkey stock, and Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro. I also left the potato peels intact and increased the amount of garlic. Yum!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter or olive oil (I used 3 T butter & 1 T olive oil)
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 rosemary or thyme branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound tiny potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (unpeeled)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt or fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 1 pound baby spinach (about 20 cups)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (or use dill)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more for serving
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • flaky sea salt, for serving
  • Aleppo, Urfa, Turkish or other red-pepper flakes, for serving
  • grated Parmesan or pecorino, optional, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Melt the butter and/or heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the leeks and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, thyme/rosemary and bay leaves; cook 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in the potatoes, stock, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, partly covered, until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro and cook according to the timing on the package until just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
  6. Discard thyme/rosemary branches and bay leaves from the soup pot.
  7. Add spinach, cilantro and parsley, and simmer uncovered until very soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.)
  9. If necessary, adjust the consistency. If the soup is too thick, add a little water. If it’s too thin, let it simmer uncovered for another few minutes to thicken.
  10. Stir in lemon juice and more salt to taste.
  11. Stir in farro.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, flaky salt, red-pepper flakes and a little grated cheese, as desired.

Greens with Tomatoes, Creamed Mozzarella & Wild Rice

While my kids were away at sleep away camp over the summer (for one week), my sweet husband encouraged me to make dishes that were loaded with my favorite greens, etc. (dishes that may not have thrilled my kids!) Don’t worry, we also went out to eat. 🙂

I had wanted to make this dish after reading about how the recipe creates a faux burrata- genius! This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Abra Berens. I substituted my beautiful CSA chard for the kale. This dish would also be delicious using true burrata, of course. 😉 I used pre-sliced fresh mozzarella but would use torn pieces from a ball of fresh mozzarella next time. It would have improved the burrata hack. Any cooked grain could be substituted for the wild rice as well.

We ate this dish as a main course, but it would also be a nice side dish or salad course.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a main course

  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into thin slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine or rosé
  • 1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight in 4 cups water (can substitute farro, quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
  • 1 bunch (4 cups) red or rainbow chard or kale, midribs stripped, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
  • 1 ball (8 oz, 1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella
  • 4 T sour cream (or yogurt or creme fraiche)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 pint (2 cups) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Soak the wild rice overnight in 4 cups of water. (The soaking liquid is used to cook the rice.)
  2. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sweat the onion and garlic with the salt until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and reduce by half.
  4. Add the wild rice and the soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the chard/kale with a pinch of salt. Massage until the greens are dark green, limp, and tender in mouthfeel.
  6. Tear the mozzarella into rough chunks.
  7. Combine with the sour cream, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
  8. When the wild rice is cooked, drain any residual liquid and let cool.
  9. Toss the tomatoes, kale, and wild rice together with a couple glugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  11. Dot with the creamed mozzarella and serve.
Note: The amount of time it takes to tenderize raw greens will vary depending on the age of the plant. The tougher the leaves, the longer it will take. Along the way, taste an individual leaf—once it is easily chewable, you’re done.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

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