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.

Buttermilk-Poblano Gravy

This Thanksgiving, we branched out from our favorite wild mushroom gravy to try this roasted poblano version. It was incredible. Because we roasted a much smaller turkey and made less mashed potatoes, I plan to gobble up any leftover gravy as a dip with tortilla chips. 🙂 It would also be wonderful in tacos or as sauce in a pot pie.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Javier Cabral and Paola Brinseño González. I incorporated a shallot as well as the roasted turkey pan dripping and juices. I also reduced the salt. Next time I will roast the poblanos in advance. I am going to start making it year-round!

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 2 large (3 ounce) poblano chilies
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T roasted turkey pan fat (can substitute 2 T unsalted butter)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted turkey pan drippings plus vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place chilies on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. Place under a broiler, rotating every 5 minutes, until skin is charred on all sides. (Alternatively, using kitchen tongs, hold 1 chile directly over a medium flame of a gas stovetop. Cook until skin is blackened, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining chile.)
  2. Wrap the blackened chilies in the aluminum foil to steam. (Alternatively, place chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.) Let steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Rub off skin from chiles, removing as much of the blackened skin as you can. (Don’t worry if all of the skin doesn’t come off.) Remove and discard stems and seeds.
  4. Finely dice the roasted chilies.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add shallot and diced chiles. Cook until onion is soft, about 4 minutes.
  6. Combine shallot mixture and 1/2 cup stock in a blender, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place 2 tablespoons of fat from pan drippings (or 2 T butter) in same skillet over medium.
  8. Whisk in flour, and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Increase heat to medium and add shallot-chile puree and remaining 1 cup pan drippings with stock, and cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to low; add buttermilk. Simmer gently to allow flavors to meld, about 2 minutes.
  11. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: Poblano peppers can be roasted, peeled, and cut 2 days ahead.

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.

Marcella Hazan’s Sicilian-Style Swordfish

This was such an elegant, fresh, tasty, and quick-cooking dish. It is part of a recipe collection that Food and Wine published for their 40th anniversary titled “Food & Wine: Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes.”

The recipe was contributed to this special issue by Marcella Hazan. I modified the ratio, using less swordfish but the same amount of sauce. By serving the fish over a bed of rice, the rice absorbed all of the extra deliciousness.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons table salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut 1/2 inch thick (I cut 1-inch thick steaks in half)
  1. Light a grill or preheat the broiler.
  2. Make the Sauce: In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the salt until the salt dissolves. (I used coarse salt- which took quite a while to dissolve.) Stir in the oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season generously with pepper.
  3. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat (as close to the heat as possible), turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total).
  4. Transfer the fish to a platter. (I covered the platter with a bed of rice first.)
  5. Prick each fish steak in several places with a fork to allow the sauce to penetrate. Using a spoon, beat the sauce, then drizzle it over the fish (and rice, if desired). Serve at once.

Shortcut Chicken Fatteh

I have another rotisserie chicken dish to share. Rotisserie chicken meat is used as a shortcut to prepare this delicious Middle Eastern dish. I also used store-bought pita chips in the topping. It was very quick to pull together on a weeknight- fast, crowd-pleasing comfort food. 🙂

The topping was the absolute highlight. Quite often, the bread is layered in the base of this dish. This adaptation reverses the sequence in which the finished dish is plated so that the bread and nuts provide a crispy contrast to the brothy base. Great.

The recipe was adapted from everylittlecrumb.com. I used fresh herbs and pita chips in the topping. I also modified the method and proportions and made the lemon-garlic-yogurt sauce ahead of time to heighten the flavors.

Chickpeas and/or roasted eggplant cubes can be substituted for the shredded chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chicken & Rice:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, meat shredded
  • 4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 cup white rice (I used Aahu Barah Basmati rice)

For the Topping:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 loaves pita bread, cut into cubes (can substitute store-bought pita chips)
  • 2 cups yogurt (I used a combination of whole milk yogurt and fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, or more, to taste

To Garnish:

  • paprika
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or almond slivers, toasted
  • 3 to 4 T chopped parsley and/or mint
  • olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. Prepare the chicken by shredding the rotisserie chicken meat.
  2. In a sauté pan, warm the shredded chicken meat in 2 cups of the chicken stock; keep on low heat until serving so the chicken warms through.
  3. Cook the rice in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock.
  4. To Make the Pita Chips: Toast the pita bread in the oven by placing in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, and drizzling well with olive oil and tossing to combine. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown, and set aside. (I substituted store-bought pita chips, broken into cubes.)
  5. Mix together the yogurt with the crushed garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine. (I made this in advance and kept it in the refrigerator.) Adjust the seasoning and amount of lemon juice, to taste, before serving.
  6. Assemble by placing the rice in the base of a deep serving dish. Pour some- or all of- the chicken stock over the top, and scatter the shredded chicken evenly.
  7. Dollop the garlic yogurt on top and smooth out, then top with the crispy pita chips.
  8. Garnish with paprika, chopped parsley and mint, and toasted nuts. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce

Pasta is definitely my go-to for quick weeknight dishes. Maybe too often! Vodka sauce is one of our absolute favorites, so this vegetarian, quick version was irresistible. I’ve already made it twice. 😉

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. On one occasion, I added mushrooms to mimic the amazing version served at Tony’s Di Napoli in NYC. I added more garlic and used mezzi rigatoni as well. Great.

Yield: Serves 4

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 5 oz white mushrooms, sliced, optional
  • 4 oz Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup, finely grated
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 4.5-oz tube double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large, shallow, enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the onion and garlic, stirring constantly, just until the onion is starting to brown around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. *If incorporating the mushrooms, add after the onions have cooked for 2 minutes.*
  4. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and stir to coat onion. Cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown and stick to the bottom of the pot, about 4 to 7 minutes.
  5. Add vodka to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits; reduce the heat to low.
  6. Using a heatproof measuring glass, scoop out about 1/4 cup boiling pasta water from the pot. Add heavy cream to the water. (This brings up the temperature of the cream so it won’t break when you add it to the pot.)
  7. Stirring constantly, gradually pour cream mixture into the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until a smooth sauce forms. Remove from heat.
  8. Cook pasta in the pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. About 1 minute before pasta is done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid.
  9. Return the pot with sauce to low heat.
  10. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the pasta to the sauce pot.
  11. Stir in 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt. The pasta should be coated with a smooth, glossy sauce.
  12. Season with salt; add more pasta cooking liquid if sauce is too thick.
  13. Top with basil and remaining Parmesan and drizzle with a little oil, as desired.

Sourdough Mozzarella Grandma Pizza Pie

This is a sourdough version of one our favorite pizzas. When we order a pizzeria pizza, it is almost always a Grandma pie. The sauce makes it extra delicious.

This pillowy crust is absolutely perfect for a Grandma pie. I have made it several times now, and have used the crust for classic homemade pies as well. I was able to shape the dough into either form extremely easily just using my fingertips.

The crust recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I incorporated white whole wheat flour and modified the technique and baking temperature. The sauce is from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alfia Muzio, and is included in my Classic Grandma Pie post. According to the original recipe, this crust is also delicious with bold toppings and well-aged cheeses.

I included some active dry yeast in the crust, but plan to try it without, using fed sourdough starter instead of unfed, now that my sourdough starter is really active. The crust can also be made with sourdough discard.

I have made the dough two hours prior to baking the pizza, but the dough can be made a day in advance and put in the refrigerator to rise overnight. I also doubled the recipe on a few occasions to try various toppings (and to have leftovers!).

Yield: One Grandma Pie (half sheet pan) or Two 12-inch round Thin-Crust Pies

(Double the recipe to make Two Grandma Pies or Three 14-inch round Classic Pies)

For the Pizza Crust & Toppings:

  1. Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
  2. Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500°F. (I heat a baking stone in the bottom of the oven.)
  5. For a thicker, large pizza- a Grandma Pie, oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan. Place the dough in the selected pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back. (For two thin-crust pizzas, divide the dough in half, and shape each into a flattened disk. Drizzle two 12″ round pizza pans with olive oil, and brush to coat the bottom. (I used a pizza peel and pizza stone to make classic pizzas instead.) Place the dough in the pans, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
  6. Cover the pan(s) and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the toppings.)
  7. While the dough is rising, make the sauce. (see recipe below)
  8. Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Add any additional toppings, if desired.
  9. Bake the Grandma Pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 15–30 minutes. (Bake traditional pies for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.)

Note: Store leftover pizza covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For the Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce:

  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay).
  2. Season with salt and pepper.

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