Turkish Meatballs with Lime-Yogurt Sauce

I have several recipes to share from Christopher Kimball’s wonderful book, Milk Street.

This recipe used several genius techniques. The first was using a French technique, panade, which incorporates a bread and dairy paste into meat to bind it together and keep it moist during cooking. These meatballs were incredibly tender as a result. The author also uses the microwave to infuse oil with shallots, garlic, and spices- genius!

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef and substituted Greek yogurt for whole milk plain yogurt. I really loaded the pita bread halves with meatballs, sauce, and toppings making them essentially knife and fork “sandwiches.” These meatballs would also be wonderful served over rice with a green salad. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 with 1 1/2 cups sauce

For the Meatballs:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • one 8-inch pita bread, torn into small pieces (about 3 ounces)(white pita is preferable)
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves (1 ounce), finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey or beef
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the Lime-Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 3 T tahini
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

For Serving:

  • 2 to 3 pita bread rounds, halved
  • tomato slices
  • cucumber slices
  • red onion slices
  • fresh mint or parsley leaves
  • lime-yogurt sauce

To Make the Meatballs:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together 2 T of the oil, the shallot, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano. Microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pita bread, yogurt, and water. Use your hands to mash the mixture to a smooth paste. Add the reserved oil mixture, the mint, ground meat, salt and pepper. User your hands to thoroughly mix.
  3. Divide the mixture into 12 portions, then use your hands to roll each into a smooth ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a 12 or 14-inch skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium to medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add half of the meatballs, and, using a spatula press them into 1/2-inch thick patties.
  5. Cook over medium, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the meatballs are well browned on both sides and register 140 degrees F at the center, about 4  min on the first side and 2 minutes after flipping.
  6. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

To Serve:

  1. Fill half of a pita bread pocket with 2-3 meatballs.
  2. Top with sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, herbs, and sauce, as desired.

Turkish-Spiced Halibut Skewers With Yogurt Sauce

Many people grill year-round, but our grill hibernates during the winter. 😦 Thankfully, it is unseasonably warm here this week (Yay!), so I am going to share a couple of belated grilling recipes.

This first recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish dish typically made with local swordfish and fresh bay leaves. This version, from David Tanis of The New York Times, uses firm-fleshed halibut with thinly sliced lemons and onions. The fish is only marinated for an hour, grilled, and served with a wonderful and fresh cucumber-yogurt sauce.

We ate the skewers with hummus, warm naan, Israeli couscous, and steamed spinach on the side. If grilling season is over for you, this dish can easily be replicated using a broiler. Great!

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless halibut or other firm-fleshed fish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 garlic clove, grated or smashed to a paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small cucumber, about 2 ounces, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  1. Cut halibut into large chunks of equal size and thread onto skewers. You should have 4 kebabs weighing about 6 ounces each.
  2. Lay them in a shallow dish. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, put cumin, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes, onion, lemon, minced garlic and bay leaves. Add olive oil and stir together.
  4. Spoon mixture over fish skewers and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Put yogurt in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add garlic paste, cayenne and cucumber.
  6. Mix mint, dill and parsley together, add half to yogurt mixture, and reserve the rest. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  7. Heat a grill or broiler. When it is hot, cook skewers for about 2 minutes per side, until just opaque. (Leave some lemon, onion and bay leaf clinging to fish, so they char a bit.)
  8. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining herb mixture, if desired. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side.

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Four Years Ago:

Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

The New York Times described this dish as “an oven-roasted version of the classic street-side flavor bomb usually cooked on a rotisserie.” What a perfect description! This dish is insanely flavorful. We ate it with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, wheat flatbread, bulgur pilaf, and “white sauce.” The traditional white sauce that is served with this dish is plain yogurt or sour cream (I used sour cream on this occasion) mixed with a little bit of coarse salt, garlic, and lemon juice. It can also be served with hot sauce.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. My husband said he would eat it every day. 🙂 Fabulous!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A pinch ground cinnamon
  • Red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Prepare a marinade for the chicken: Combine the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red-pepper flakes in a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken, and toss well to coat. Cover, and store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425, preferably on convection roast. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and marinade, and toss once to combine.
  4. Remove the chicken and onion from the marinade, and place on the pan, spreading everything evenly across it.
  5. Put the chicken in the oven, and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 30 on convection roast, or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven.
  6. Remove from the oven, allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice into bits. (To make the chicken even more crisp, set a large pan over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then the sliced chicken, and sauté until everything curls tight in the heat.)
  7. Scatter the parsley over the top and serve with tomatoes, cucumbers, pita or flatbread, white sauce, hot sauce, olives, fried eggplant, feta, rice — really anything you desire.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Turkish Bulgur & Vegetable Pilaf

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Our favorite local Middle Eastern restaurant refers to this pilaf as bulgur “rice.” They have the Turkish coarse bulgur, Pilavlik Bulgur, that it is made with available for purchase- thank goodness. My entire family LOVES it.

A couple of years ago, the owner of this restaurant was part of a Middle Eastern cooking class at our local library. I was disappointed that I was unable to attend the class and then upset when I found out that he made his bulgur rice!! I was able to track down his recipe through the library… but have since misplaced it in my GIANT piles of recipes to try. (You thought this was going to be the special recipe, right?) Well, this version was perfect- IDENTICAL- and so delicious!! Yay!

This recipe was adapted from turkishfood.about.com, contributed by Elizabeth Taviloglu.  We ate it with shish taouk wraps- an amazing meal. 🙂

  • 2 cups coarse bulgur (Turkish Pilavlik Bulgur)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, grated and drained
  • 1 large tomato, grated
  • 1 small green pepper, grated
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • grilled peppers or tomatoes for garnish, optional
  • fresh Italian parsley or mint for garnish, optional
  1. Grate the onion in a food processor. Press your grated onion in a fine wire strainer to remove the juice as this can make your pilaf bitter.
  2. Melt the butter together with the oil in a covered skillet or shallow pan. Then fry the grated onion until tender but not brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Grate the tomato and pepper in a food processor.
  4. Add the grated tomato and juice, and the grated pepper, season with salt and pepper, and continue to fry until the vegetables have softened and the liquid is reduced.
  5. Add the bulgur and work the butter and vegetables thoroughly through the dry bulgur using a wooden spoon.
  6. Finally add the salt, pepper, tomato paste, sugar and stock and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low.
  7. Let the bulgur simmer gently until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Keeping the pan covered, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool down. The bulgur will continue to steam inside the pot. For more even steaming, place a few paper towels under the lid.
  8. Gently stir the pilaf before serving to make sure all the ingredients are well blended. Garnish each serving with a piece of fresh or grilled pepper and tomato and some fresh Italian parsley or mint, if desired.

One Year Ago:

Shish Taouk: Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs

IMG_8927

These kebabs were the focal point of an AMAZING meal. We ate the grilled kebab meat wrapped in warm naan, doused with tzatziki, sprinkled with red onion, with Turkish bulgur pilaf and green salad on the side. I felt like I was in our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant- only better! 🙂 I used naan because the pita bread served in our favorite restaurant is more similar to naan than store-bought pita. I also modified my gold-standard tzatziki recipe by thinly slicing the cucumber into rounds using a mandolin; my mother-in-law recently served tzatziki this way and not only was it delicious, the presentation was wonderful.

I had planned to try this dish ever since seeing a post about it on Savory and Sweet Food, but I had trouble finding sumac. I couldn’t believe my great fortune when sumac appeared in the “new item” section at Trader Joe’s! No wonder I am such a fan of their store. 🙂 This recipe was inspired by savoryandsweetfood.com, mamaslebanesekitchen.com, and saveur.com. I used a gas grill, chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts, substituted fresh dill for half of the fresh mint, and modified the spice blend. DELICIOUS!!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or boneless, skinless chicken breasts), about 10 thighs
  • 15 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 16 fresh mint leaves
  • 3 to 4 large sprigs of fresh dill
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 T sumac
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • 6 T non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • pita bread or naan, for serving
  • tzatziki, for serving
  • sliced or diced red onion, for serving, optional
  • lettuce, tomatoes, for serving, optional
  1. Cut the chicken into small cubes.
  2. In a food processor, make a paste of the garlic, herbs, lemon juice, spices, tomato paste, pepper, and olive oil.
  3. Add the Greek yogurt to the paste. Mix well. Taste for salt.
  4. In a glass bowl or baking dish, marinate the chicken pieces in this mixture and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours.
  5. Then skewer the chicken on approximately eight 10-inch metal skewers.
  6. Grill over medium heat, turning, until chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, 10–12 minutes.
  7. To serve: Remove from skewer onto warm bread. Dress with tzatziki, sprinkle with red onions, shredded lettuce, and/or tomatoes as desired.

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