Turkey meatballs with yogurt sauce

What's gonna happen

Try these turkey meatballs if you're looking for something delicious but want to sneak in an extra bit of nutrition. Loaded with nearly half a pound of spinach and a whole zucchini, these meatballs have that extra dimension of je ne sais quoi from the addition of some of my favorite Turkish spices. What's cool about this recipe - if food science excites you (nerd alert) - is that you don't need bread or bread crumbs to lock in the moisture of this oftentimes dry meat. The amount of liquid that cooks out of the spinach and zucchini is enough to ensure that you have moist (sorry) and savory meatballs. 

I find that a fresh and lemony and cucumbery yogurt sauce creates a nice balance with the complex, but subdued spice mix in the meatballs.

I like to eat these bad boys on their own or with naan. For leftovers, I love to slice the meatballs, place them on leftover naan or toast, and sprinkle feta, goat cheese, mozzarella or all the above for post-work fake pizza. They're also great with your run-of-the-mill pasta or spaghetti squash if you're fancy.

So, since I'm possibly boring you at this point, let's get to the good part: the food making. 

What to know

"Brown then bake." Dual-cooking methods might sound like extra work, but they rarely are since you can simply entrust the fate of your food to the oven. Browning something before you put it into the oven locks in moisture, creates sexy color and builds intricate texture. The importance of an oven safe pan if you hate doing dishes.

I also love this cooking method because it means I don't have to clean up a sheet pan. An oven-safe stove top pan is a worthy investment because, once you brown something, you can literally pick up that pan off the stove and pop it straight into the oven. If you don't trust your oven, you can totally finish these meatballs on the stove in the frying pan – you'll just have to keep a closer eye on them to get an even cook time.

What you need

Turkey meatballs

1 lb ground turkey

1 large egg

1 small zucchini, grated 

1 small shallot, minced

1 6-oz package of baby spinach

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sumac (optional)

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Yogurt sauce

1 cup grated cucumber (about 5-6 inches of cucumber)

1 cup plain greek yogurt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp salt

Zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste (optional)

How it works

Turkey meatballs

Preheat your oven to 400-degrees F.

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and, using your hands, mix until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoon (about the size of a tablespoon), form meatballs. 

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the bottom of a large saute pan. Add the meatballs and brown over medium heat, about 4 minutes. Ensure that you do not crowd the pan by leaving about a 1/2 inch circumference around each meatball.

You will need to brown the meatballs in multiple batches; once browned, set meatballs aside on a plate, and repeat the above step until you've browned all of the meatballs.

Once all of the meatballs have been browned, add them back to the saute pan and place in the oven. Bake meatballs for 8-10 minutes, or until the meatballs have cooked through.

Serve immediately with yogurt sauce, naan and anything else your heart may desire.

Yogurt sauce

Grate cucumber over small mixing bowl.

Once grated, add yogurt, lemon juice and salt, and stir until combined.

Transfer to serving dish if desired, and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and lemon zest. 

Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.