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Meatball makeover: Turkey and zucchini and herbs

Recipe: Shredded squash adds texture, moistness

Turkey meatballs on a blue plate with yogurt sauce in a bowl
Serve the yogurt sauce on the side of the turkey meatballs, which can be an entree,
an appetizer or filling for tortillas or pita bread. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Zucchini is the all-purpose "what you will" vegetable. It can be spiced up, sweetened up, buried in chocolate or turned into pickles . Ground turkey, meanwhile, is equally bland yet flexible: It adapts to any food style with ease.

Chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi put these two malleable ingredients together for his cookbook "Jerusalem," in a spiced dish he called burgers. But a food blogger, Lisa at Panning the Globe , notes that they should be called meatballs  -- even though they're not classic meatball shape. She likes them as appetizers with dipping sauce, but I found them to be a wonderful summer entree, served with the yogurt sauce along with a quinoa-grain blend and a green salad.

I did not have the cilantro or sumac called for in the original recipe, and only a bit of the yogurt, so I substituted freely. Note to cilantro-haters: Parsley substituted just fine for the cilantro. The sumac was replaced by a combination of ground coriander and za'atar spice mix, along with a bit more lemon juice. (My suggestion: Try lemon zest.)

I had a full cup of sour cream, so that all went into the sauce along with the last of the yogurt. This made a lot of sauce; it was also a bit too thick so I added more lemon juice. The recipe below reflects what I'll do next time.

I did have a nice mix of mint from my garden for the meatballs, but if you are buying mint, go for something in the spearmint end rather than peppermint, which is too strong.

The leftovers made a great lunch, wrapped in tortillas (I'd have used pita bread if I'd had it) with baby lettuce and dolloped with that yogurt sauce.

Turkey zucchini meatballs with yogurt sauce

Serves 4-6

Raw ingredients in a bowl
Two colors of zucchini went into my version of the meatballs.


For the yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of sumac or a combination of coriander, za'atar and lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large or 2 medium zucchini, grated

4 to 6 scallions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves or Italian parsley leaves

2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for sautéing

Blended ingredients
Blend everything together before forming the meatballs.


Combine all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce. Stir and taste, correcting the spices, and set aside or refrigerate.

Mix together the turkey, egg, zucchini and scallions. Mix in the mint, cilantro or parsley, garlic, cumin, salt, cayenne and pepper.

Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Form the meat mixture in oval meatballs, using about 2-1/2 tablespoons for each. To keep the mixture together, form the meatballs by gently squeezing them and tossing them back and forth in your hands 3 or 4 times.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Put several of the meatballs in the pan, and brown all over, about 5 minutes. Remove the browned meatballs to the baking pan and repeat with the rest of the meat mixture until all the meatballs are browned.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cook the meatballs in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the yogurt sauce. Meatballs are easily reheated.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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