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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.

Ingredients:

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.

Instructions:

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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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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