Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

Does anyone else really struggle with the mini-season that occurs between fall and winter? You know, when we’ll have a beautiful 75° day… followed by a day full of freezing rain and snow? (For those of you that live in areas of the country where the transition from fall to winter means you stop wearing tank tops and start bundling up in short-sleeve t-shirts? Those of us from the northern half of the country hate you. Nothing personal.) That stretch of weeks (or months) depresses me more than winter itself, but it does have one redeeming quality: it’s perfect weather for soup!

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

I was making a batch of these tomato balsamic meatballs last week, and it occurred to me that they’d be delicious if I made them mini, and put them into soup… and the perfect addition to meatballs is pasta (and tomatoes, and parmesan cheese), so this recipe basically wrote itself. It was AWESOME as a big, warm lunch this weekend – when it was grey and windy outside, with a “wintry mix” falling. Unfortunately, this week’s forecast will give us plenty more opportunities to want to cozy up with a nice bowl of soup…

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup
serves 4-6 as a meal, 8-10 as a starter

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey (I prefer 93/7)
1 egg
2 T heavy cream
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic, grated
3 T minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
olive oil

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

For the soup:
1 batch of meatballs
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
28oz can of petite diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
8oz small pasta
one 3″ parmesan cheese rind*
grated parmesan for garnish
minced parsley for garnish

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

*If I haven’t mentioned it before, you should be saving the rinds from your parmesan cheese. Throw them in a ziploc bag, keep them in the freezer, and use them when you’re making soups like this – a parmesan rind will add add a nice nutty, salty richness to the soup. If you don’t have one on hand already, just cut it off a fresh block of parmesan cheese.

1.) Start by making your meatballs. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, tomato paste, parmesan, grated garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the ground turkey, and use your hands to combine everything well (without over-mixing). Starting with 1/4 cup, add the breadcrumbs to the meatball mixture; mix the breadcrumbs in, and add more, a bit at a time, if the mixture still seems too wet.

2.) Roll the meat mixture into small balls – about 3/4″ across. You should get about 50 meatballs from the mixture.

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

3.) Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil to the pot. Add a layer of meatballs to the pot (don’t crowd the pan, you can brown them in batches), and let them brown for a couple minutes; flip them once, and allow them to brown on the other side. You’re not trying to cook them through, just to sear them, so once they’ve browned, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate, and brown the next batch.

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

4.) While you brown the meatballs, cook your pasta until al dente, and set aside.

5.) Once all your meatballs are browned, add the diced onions and carrots to the hot pot. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.

6.) Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and parmesan rind to the pot. Increase the heat, and let the soup come to a boil; immediately reduce it to a simmer. Add the meatballs to the soup, and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and warm.

7.) Spoon a small portion of pasta into each bowl, and then ladle the soup over it. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan and parsley, and serve immediately.

Italian Turkey Meatball Soup

Somewhat surprisingly, this soup is super light. Filling, comforting, warm – but not heavy in the least. The turkey meatballs are moist and flavorful, and there’s just enough pasta to make it feel carb-y. A blanket of freshly grated parmesan cheese perfectly completes it.

If I have to break out the uggs and puffer coat, at least I have soup,
Tina

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

If you think you don’t like lamb, I strongly encourage you to try these burgers. As you’re all well aware, I am not the BIGGEST carnivore around – I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor of meat by itself (you’ll never find me diving into a giant steak), so if I am endorsing a meat-based dish, you know it’s good. Lamb can be very, very game-y, and it takes a little bit of work to amp up the surrounding flavors in the dish to mellow out that game-y flavor… and these burgers are just a perfect mix of rich lamb, fresh vegetables and herbs, and cool, creamy tzatziki.

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta
serves 4-6

For the burgers:
1 lb ground lamb
3-4 large mint leaves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh dill
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 a shallot, minced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 oz crumbled feta
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
tzatziki (recipe below)
pickled red onions (recipe below)
small hamburger buns, or bread of choice*

For the tzatziki:
1 cup 2% or full fat greek yogurt
2 persian cucumbers (or half an English cucumber)
2 cloves garlic, grated
12 mint leaves, minced
1 T minced dill
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

For the onions:
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4″ thick half moons
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar
2 t kosher salt

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

*I used some mini ciabatta rolls for these burgers (the kind you buy at Trader Joe’s, that are par-baked), and I thought they were PERFECT. You want a bun that is a little more rigid and crusty than a typical hamburger bun, since these are kind of sloppy burgers – that tougher exterior prevents everything from getting soggy and falling apart.

1.) Start by making your pickled onions. Add the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a small saucepan, and set over medium heat. Heat the mixture until it’s just about to simmer, and all the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Pickled Red Onions

2.) Meanwhile, put your onions into a jar, or other glass container. Pour the hot pickling liquid over top of the onions, until they’re completely covered. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes before using. If you’re not using them right away, allow them to cool for about an hour, then seal the jar and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

3.) While the onions pickle, make your tzatziki. Cut the cucumbers in half length-wise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds (even the “seedless” Persian or English cucumbers have some little, watery seeds, and I prefer to get rid of them to keep the tzatziki from getting too watery). Dice the cucumbers into a 1/4″ dice.

4.) In a mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, mint, dill, grated garlic, lemon juice, and a large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Mix everything well, and set aside.

5.) Now, the burgers! In a large bowl, mix everything from the mint to the black pepper together. Add the ground lamb, and use your hands to work everything else into the meat, being careful not to over mix! Divide the lamb mixture into 6 equal portions, and shape them into patties.

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

6.) Heat a large skillet (or griddle) over medium heat, and add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once it’s good and hot, add your burgers – be sure not to crowd them, and cook them in two batches if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, and 3-4 minutes on the second side (if you opted to make fewer than 6 patties from the mixture, you’ll want to bump up the cook time a bit).

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

7.) While the burgers cook, toast your buns if you’d like. In another small bowl, mix the quartered cherry tomatoes and feta with a pinch of black pepper.

8.) Prepare to assemble your burgers. Personally, I HATE when my toppings are falling out all over the place – so, I tried a little trick with these burgers that I will definitely use again. Before toasting my buns, I pulled the excess bread out of the bottom half of the bun. This created a little little space to stuff my cherry tomato mixture, and greatly reduced the instance of escaped burger garnish. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest giving it a try.

9.) When the lamb burgers are cooked, it’s assembly time. Start with the bottom bun, and stuff the hollowed out space with the tomato and feta mixture. Top that with a burger, then a big spoonful of tzatziki, and then a little pile of pickled onions. On goes the top bun, and you’re ready to eat!

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

Now, you may be thinking – who the hell eats a 2.5oz burger?! Is this some sort of hipster “tiny food is so cute!” concoction? And to that, I say – TRUST ME. These burgers are RICH. Like, really, really rich. I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite of my burger, and I was totally content and full for many, many hours afterward. My personal opinion is that a regular-sized lamb burger (by which I mean 4-6 oz – I am not into the 12 ounce monster burgers some seem to favor) would be overwhelmingly rich, and leave you feeling like you have a rock in your stomach for the rest of the day.

Anyways, these burgers are insanely good. The lamb is definitely rich – but the acidic bite of the pickled onions and the tang from the tzatziki cut through the richness and balance it nicely. Add some salty feta and chewy ciabatta, and I might just slip into a food coma even TALKING about it.

Seriously, there is no need for a burger the size of a chevy,
Tina

*

*

*

*

(P.S. Don’t you DARE throw out those extra pickled onions. Put them on EVERYTHING until they’re gone: sandwiches, salads, breakfast burritos, nachos… those things are culinary gold. I’d stop short of adding them to a bowl of ice cream… but don’t think I haven’t considered it.)

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

I really, really love crab cakes. My husband likes to laugh at me, because if we go to a restaurant with crab cakes on the menu? There is a 73% chance that that will be what I order. I just can’t help it! Crab is so delicious – and let’s be honest, the good stuff is mighty expensive at the grocery store. So, it’s not often that I buy crab to cook with… but I happened to have a small container of lump crab left over from a brunch gathering, and I knew I had to find a delicious way to use it up. It wasn’t enough for crab cakes, so I played my usual game of “what random items from my fridge can I use to make this into a meal?” I came up with artichoke hearts, heavy cream, and lemon, and this pasta dish was born!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce
serves 4 as a main course (it’s RICH, so we had smaller portions than we might typically eat when we’re having pasta)

1 lb spaghetti
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
1 can artichoke hearts packed in water, rough-chopped
4 oz dry white wine
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
zest of one large lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

1.) Set your pasta water to boil. In the meantime, heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the artichokes; saute them for a few minutes, without stirring too much. You want the artichokes to caramelize at the edges and get some nice, golden brown color.

2.) Once the artichokes have started to caramelize, add the crab, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and a good pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Stir everything to combine, and let it all cook together for a minute or so. (When the pasta water is ready, salt it well with a big handful of kosher salt, and then drop your spaghetti in!)

3.) Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let it cook down until the liquid is reduced by half, a minute or two.

4.) Add the heavy cream and parmesan to the pan, and stir well. Once the sauce comes to a low boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add another pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer away until the pasta is ready.

5.) When the pasta is just about ready, turn the heat on the sauce down to low, and add the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning; if it tastes a bit bland, add another pinch of salt and taste again. Also, you should notice the slightly nuttiness of the parmesan; if you don’t, throw in a little bit more!

6.) Add the hot pasta directly to the sauce, and toss to coat. Add a small ladle of the pasta water to the sauce, and toss again until everything is well combined.

7.) Portion the pasta in to bowls, top with some chopped parsley, and serve!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

This pasta was a great way to enjoy some crab, without spending a million dollars. It had plenty of crab flavor, and the crab didn’t get overwhelmed by any of the other ingredients. The artichoke hearts added a nice meatiness to the pasta – and really, who can argue with a combination of heavy cream, lemon, and parmesan cheese?? Not me, that’s for sure.

I know you’re not supposed to mix seafood and cheese, but trust me, THIS WORKS,
Tina

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

I’ve always said: “Happiness is a warm, fluffy, buttermilk biscuit!”

Actually, that’s a lie – I’ve never said that before. But, I have felt that sentiment deep down in my heart for a very long time, and NOW I’m saying it… and I mean it! Seriously, a buttermilk biscuit is a beautiful, wonderful thing, especially when it’s fresh from the oven and slathered in butter. Part of the beauty of a buttermilk biscuit is that you can dress it up in millions of ways. Add cheese! Pop it on top of a chicken pot pie! Slice it in half and use it to sandwich a delicious piece of fried chicken!

(Stop drooling on your keyboard. It’s unsightly.)

ANYWAYS. When I was brainstorming some menu ideas for a wedding shower I was helping to throw, I knew I wanted to make a biscuit sandwich of some sort. A biscuit sandwich fulfills many of the requirements for food at a brunch: it’s dainty, it’s cute, it’s carb-y to soak up all the mimosas in your stomach. I wanted to add a couple other elements, too – something Italian (I met the bride while working in her dad’s Italian bakery nearly 20 years ago), something cheesy (please tell me I don’t need to explain the need for cheese?), and something to give it a real savory/spicy edge. Mission accomplished!

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)
makes about 16 petite sandwiches, with jam left over

For the jam:
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1 cup brown sugar
2 T water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (white, if you have it)
a healthy pinch of kosher salt

For the biscuits:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
generous 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t coarsely ground black pepper
8 T butter, super cold, and cut into cubes
2 oz gruyere cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk

For the sandwiches:
16 thin slices of prosciutto
arugula

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

1.) Start by getting your jam going on the stovetop. Add all the jam ingredients to a small sauce pan, stir well to combine, and set over medium heat. Let the mixture come up to a boil; turn the heat back just a bit (you don’t want it to be a hard boil, but you want more action than a simmer), and let the mixture cook down until it’s nice and thick. Keep an eye on it, and stir often, and it should take about 45 minutes.

2.) While the jam cooks, make your biscuit dough (and preheat your oven to 425°). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and black pepper. Using a pastry blender (or two knives, or your hands), cut the butter into the flour mixture, until there are still some bits of butter the size of small peas. (More thorough biscuit-dough-making directions are here.)

3.) Add the grated cheese to your flour/butter mixture, and use a fork to toss it all together until the cheese is evenly distributed. Then, drizzle the buttermilk around the bowl, and use the fork to lightly mix everything, until a shaggy dough starts to form.

4.) Lightly flour your countertop, and dump the dough out on to it. Working quickly, press the dough together into a lump, and then shape it into a square that’s about 3/4″ thick. Remember, the goal is to handle the dough as little as possible, so it doesn’t get overworked and it stays COLD!

5.) Cut the dough into 16 neat squares. (You can also cut traditional round biscuits out of the dough – I just find the rolling of scraps to be cumbersome, and the constant handling of those extra pieces can result in a tough biscuit. So, I go with squares.) Place the biscuits on to a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits have risen nicely, and are a light golden brown on top.

6.) While your biscuits bake, finish up your jam. Dependent on what kind of texture you want, you can do a few things: leave it as is (for a super-chunky jam); mash up the strawberries with a potato masher (for a finer, but still chunky, jam); or blend the jam with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender, for a much smoother jam). Let the jam cool completely.

7.) When your biscuits are done baking, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

8.) Time to assemble the sandwiches! Gently slices the biscuits in half, and then spread jam on both sides of the biscuit. Layer on a piece of prosciutto, a small bunch of arugula, and then the top half of the biscuit. Serve at room temperature.

These sandwiches really have a lot of flavor going on – but it all ends up working really nicely together. The biscuits are nice and savory from the gruyere, and a little spicy, from the pepper. The prosciutto is smoky and salty, and pepperiness of the arugula complements the biscuit, and the strawberry balsamic jam adds just enough sweetness to round it all out. They’re rich and delicious, but small enough not to be too filling and heavy.

A couple items of note:

1.) You’ll have lots of jam left over. Use it on EVERYTHING – your morning toast, a slice of toasted baguette slathered in goat cheese, drizzled into your yogurt, eaten directly off a spoon. It will last for several weeks in the fridge.

2.) If you’re making these sandwiches for a party, make the biscuits ahead and freeze them. Once the biscuits are cut, lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop the baking sheet into the freezer. After 3 or 4 hours, when the outsides are completely firm, toss them all into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them. Bake from frozen, but allow about 25 minutes for them to bake. (This is also a good idea if you just want to keep biscuits on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks – you can bake as many or as few at a time as you like.)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

If you’re still feeling apprehensive about attempting homemade biscuits, just DO IT. It takes a little practice and finesse, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be so glad you tried it. You can do it!

A world of buttery, flaky, deliciousness awaits you,
Tina