Turkey Meatball and Noodle Soup

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I love Asian-style meatballs. You know, the fish balls or meat balls you often find in noodle soups. They’re delicious. But if you’ve ever seen them at the market, the pre-packaged kind are also full of preservatives. In this soup, I made the meatballs from scratch, using grass-fed turkey and the results were better than the store-bought version. A chicken stock base and a drizzle of chili oil lends flavor to a hearty soup that’s perfect in January.

Turkey meatball and noodle soup

Ingredients:

4 shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped kimchi
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. In a bowl, soak the mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, thinly slice the mushrooms, and set aside.

2. Bring medium-sized pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

3. To prepare the meatballs, put the meat, cornstarch, sesame oil, and salt in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Scoop the meatball mixture out into a bowl. With wet hands, roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Arrange the meatballs on a plate.

4. To make the soup, in a medium pot, combine the broth and the vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the meatballs and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and kimchi and simmer for 2 minutes longer. Add the cooked noodles and cook, stirring, until the noodles are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with some green onions, cilantro, and chili oil.

Khmer-Style Rice Soup

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Adapted from a recipe in my weathered copy of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, this rice porridge is the perfect antidote to the winter blues. Similar to Singaporean congee or Cantonese jook, it’s got that same stick-to-your-ribs heartiness as any good rice soup should. The garnishes are endlessly adaptable — feel free to adjust to your liking.

Ingredients:

For the soup:

1/2 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 1/2 cups water
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and smashed flat with the side of a heavy blade
1 teaspoon anchovies in oil, drained and minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed flat
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed in cold water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic

For the garnishes:

1/4 cup fish sauce
1 Thai bird chile, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 small bunch Thai or American basil, coarsely torn
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Black pepper
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. In a medium bowl, combine the turkey with the fish sauce and sugar, mix well, and set aside.

2. Place the water in a large heavy pot over high heat, add the lemongrass, anchovies, and ginger, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the rice and stir until the water returns to a boil. Maintain a gentle boil until the rice is tender (adding more water if necessary to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot), about 20 minutes, then turn off the heat. Remove the lemongrass and ginger.

3. In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the turkey and stir-fry, using your cooking spoon to break up any large pieces. Cook, stirring frequently, until the turkey has cooked through, about 7 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the soup and stir in.

4. Make the garnishes: Combine the fish sauce and chile in a condiment bowl and set aside.

5. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 3-5 minutes. Remove the shallots to a small bowl and set aside.

6. Just before serving, reheat the soup. Ladle into individual serving bowls and top with the basil, green onions, some shallots, black pepper, peanuts, and drizzle with the fish sauce-chile mixture. Serve hot.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

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I swore to myself as I made these spaghetti and meatballs that I’d never attempt them again. I mean, this recipe is labor-intensive and time-consuming. But then I cut into a meatball and I slurped some of the noodles and sauce and you know what? These are the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever made, so uh, looks like this recipe is a keeper. And the leftovers last for days — if you can keep yourself from taking seconds. And thirds.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef, preferably 20% fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spaghetti

1. Make the tomato sauce: heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add basil sprigs and stir to wilt. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and their juices; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and flavors have concentrated, about 1 hour.

2. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the eggs, garlic, ricotta, prosciutto, parsley, and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Add fennel to bread mixture along with oregano, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Add beef and break up into small pieces. Mix gently with your hands until smooth and ingredients are evenly incorporated; be careful not to over-mix.

3. Lightly oil your hands. Working one at a time, scoop out 1/4 cup portions of meat mixture; roll gently between your hands into balls. Arrange on a baking sheet.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning and rolling occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add meatballs to warm sauce. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining meatballs.

5. Cook meatballs in sauce (they should be mostly submerged) at a gentle simmer, gently scraping bottom of pot and adding a splash of water if sauce begins to stick, until meatballs are cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes.

6. Transfer meatballs to a clean baking sheet; cover with foil to keep warm. Pluck out and discard basil from sauce. Use an immersion blender to break up any large pieces of tomato and smooth out sauce.

7. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Using tongs, transfer to pot with sauce. Stir, adding a little bit of pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Transfer spaghetti to a serving dish and top with meatballs and any reserved sauce. Sprinkle with more Parmesan and serve.

Kimchi-Fried Bulgur

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You know a food trend has arrived when you see frozen bags of it at Trader Joe’s (no disrespect to Trader Joe’s, purveyor of all things delicious, whimsical, and well-priced). So once I started seeing frozen kimchi fried rice in their aisles, I wondered how else I could riff on one of my favorite weeknight dishes. Enter alt grains.

Why not kimchi-fried bulgur? A little Middle Eastern-East Asian mashup, if you will. It’s just as easy as kimchi fried rice, but more filling, and pretty guilt-free. Put an egg on it and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.

Kimchi-fried bulgur

1/2 cup kimchi, plus 3 tablespoons juice from jar
4 green onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
Salt
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
3 cups cooked bulgur
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 sheet nori seaweed, shredded
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Chop kimchi; set aside. Cut green tops from green onions and thinly slice; set aside. Thinly slice white and pale green parts and set those aside too.

2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Crack eggs into pan; season with salt. Cook until whites are golden and crisp around edges and puffing up and set near yolks, about 4 minutes. Transfer eggs to a plate.

3. Return skillet with oil to medium-high heat, add carrot, and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add reserved white and pale green parts of green onions and kimchi and cook, stirring often, until scallions are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add grains, soy sauce, sesame oil, and reserved kimchi juices; cook, stirring, until grains are slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt; divide between 2 plates. Top with eggs, then nori, sesame seeds, and reserved scallion tops.

Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese

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This recipe shouldn’t make any sense, but it does. It’s Bolognese, but it’s vegetarian. Oh, and there’s miso. And a loooot of vegetables. But the resulting sauce is so umami-laden that you won’t miss the meat, I promise. (Even Nishan, who counts a traditional spaghetti Bolognese among his favorite foods of all time, couldn’t get enough of this.)

Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, I’ve played around with the vegetable proportions to my preference. Feel free to do the same.

Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small eggplant (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound cremini mushrooms, 1/4 sliced, the rest cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt
Pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
One 2-inch chunk of Parmesan cheese, plus grated cheese for serving
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1 thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. In a small bowl, cover the porcini with 1 cup of boiling water; soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Finely chop the porcini. Pour off and reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.

2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the eggplant and 2 tablespoons of the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Stir in the cremini, shiitake, chopped porcini and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and miso and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chunk of cheese, the tomatoes and their juices, the thyme, sugar and reserved mushroom soaking liquid and bring to a simmer.


3. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 1 hour. Discard the thyme sprig; season the sauce with salt and pepper. 


4. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

5. Add the pasta, pasta water, and parsley to the sauce; toss to coat. Serve topped with grated cheese.