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.

Turkey Larb

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You know about my trifecta for a perfect recipe, right? If its (a) delicious, (b) healthy, and (c), easy to make, then it enters the gilded hall of Recipes To Be Cherished Forever Because The Nom Factor Is V High. This turkey larb makes the cut, especially since I’m trying to eat less grains these days. Hot, sour, salty, and a tiny bit sweet, you can larb anything, but this is poultry version is classic and never gets old.

turkey larb

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried chiles, roasted and ground to the texture of red chili flakes
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallots
1 thinly sliced green onion
15-20 mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rice, toasted and finely ground in a spice grinder
Butter lettuce, sliced cucumber, and sticky rice, to serve

1. Put the turkey in a medium saucepan and cover with water, stirring over medium heat until the turkey is opaque but still soft. Use a spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. Drain off the water, then stir in the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Once the turkey has cooled, add the seasonings and mix thoroughly: the chile powder, red onion, green onions, mint, cilantro, and lime juice. Once you’re ready to serve, add the rice powder at the last moment, then mix again. Serve with butter lettuce, sliced cucumber, and sticky rice on the side.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

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Crispy, salty, and savory, these Vietnamese-style spring rolls are fried to perfection and make a delicious appetizer. I’ve adapted these from the traditional version: I use ground turkey instead of pork, and I shallow-fry instead of deep-fry. And you know what? Even though they’re labor-intensive, I prefer them to the restaurant version.

Make sure to make enough nuoc cham dipping sauce to go with these spring rolls: the bright, tart sauce cuts through the spring rolls perfectly.

Vietnamese spring rolls

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 ounce bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained, and cut into 1-inch lengths with scissors (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce
40 round rice papers
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons rice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai bird chile, minced

1. Combine 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 cup fish sauce, lime juice, water, vinegar, sugar, and chile in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

2. Place the turkey in a mixing bowl and add the shallots, remaining garlic, carrot, bean thread noodles, black pepper, and remaining fish sauce and mix well. Set aside.

3. Set out two large plates. Fill a wide bowl or basin with 2 inches of warm water. Wet 1 paper until softened, then place on one of the plates. Place 2 tablespoons filling in a line about 5 inches long across the wrapper, leaving a 3/4-inch border at either end of the line. Fold the edge nearest you over the filling, fold over the sides of the rice paper, and roll up tightly. Place on the other plate, cover with a damp cloth, and repeat with the remaining papers and filling.

4. When ready to fry, set out another large plate lined with paper towels. Place a stable wok or heavy skillet over medium high heat and add oil to a depth of about 1 inch and heat until hot. Add the rolls one at a time to the pan, being careful not to splash yourself with oil, without crowding, and make sure the rolls aren’t touching. After you add the rolls to the oil, they’ll bubble and the rice paper will change texture. Use a spatula or heat-proof tongs to gently turn the rolls so they cook evenly. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden all over, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining rolls.

5. Cut each cooked spring roll in half on the diagonal and arrange on a platter alongside the nuoc cham dipping sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.

Lao-style Turkey Lettuce Cups

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I’m trying to eat grain-free as much as possible these days, and while I haven’t completely cut out grains, I have reduced them by about 75%. I feel good about that: I’m eating more greens and more sources of lean protein.

I’m always trying to come up with creative and delicious ways to put together a grain-free meal, and these turkey lettuce cups are one of my favorites. They’re not traditional, though: I’ve replaced pork with turkey and omitted some of the toppings (*cough* cilanto, my nemesis *cough*).

These are kind of like larb, but without the toasted rice powder and herbs. (But don’t fret, there is always a time and place for larb.) The best part? You probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Thai-style turkey lettuce cups

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced
1 head butter or bibb lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated

1. Place a sieve over a bowl and press the dissolved tamarind through the sieve; discard the pulp. Set the tamarind juice aside.

2. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Stir-fry until golden, then add the turkey and stir-fry until it has all changed color and is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, the tamarind juice, the fish sauce, and salt and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and peanuts and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and let cool.

3. To serve, put a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, then scoop up a tablespoon of filling and place it on the leaf. Fold the leaf over to make a bundle, or leave it open, and place on a platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.