Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turkey Meatballs and Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries & Herbs: Giada's Meatballs Go Mediterranean / Middle Eastern

It's all about meatballs over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. I just wasn't feeling like the usual Italian inspired meatballs and pasta so I decided to take Giada's Mini Turkey Meatballs on a little Mediterranean / Middle Eastern trip, pairing them with her Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs. The juicy meatballs paired well with the sweet, slightly tangy salad and with a little of my own Quick Tahini Yogurt Sauce, it made for a light and tasty dinner.

You can find Giada's meatball recipe at the Food Network
here. I made several changes to the recipe, including cutting out the cheese as I am watching my dairy, using organic ground turkey breast and baking the meatballs instead of frying them. My changes are in red below.

Mini Turkey Meatballs
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 42 Mini Meatballs or 30 Medium Meatballs)

1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 5 medium cloves)
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (used whole wheat)
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (omitted)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano (omitted)
(added 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground dark turkey meat (I used organic ground turkey breast)
3 tablespoons olive oil
26 ounces tomato sauce (omitted)

Add the onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend. Mix in the turkey. Shape the turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a large plate or baking sheet.

Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off any excess oil. Add the marinara sauce, about 3 cups. Return all the meatballs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, 15 to 20 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

(Instead of frying, I made 30 medium meatballs and baked them at 425 degrees F. on a greased rack over a lined pan for 15 minutes, then turned oven to broil and broiled on high for about 5 minutes.)

Notes/Results: The meatballs turned out moist and tasty even with using the ground turkey breast instead of dark meat--the finely grated onion adds a lot of moisture. I added a little crushed red pepper flakes and extra garlic to the meatballs so they had plenty of flavor. I made them a bit bigger than Giada's and baked them--then broiled for a few minutes to brown them up a little. A good, basic meatball I would make again.

You can find the couscous salad recipe at the Food Network here.

Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 medium green apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook's Note (I used sliced almonds)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
(added 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar)

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Notes/Results: I really loved this salad--lots of great flavor and texture. I love the combination of the herbs, especially the rosemary, with the cranberries and tart green apple. I made it mostly to the recipe but I did add a little red wine vinegar to the dressing--I felt like it need just a little more of a tangy bite to it. Like most dressing recipes--this makes about double what you need for the salad. I will make this again.

Quick Tahini Yogurt Sauce
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Mix until smooth and blended well--two parts Greek non-fat yogurt with 1 part tahini (sesame seed paste). Season to taste with lemon juice, turmeric, salt and pepper. Serve with meatballs.

So that's my meatball adventure. You can see what meatball dishes the other IHCC participants came up with by going to the post
here and following the links.


Israeli Couscous is pasta so that means that these Turkey Meatballs & Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs is headed to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. Check out Ruth's round up on Friday for a bevy of delicious pasta dishes.



  1. I LOVE the changes that you made to these meatballs! I prefer middle eastern flavors to the traditional Italian (just don't tell my parents) and these would totally hit the spot!

  2. I love that you chose these turkey meatballs and took them in a whole new direction. I can see how they would pair perfectly with the couscous and I really like that you put them on the skewers. Meatballs on skewers is a very cute idea!

  3. You are so clever turning Giada's meatballs into a non Italian meal.

    The cous cous dish looks amazing!

  4. I'm so glad I blog-hopped early today. Bad weather has kept me home the last few days and I was trying to figure out a starch for this evening. DSO does not do couscous, but I have some orzo and some apples and dried cranberries and am going to riff off your recipe. The meatballs, by the way, look amazing as well.

  5. I will definitely be making that couscous!

  6. Lovely! You really made a wonderful meal out of the meatballs. Delicious!

  7. What a fantastic dish! So gorgeous and bright. Definitely takes my mind off the giant snow banks outside. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  8. What a lovely pairing of recipes. They both sound delicious. And, I like the idea of highlighting your changes in red.

  9. I love the couscous salad you made here. Savoury meals with fruits are right up my alley! :)

  10. I love everything about this meal - I'm especially loving the Israeli couscous salad and your tahini sauce - I think that's the perfect treatment for these little meatballs.
    Sue :-)


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