Smitten Kitchen's Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs + Smashed Chickpea Salad

Every home cook needs a few meatball recipes in their arsenal. While I love traditional turkey meatballs with red sauce, Smitten Kitchen's mediterranean version has taken over the top spot. These nuggets of turkey are combined with sesame seed and spices to recreate one of my favorite vegetarian treats - falafel. 

Before we dig into the recipe today, I have to say that I admire anyone who can keep their meatballs round during browning. Mine typically turn into funky little three/four sided patties of meat. They still taste great so I don't let it distress me too much. One day I will crack that nut though.

On to the recipe!

Sesame-spiced Turkey Meatballs - Smitten Kitchen 

Serves: 4

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (455 grams) ground turkey
  • 2/3 cup (40 grams) fresh breadcrumbs (from 1-2 slices sandwich bread)
    • Panko is a fine substitute!
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
    • I used Paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, or 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) sesame seeds, toasted

Form Meatballs

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine all of the meatballs ingredients into a bowl with a fork. Form into 1 1/2-inch (about the size of a golf ball) and arrange them on a plate. 

Cook Meatballs

I use my Le Creuset cast iron deep sauté pan for this meal since it can be used on the stove top and then popped into the oven for finishing. If you don't have a cast iron pan, don't fret. Just cook them on the stove top and transfer them to a baking sheet to finish in the oven.

2. Heat a generous amount of oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat. My cast iron pan tends to get really hot in the middle which can lead to some burning if I'm not careful. I was too impatient this time to brown the meatballs in batches as Deb recommends. 

3. When meatballs are lightly browned on all sides, turn off the heat and transfer the sauté pan to the oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature meets 160 to 165 degrees.

Smashed chickpea salad with lemon and sumac - Smitten Kitchen

Serves: 4 (about 2 cups)

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 (440 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Handful pitted, halved, and very thinly sliced green olives 
    • * I use about 1/2 cup and roughly chop them
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac, plus more for garnish
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
    • * I love garlic so I used 2 small cloves
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • Olive oil

1. Mix everything but the oil in a small to mid-sized bowl. Very lightly smash the chickpea mixture with the back of a fork or potato masher - this ends up looking more like a course chop than puree. I tend to leave mine pretty chunky.

2. Dress the chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning to taste - our taste buds love a bit more cayenne and lemon.

To serve:

Scoop a portion of the smashed chickpea salad onto your plate and top with the sesame-spiced turkey meatballs.  I like to squeeze a little extra lemon juice on top before I gobble it up. Serve it up as is, wrap it in a pita or lavash roll.