Caprese Quinoa and Turkey Meatballs
In an effort to use up some of the “long-term” carbs I’ve accumulated — quinoa, brown rice, cous-cous, whole-grain pasta, etc. — before I move out, I’ve put my beloved paninis and various eggs on toast on hiatus for the last few weeks and challenged myself to base my lunch off of non-bread carbs. This caprese quinoa was the result of the tantalizing smell of basil at Trader Joe’s and some early summer tomatoes at the farmer’s market.
The first time I made it, I did a cooked version in which I sauteed the mixture in garlic and mixed the feta in to melt. It was sensational. But the warmer weather made me crave something more refreshing and closer in taste to actual caprese, so I made it again cold, which was also sensational, and somewhat zingier. I didn’t have mozzarella and didn’t want to get any, but there’s always feta in my fridge, so I went with that instead. Dare to be different.
The turkey meatballs were kind of accidental; I was at my parents’ house the day before I made this and found ground turkey in the freezer, which at this point I just assume is intended for me. Whether it is or not, I took it. The universe wanted me to get my extra protein in the form of meatballs (insert dirty joke here). I’ve never actually made meatballs, so I just kind of made it up as I went along, nor did I measure anything into it, but that’s cool, we’re laid-back here. We’ll work through it. Improvisation is fun. With the exception of surgery, electrical wiring, and sometimes haircuts.
A few notes about the quinoa: first, a little bit goes a long way. 1/4 cup dry will turn into at least 1 cup after it’s cooked, so be prepared to adjust the package directions based on how much you need. Second, people (namely, my family) often complain that quinoa itself is bland; to impart some more flavor, I like to cook it in low-sodium chicken broth instead of water.
1 cup quinoa, cooked
a few handfuls of basil, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
If making the cooked version (seen in the last photo): at least 4 cloves garlic, chopped, and a splash of olive oil
For the raw caprese, just combine everything in a bowl and toss well; season with salt and pepper.
For the cooked version, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and sautee until fragrant and starting to brown; add tomatoes and the basil, reserving just a few leaves, and reduce heat to a simmer.
Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes have softened somewhat, then add the quinoa and the rest of the basil. Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring it around every so often so that the flavors combine. A minute or two before you take it off the heat, stir in some crumbled feta.
Improvised Turkey Meatballs
1 package ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 coves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp garlic salt
1-2 tsp red chili flakes
Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Toss everything into a large bowl and combine with a spatula. Adjust the spices according to your taste; these measurements are just estimations, but I recommend going heavier with them since ground turkey isn’t particularly flavorful on its own and you’ll probably need more than you think.
Form the mixture into balls, about the size of golf balls. Spray a skillet with cooking oil and allow it to heat over medium-high; then place some of the meatballs in a single layer in the pan and brown them on all sides. This is isn’t absolutely essential if you’re pressed for time, but it brings out a lot more flavor than just baking them, and it adds a nice texture on the outside.
Place meatballs on an oiled baking sheet, spaced about 1 in. apart, and bake at least 20 minutes, turning occasionally.