No. 21 & 22: Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Chickpea Smashed Salad

What is your all-time, favorite ingredient? I know it's tough, but ruthlessly prioritize.

For me, I think it has to be freshly ground pepper. My mom says this is proof of a direct genetic link to my grandmother.

For Mr. McCormick, it's a tortuous tie between cilantro and red pepper flakes.

In addition to the comfort food question, I took another quick, very un-scientific poll to see what my friends just have to have:

  • Olive oil
  • Onion (several votes)
  • Salt
  • Fresh garlic
  • Wondra flour for sauces and gravy
  • Herbs de provence
  • Lemon zest or juice
  • Smoked paprika
  • Butter

I get each of those. I love them all.

(One of the best ideas to come out of this poll was to sprinkle smoked paprika on popcorn. Genius!!)

Ground turkey

One ingredient we use a lot in our home is ground turkey. It's not very exciting, but I use it for a healthier version of meatloaf, burgers, tacos, all kinds of stuff.

The key to turkey is loads of seasoning. Without all the yummy fat that beef brings to the table, it can get dry and boring pretty fast.

Sesame Turkey Meatballs

This somewhat adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen adds the necessary flavor to keep turkey interesting. The smashed chickpeas as a side also helped keep things nice and healthy.


1 pound ground turkey
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup 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*
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Olive oil, to coat the pan

*I couldn't find Aleppo pepper (not that I hunted all that hard) so used regular black pepper instead.

To make

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl with a fork, breaking up the clumps of meat until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Wet your hands to keep the mixture from sticking and then form turkey mixture into 1 1/2 inch, or golf-ball-sized meatballs. Arrange them on a tray.


Cook meatballs. Heat a generous (you will need it) slick of oil in a large ovenproof saute pan with a lid. Brown the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan or nudge them before they are nicely browned. These meatballs are soft, so use a gentle hand. Transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined tray, and continue cooking in more batches until they are browned.

Discard the oil, and wipe all but a thin layer from the pan. Return all of the meatballs to the pan.

Meatballs in pan

Put the lid on and transfer pan to preheated oven. Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 160. (Ours took a full 15 minutes.)

Chickpea Smashed Salad


1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
Handful of pitted, halved and very thinly sliced green olives*
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac*
Chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

*Have I mentioned I am one of those crazy people who doesn't like olives? I've tried. A lot. It's not happening.

*Sumac is a wonderful spice, but not one I need to have on hand. I substituted black pepper. Aleppo pepper might also be a good sub.

To make

Mix everything but the olive oil and parsley in a bowl. Very lightly smash the chickpea mixture with the back of a fork or potato masher. You want a consistency close to a coarse chop, not too smooth.

Chopped peas

Dress the chickpea mixture with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley (amounts to your taste). Stir to combine.

Plated peas

Adjust seasoning as needed.

The Results

Deb is a genius.

Listen. Go home tonight and make this. Tonight. It was so good.


The interplay between warm, sesame/garlic meatballs and this fresh chickpea smash is wonderful.

What we loved best was the seasoning for the meatballs. We don't play much with sesame in our home, but those tasty little seeds plus corriander and cumin made for a killer flavor profile that I'll be repeating.

You could also make this smash and stir in some roasted chicken for a heartier dinner version.

So go home and make this. Seriously.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina