Turkey Spinach Meatballs with Tahini and Chimichurri

I’ve been preparing for this year’s Passover for months now. Ever since I realized that Passover would be Bernie’s first major holiday, I’ve had so many things going through my mind. This is our first holiday as a little family! It’s going to be the best thing ever! I’m going to cry so much!!!!!! Literally I can’t even imagine explaining the bitter herbs to Bernie without tearing up. And carrying her around while searching for the afikoman?? I’m weeping. The food, I realized, would have to be delicious and memorable but mostly prep-aheadable. In my freezer I have balls of Passover chocolate chip cookie dough and a white matzo lasagna (recipes coming soon for both of these), as well as chicken stock that will hopefully see some matzo balls. My mom is planning to be here for Passover so I’m hoping that between the two of us and Eggboy, we’ll be able to both snuggle Bernie all day long and roll a matzo ball. And braise a brisket. Even though braises do really well in the freezer, I didn’t get around to braising one before she arrived. (Oh, this is what Mom guilt is!)

I did however make a bunch of these meatballs that I love for multiple reasons: 

-The flavor is incredible, they taste sausage-y, thanks to a sprinkling of fennel seeds and a heavy hand with the herbs.

-There’s spinach hiding in them! Even though they’re warm and comforting, they’re on the more nutritious end of the spectrum when it comes to freezer foods.

-They’re great as a Passover dish or a non-Passover dish. They’re not like those foods that only really taste good on the sixth day of Passover when you have Passover goggles on.

-Eggboy is obsessed with meatballs. He is meatball boy.

-They freeze and reheat really easily. I store them in a ziploc bag, so they can smoosh in anywhere in the freezer, and then you can reheat them just by tossing them into red sauce or sticking them in the oven. 

Here I’ve plated them up with some creamy tahini sauce (garlicky yogurt sauce is also nice) and a super bright and springy chimichurri. It’s a fun way to eat them for a pasta-less week or if you’re just looking for a filling side for an otherwise vegetable-centric meal. When it’s not Passover I’m definitely piling these high on top of pappardelle. 

Turkey and Spinach Meatballs with Tahini and Chimichurri

Makes 22-24 meatballs



2 tb olive oil, plus more for cooking meatballs

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

8 oz fresh spinach, chopped

1 large egg

1/2 c (30g) matzo meal (or panko breadcrumbs)

Black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 lb ground turkey (93% lean)

Tahini Sauce

1/4 c tahini

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tb water

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 c (100g) olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 425ºf.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large oven-safe skillet. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and fennel and cook for another minute and then add the spinach in batches, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the egg, breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon salt, a few turns of black pepper, the onion powder, cayenne, thyme, oregano, paprika, parsley, turkey, and the slightly cooled spinach mixture and use your hands to mix to combine.

Wipe out the skillet that was used to heat the spinach and then heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium high heat. Form the turkey mixture into golfball-sized balls and brown them on all sides, in 2 or 3 batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate. Once all of the meatballs are browned, return them to the skillet and stick the skillet in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until they’re cooked through and have an internal temperature of 160ºf. To make the tahini sauce, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and water until smooth and pourable. If it’s too thick, add a bit more water, if it’s runny, add more tahini. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the chimichurri, combine all ingredients in a food processor, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and blend until smooth. If you don’t want to use a food processor, you can also chop the herbs and garlic finely by hand and mix with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

To serve, spread a large dollop of tahini sauce on a plate or shallow bowl, top with meatballs and drizzle on the chimichurri to taste. Enjoy!

To freeze: cooked meatballs can be cooled and stored in a ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, place on a sheet pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350º for about 15-20 minutes, or until heated through. Prepared chimichurri can be frozen as well. Defrost at room temp or heat briefly in the microwave. I wouldn’t recommend freezing tahini sauce, but it’s super easy to whip up!

morning meatballs

anything + egg + cheese makes it a breakfast food, right?
i've recently found myself spending large numbers of hours with a human who has a very, how shall we say, nightmare of a schedule when it comes to meal times. it includes very long shifts and overnight shifts...bloody shifts... it oft leaves me in the dark when planning meals. is it breakfast if he wakes up at 6pm to start his work day? would he like a beer with that 7am bagel? i normally require breakfast food to break the eating seal, even if i wake up in the afternoon. but i'm not so sure this human is the same, he seems to just eat whatever i put in front of him. so yesterday and today i prepared meatballs, one was a dinner way, one was a breakfast way. they were both my dinner. they were both his breakfast. they were inspired by a recent little trip to the meatball shop.
 left: the lazy girl's guide to chopping canned tomatoes.
turkey meatballs + red sauce
{for the meatballs}
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
a heaping 1/2 cup of ricotta
1 large egg
a heaping 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
{for the sauce}
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tsp oregano
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbs tomato paste
1 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes + their liquid
1/2 tsp white sugar
a few pinches of cinnamon
{for breakfast}
angel hair pasta
a healthy plop of ricotta 
a sunny side up egg
salt + pepper + olive oil to taste
{for dinner}
focaccia or slider rolls 
a salad
{meatball clues}
preheat oven to 450, coat a pan with the olive oil, set the pan aside. combine the rest of the ingredients. make 1 1/2 inch balls and line them up snuggly on the pan. bake for 20 minutes. make the sauce while they're baking.
{sauce clues}
in a large pot over medium high heat, cook the olive oil + onion + oregano + garlic + salt + black pepper + crushed red pepper until the onion becomes soft, about 10 minutes.
add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
add the tomatoes + sugar + cinnamon and stir until the sauce boils. reduce to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally. once the meatballs are done roasting, add them to the sauce and keep them over the heat until you're ready to serve them. 
ad lib toppings or ways to eat them. slider-izing them with focaccia is yummy. or, stir some ricotta and olive oil into a bowl of hot angel hair, top with the balls and an egg, and you've got a really filling excuse for a 6pm breakfast. 


three things i learned yesterday:
1. always trust a genghis barbie
2. greenpoint is in fact not a very long schlep from my hood
3. why don't all vodka shots come with currant syrup and tabasco sauce?
karczma is the type of place where people talk about their deaths,
you know, like, i feel like i could die right now... but that would be ok. one of those places, a last meal earth option, if you will. which is ironic because while you're there, you eat a lot of dead... soooo muuuchhhhh deaddddd. i couldn't even count all the types. but my favorite was definitely the hunter's bacon! it was thicker and meatier and not as smokey as your typical breakfast type. my other favorites were non-meat: the potato pancakes {ohjazz, they were crisptacular and candy-like with the apple sauce.} and the pickle soup {which is fitting for my new obsession with pickles. i'll trade you a pickle for a nickel.} and the aforementioned vodka shot {sweet, boozy, and then literally the best burn ever-- squats ain't got nuthin on it.} 
you'd think one would complete a meal here and want to roll around on the floor and not get up for a week. on the contrary, i woke up and ran the fastest mile of my life. perhaps it was because i was with a veteran of the place who kept telling everyone to pace themselves. it was like, meat coaching. it was great. so great.
worth the trip to that far off land.

week 51: cafe sabarsky

the last new york restaurant in restaurant challenge
there are three reasons the answer to can you play this gig? will be a definite yes:
1. the venue is in an unexplored part of town 
{creating opportunities to discover new restaurants} 
2. the performance is narrated by isaac mizrahi
3. it involves 3D glasses 
ok there are other reasons that actually have to do with music and stuff, but the point is this past week i played a gig that included two of the above...
[and i was absolutely kidding about the 3D glasses.]

for two entire weekends, i was chained to the guggenheim,
playing show after show of {my favorite!} peter and the woof.
and i thought i was out of luck when yelp search nearby said
 starbucks, le pain quotidien, starbucks, the wright...
 until on page four it finally said my dreams come true in the form of
[3 blocks away]
...and so began my residency
on the first day there was what a little austrian girl eats after a long day when it's cold and she could use some comfort:
baked bowties, ham, and emmentaler
weisswurst with a pretzel and mustard
it was the best kind of hot dogs with mac and cheese.
and it is a fact that, if there's one underrated wiener in this country, it's weisswurst. 
that s*** is hella good.
on the second day,
there was 
spätzle with peas, carrots, and mushrooms 
bratwurst with riesling sauerkraut
and a high brow version of what the people in my family like to call
hot dog cheese* {käsekrainer... bratwurst stuffed with cheddar}
*one of the most embarrassing snacks i ate as a wee one was a hot dog cut up and topped with little squares of american cheese and then microwaved and served with ketchup. 
it was as embarrassing as its terribly unfortunate name.
the käsekrainer was really delicious and snappy!! and oozy. 
and the spätzle was amazing, once i picked out all of the mushrooms. i know, i know. 
spätzle is another thing this world needs more of. i mean, it is little premature dumplings!
for dessert,
chocolate marzipan cake with organgey things and house made whipped cream
your girl cannot resist some marzipan.
it is like if a clydesdale were a dessert, you know? 
all smart and stately. 
and austria is cool because it doesn't mess with all them fruity sorbets or popsicles. 
they are all about the cakes and the marzipans and the strudels.
and you should have seen this dessert menu. 
on the third day,
i took the newspaper as my date and had a 
liverwurst open-faced sandwich 
which i had a little issue with because the menu didn't specify that my sandwich would be 
open-faced, but i instantly didn't care because 
it was some thick and salty {i lurve salty} liverwurst spread. 
by far the best part about this meal was afterwards when i ran into my little korean friend on the street who asked me what i ate for lunch and, in my best broken korean, i tried to explain what liverwurst is to her, until i realized that i really don't know korean and decided to just point to my liver and then i didn't know which side my liver was on. 
so i think she thinks i ate a pancreas sandwich for lunch...
the other best part about my last visit was that i got an apple strudel on the house.
maybe it's because i went there like twelve times in a week,
but part of me also thinks it's because i was there alone and it was an all male wait staff and i did my hairs real good that day.
regardless, the apple strudel was the perfect christmas time dessert!
and so here marks the last new york restaurant in restaurant challenge. 
it was christmas-y and festive and delicious. 
wiener-filled, and marzipan inclusive. 
i'm into it. you should be too.

now, get ready for the 1 remaining restaurant.



cafe sabarsky is on east 86th and 5th, inside of the neue galerie. if there's a really long wait, the more casual cafe fledermaus {downstairs} has the same menu.