Return to: Recipe List

In This Issue

Recipe List for Zucchini

A delicious twist on basic spaghetti:  Baking it with spinach, sausage and cheese melds the flavors deliciously and creates a one-dish meal that’s almost as good as lasagna—without all the work.  Use a smaller or larger amount of meat, as desired, or omit completely for a vegetarian version.

Turkey Meatballs with Cilantro Salsa

Because of its low fat content, breast meat turkey burger can cook up dry and tough.  Zucchini is the secret ingredient in this recipe that keeps the meatballs moist and flavorful.  A light sauteing removes excess moisture before it is added to the meatballs.  While this dish is nice enough for guests (mini-meatballs would make a nice appetizer), see the TimeSaver instructions for a fast weekday meal.    



1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, diced to ¼”

2 cups shredded zucchini (or patty pan or yellow squash)

2 tsp. prepared or fresh minced garlic

Saute Onion, Zucchini and Garlic  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until fairly hot (i.e., a piece of onion will sizzle when dropped in.)  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Shred zucchini and stir in.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5-7 minutes, until onion and zucchini are lightly browned.  Stir in garlic and cook just another 1-2 minutes.    

1 egg

1  lb. turkey burger (white or dark meat or a combination)

½ cup whole grain breadcrumbs or quick oatmeal

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Make and Cook the Meatballs  While vegetables saute, beat egg lightly in a medium-sized bowl, then add turkey, breadcrumbs or oatmeal and salt and pepper.  Using your hands, “knead” everything together.  When done, stir in cooked onion-zucchini mixture with a large spoon to avoid burning your hands, making sure to combine everything thoroughly.

Rinse saute pan quickly, just enough to remove any remaining vegetable bits.  Return to medium heat and allow water to evaporate, then add second tablespoon of oil and heat until turkey will sizzle lightly when added.        

As soon as meatball mixture has cooled enough to handle, form into 2” balls with your hands, packing them together tightly.  (Note that mixture may be slightly soupy as compared to a beef meatball mixture.)  Place each meatball carefully into warmed oil.  Cook a couple minutes per side, turning repeatedly until meatballs are browned on most sides, about 6-8 minutes total.  Remove to a serving dish as soon as they are cooked through and serve with Cilantro Salsa.  

1 lrg. clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 Tbsp. diced hot canned chilies or 1 Tbsp. minced fresh poblano chile

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large bunch cilantro, largest stems removed (small to medium ones are fine), enough to make about 2-3 cups, loosely packed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.   

Make the Cilantro Salsa  In a small metal or glass bowl, combine minced garlic, lime juice, chilies and olive oil.  Wash and spin cilantro dry, chop finely and stir into lime juice mixture.  Add salt and pepper and  stir to combine thoroughly.  Taste and add more salt, pepper, lime juice and/or chilies, to taste.     

Makes:  12, 2” meatballs, 4-6 servings


For a fast weeknight meal, this dish can be made “skillet dish-style.”  In other words, don’t bother making, forming and cooking meatballs and a separate salsa.  Simply add the turkey burger to the sauteed onions and zucchini, then cook and stir, breaking it into small bits.  When it is almost done, add the egg, breadcrumbs, chilies and salt and pepper and “scramble” everything together.  Remove from heat and top with chopped cilantro and fresh lime.  Essentially the same flavor, but a lot less work!

Making Salsa:  Machine or Hand?

The salsa can also be made in a food processor.  Just place everything in the processor, in the order given, and pulse a few times until chopped but not completely smooth.  I used to do this all the time–and still do if I’m in a hurry.  However, I have noticed that a processed salsa can be harsher tasting.  Maybe the madly whirring blades bruise delicate cilantro and garlic.  I have no scientific data on this, just experience and anecdotal evidence from other cooks.  I’ve also noticed that in restaurants, the better salsas are often made by hand.  If you have the time, if might be worth experimenting.    

The Mini-Patty Option

I have trouble keeping my meatballs intact while browning them evenly on all sides.  Seems a few always fall apart.  That’s why I’ve taken to making mini-patties instead of meatballs.  They’re much easier to work with.  If you still prefer the sweet look of round meatballs, try cooking them in two batches or two pans, which allows plenty of room to turn each one without damaging any others.  

Ingredient Notes

1.  Squash  This recipe can make good use of squash that was forgotten and is now the size of a baseball bat.  Just slice open and remove the seeds and pulp from the middle, then grate the outside only.

2.  Breadcrumbs and Oatmeal    See Mary’s Pantry for information on whole grain breadcrumbs (including how to make your own), and what is “quick” oatmeal as called for in this recipe.  [[LINK]]

3.  Cilantro  It’s important that the cilantro not be waterlogged when you chop and add it to the salsa; it will dilute the flavor.  Three options:  1) Think ahead and wash the cilantro the day before, then place in a clean bag, loosely closed, in the frig.  It will be dry by the next day.  2) Wash and dry the cilantro in a salad or herb spinner.  3)  Wash the cilantro, stuff gently into a mesh bag (e.g., the kind that lemons and limes come in), then go outside and whip it around–it works amazing well!  See the blog for pictures of this wondrous, makeshift invention.    

Helpful Hints:

To see if meatballs are done, use a dinner fork to gently pry one open.  Check the center part to make sure it has turned white and is no longer pink.  

If meatballs are browned on the outside but not cooked through, add a couple tablespoons of water or broth, cover pan, turn heat to low and continue cooking, just until done.  

Keep a close eye on turkey meatballs to avoid overcooking, as they are especially prone to become dry and tough.  

© 2009 Culinary Concepts, Inc., Boulder CO

Next Page

Prev Page