Spicy Greek Feta Meatballs
January 25, 2012 by epicureanbliss
Lately, I’ve been on this kick of disguising healthy meals and wholesome ingredients inside dinners that appear to be anything but slimming. This was largely brought on by my desire to get back to a healthier lifestyle in 2012, after a full, wonderful, unforgettable year of indulgence via culinary school cuisine, and the fact that I’m often cooking for two, one of whom needs ample carbs, protein, and fat to feel mildly satisfied after a meal.
Trying to find ways to create dinners that provide me with a balanced, low-cal, low-fat meal while making sure my boyfriend finds dinner as satisfying and delicious as he would were he enjoying something he chose himself has definitely been a challenge. Usually when I make a lighter style meal, he sees right through my facade and clearly identifies said meal as “healthy.” And though he still finds the meals delicious (usually), I can’t help but think he feels sort of jipped by being forced to eat way more vegetables than he’d ever do normally.
After last night’s win, however, I’m starting to feel more confident that not only is this challenge doable, but I am really going to enjoy it!
It all started yesterday morning, when I was making my lunch and looked up to notice a postcard that had been stuck on my fridge for several months. It was a card I’d g0tten while dining at the Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side, and upon it was listed the recipe for the shop’s spicy pork meatballs. Immediately, I filed away the idea for dinner that night.
Later that evening, thought, I was unsuccessfully hunting for the requisite ground pork and jarred hot cherry peppers at our local grocer, and neither could be found. In a game time decision, I grabbed a pack of ground turkey and some raw hot cherry peppers instead. Fearing the blandness that often accompanies ground turkey, some crumbled feta cheese and frozen spinach were added to the mix, and the Spicy Greek Meatballs were born.
Despite the addition of the cheese, hot peppers and plenty of spices, I was still a little wary of how good these meatballs would turn out as I placed them in the oven. I’m a both big proponent of adding lean ground turkey to just about everything – pasta, rice, veggies – to up the protein quotient, but there’s no denying that this lean meat can wind up dry and crumbly more often than not. By opting for the 93% lean turkey instead of the 98% lean, and using an egg to bind the meat, these meatballs turned out moist, savory and delicious – not a trace of dryness here! And the inclusion of tangy feta, spicy cherry peppers, garlic and tons of spices give them a depth of flavor and a slight kick at the end that leaves you dying for the next bite.
Halfway through devouring these meatballs, which I served atop a bed of linguini in a thick tomato-herb sauce, I glanced at Adam, who was plowing through his plate, and casually mentioned, “You know, these are actually quite healthy. Only 100 calories per ball!”
He stared at me, then back at the meatballs, and then at me again. After a moment, he said, “Really? Are you sure? Only 100 per ball? These definitely don’t taste healthy.” And he proceeded to clean his plate.
That, my friends, I consider a win!
Spicy Greek Feta Meatballs – Serves 4
- 4 hot cherry peppers, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 package of ground turkey (about 21 ounces, 93% lean)
- 1 egg
- 1/8 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup feta
- 1/2 package frozen spinach (about 1 3/4 cups) defrosted and squeezed dry
- 1 teaspoon ground salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp dried dill
- 1/8 tsp dried basil
- 1/8 tsp dried parsley
- Preheat the oven to 450º F. Place a cast iron skillet or roasting pan in the oven to preheat
- Coat a small or medium sauté pan with non-stick cooking spray, and heat over a very low flame. Add the minced hot cherry peppers and garlic and sweat, keeping heat very low, for about 5 minutes or until peppers are soft.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly until the spices, feta and spinach are well distributed throughout the ground turkey. Form into ten to twelve equally sized meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
- Remove your preheated pan from the oven, coat with non-stick cooking spray, and immediately add meatballs, arranging closely together. This will allow the meatballs to get a golden-brown crust on the bottom. Put meatballs in the oven, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165º F and meatballs are done.
- Serve over pasta with a fresh, light tomato sauce, or on a crispy hero roll for a Greek meatball sub. For a healthier spin, serve alongside a light Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red wine vinegar and dill.
Nutrition Facts (2 meatballs per serving, when recipe makes 11): approximately 204 calories, 10 grams of fat, .5 grams of fiber, 24 grams of protein.