Well, helllloooo, February! So far, you are just as confusing weather-wise as January was. Some days are sunny and 70 degrees, and then I find myself wrapped up in blankets, wearing my snuggly winter hat. It’s no wonder that the flu and various strains of colds have been going round and round. What this translates to in my cooking and menu planning for clients is a schizophrenic-looking collection of recipes. I’ve been vacillating between fresh salads with grilled proteins and hearty soups and healthful comfort foods like turkey meatloaf and veggie-bean-oat loaf with homemade ketchup. You know I am partial to the sunnier, warmer days. And, although it feels a bit strange to be grilling out in the middle of winter, I’ll take it over freezing my butt off any day of the week.
Today I share with you a delicious meal inspired by fresh, locally grown, winter ingredients: Grilled Turkey Kebabs with Farro Grain tossed with Roasted Rutabaga and Arugula and Winter Slaw.
Last time I wrote, I told you that I had picked up a couple of these rutabaga at the market.
They hung out in my fridge for about a week. Alright, maybe even a little longer. I’d never cooked a rutabaga before, and I wasn’t sure how they would work themselves into a meal. I assumed that rutabaga would act much like a turnip, since they are close relatives. I figured the flavor would be earthy and a bit bitter. So, I thought roasting them might bring out any sweetness hidden inside. I’ve been on a farro kick lately, tossing the ancient Italian, quick-cooking grain with the likes of mushrooms, chopped green beans, and feta cheese. Farro is high in protein and low in gluten, making it easier to digest than many other grains. Why not add rutabaga to the list of farro-friendly add-ins?
With our wheels turning, thinking about the possibility of a veggie-studded farro dish, we sought out further inspiration at the Saturday Decatur Farmers Market. I was once again amazed by the abundance of beautiful vegetables available.
the cutest baby cabbages,
mounds of green onions with purple ends,
parsley and other potted herbs,
and sweet potatoes.
In addition, these colorful eggs
came straight from the farm of Hidden Springs Honey. I’ve never seen blueish-green eggs like that before! So cool!
A plan started coming together. A Mediterranean grilled kofta dish! Kofta historically means any kind of meatball, composed of some type of protein, along with spices and vegetables. Back in the day, food processors did not even exist, so people would chop meat and veggies coarsely or use a mortar and pestle to combine ingredients. Kofta kebabs are found globally, with variations in flavor and components dependent upon region.
My tendency is to dabble often in the Mediterranean side of cuisine, so we decided to make our Kofta Kebabs with oregano, parsley, and lemon. Saddling these skewers up against the farro seemed a natural choice. What comes to mind next? Well, pitas and Tzatziki sauce are pretty much a necessity when talking about Greek meats. Rather than plopping a pile of Tzatziki on our plates, I concluded that a crisp winter slaw dressed with the garlicky yogurt sauce would be a marvelous way to tie it all together. And it was indeed.
Let’s get started!!!
You want the kebabs to be able to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes before hitting the grill, so I’ll begin with those.
**First, place 10 wooden skewers in water for about 15 minutes. By the time you’ve combined all of your ingredients, the skewers won’t catch fire while you cook!**
1 lb ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 medium red onion, minced (I should have cut mine smaller.)
juice of half a lemon
1/4 Cup of breadcrumbs- homemade are best!
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 t ground coriander
small handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 – 3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves chopped
Combine the ingredients above in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper as if you were seasoning both sides of 4 turkey burgers. And then add an extra pinch. Turkey needs a lot of seasoning, plus you’ve got other components in there too! Use your hands to combine the ingredients well without over-mixing.
At this point, you can heat a little bit of canola oil in a small pan and fry up a bit of your turkey kofta mixture, so you can taste it and assess the seasoning level. That way, you have the opportunity to adjust salt, pepper, coriander, etc. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to! You can just go for it!
Then, grab a hefty meatball-sized wad of your meat mixture. Roll it back and forth in your hands to elongate the wad into the traditional kofta shape. You want to slide the skewer into the meat and form it around the skewer, covering the tip of the skewer with the top of the turkey. Alternately, you can go straight to molding the meat around the skewer, rather than making the oval shape first. Cover your pan with foil and place the kebabs in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Take them out about 15 minutes before you’re ready to put them on the grill.
For the Tzatziki sauce:
1 Cup (or a 6oz container) plain Greek yogurt, 2% works great
1 rounded T mayonnaise
1 cucumber or half of an English cucumber, peeled: ½ diced small, ½ shredded
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 – 3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves minced (or a pinch of dried oregano)
small handful of fresh parsley, leaves minced
2 T feta cheese, crumbled
juice of ½ a lemon
a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine all of the above ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste it and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Try not to eat it all before dinner. You have Winter Slaw to make!
For the slaw:
1 fennel bulb, core removed. Slice bulb into thin strips. Save a stalk of the green fennel fronds to add to slaw.
2 medium carrots, shredded on a box grater or cut into thin strips
1 head cute purple baby cabbage or half a head of any kind of cabbage you have on hand, sliced into thin ribbons
1 spring onion, sliced
splash of vinegar
Look how pretty!!!!!!
Next, add a few Tablespoons of the Tzatziki sauce- about 1/4 Cup AND a splash of vinegar to dress the veggies. I did not add vinegar, thinking the lemon juice would be enough, but I really felt like it needed a bit more kick. Stir to coat the ingredients in the ‘Ziki sauce. You can add more Tzatziki sauce a little at a time to be sure all is well-coated, but don’t overdress it, my friends. No one likes a sloppy slaw. Bear in mind that the vegetables will release some of their liquids as they sit. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Don’t eat the rest of the ‘Ziki sauce yet. You will be tempted. I was. I may have downed a spoonful or two. It’s just so scrumptious!!!!!!!
Now, strategy-wise, we’ve got the farro and the grilling of the meat left to execute. So, I recommend firing up the grill and enacting steps one, two, and three of the farro process. That means cooking the farro, roasting the rutabaga, and toasting the pine nuts. All are very simple. Once you complete those steps, you can grill the turkey kebabs. While the meat is resting, you will easily be able to complete the farro dish. For organization’s sake, I will take you through the whole farro dish first and then discuss the grilling of meat.
Onto the farro!
1 Cup farro grain. You want to be sure it is hulled, otherwise it needs to be soaked overnight. I’ve only seen the hulled type at the market. It looks like barley.
1 sizable rutabaga, peeled and diced into half inch-ish cubes
Preheat your oven to 400°. Toss rutabaga cubes in olive oil and salt and pepper. Then, lay the cubes out on a sheet pan and roast for about 8 – 10 minutes on the first side. Use a spatula to turn the rutabaga and continue roasting another 4 – 6 minutes. Toss it again and test it with a fork. Roast until it is browned in some spots and just fork tender.
Remove the rutabaga to a bowl.
On the stove top:
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 Cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan over medium low heat until golden brown
small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
zest of a lemon
several handfuls fresh arugula or baby arugula leaves
To cook the farro, first rinse it under cold water. Then, in a large pot, combine farro, 1 t salt, and ample water. It will be really bubbly while it cooks, so make sure you have plenty of room at the top of your pot above the water line. Bring the water and farro to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes, until the farro is just tender, about the same texture as al dente pasta. Then drain your water. Put the farro into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and stir.
In a medium-sized pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add your shallot and saute for about 2 minutes.
Then, add your garlic,
and cook one more minute.
Toss to combine the rutabaga with the farro and aromatics.
Add parsley, pine nuts, and lemon zest.
Season with salt and pepper and toss. Taste and be amazed. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Yum!!!!
To grill your kebabs, you will want to heat the grill to medium and oil it quite well (and very carefully as it heats) with canola oil. Make a yourself a little ramekin of oil to take out to the grilling station with you, along with a brush. Before the kebabs hit the grill, brush one side liberally with canola oil and sprinkle the outside with a little extra salt and pepper. Place the oiled side of the kebabs onto the grill and allow them to get kissed by the wonderful char- about 3 – 4 minutes. While they cook on that side, you can brush the second side with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Flip your kebabs and let them cook another 3- 4 minutes over the direct heat. Then, you can slide them over to a cooler part of the grill and let them finish cooking through. The turkey is finished when it reaches 165° on an internal meat thermometer in its thickest part. Test each kofta for safe cooking temperatures.
Allow your kebabs to rest for at least 5 – 7 minutes after they come off the grill. You can tent them loosely with foil to keep them warm.
Oh- almost forgot about the pitas! We used whole wheat pitas and just brushed them lightly with olive oil before grilling them briefly on each side to heat them through.
Time to plate!
Scoop some of the farro onto your plate and nestle your kebabs right on top. Then, add a little slaw and a couple of pita halves. Take a step back and marvel at the colors, shapes, and textures. Then, dig on in!!!!!!!!!!! Well, after you grab the remaining Tzatziki sauce and set that on the table. You know- for added bonus dunking.
Y’all this meal was yummy. The turkey kebabs were so flavorful! Herbaceous, savory, juicy, and charred on the outside to perfection. The coriander in there was bright and citrusy, causing the meat to mingle quite well with all the other players. And to my pleasant surprise, the kofta stayed together without any trouble. Running the oregano, parsley, garlic, and lemon through each component of the dish made for one united front of Greek-ness, if you will. The slaw was fresh and exciting, providing a lovely crunch factor to the meal. A crunch factor that was coated in some of the best stuff on earth- Ziki!!!!!!!!! And guess what I found out? I LOVE rutabaga!!!!!!!!!!! Its taste was a combination of buttery, sweet, and earthy. I couldn’t get enough. That butteriness was echoed by the pine nuts, and their nuttiness was mirrored by the farro. The arugula was the completing piece, cutting through all of that wonder with just the right amount of peppery sass. I ate that farro concoction over the next 2 days like it was my job. While enjoying this dinner, I occasionally used my pita as a vehicle to deliver all of the parts into my mouth at one time. And it was a straight Mediterranean themed party- like when you’re in a Greek restaurant and pretty ladies dance on the tables and throw a billion napkins in the air. Yup. It was fun!!!!!!!!!!!
Get out there and wrap your arms around some beautiful winter produce this week. It is most inviting, colorful, and tasty. Try this whole meal together, or just make one of the side dishes. That farro was rockin’. You can mix in any veggies you like. Or, make your own kofta out of lamb or beef. Yum! Go Middle Eastern with it. Roast your kebabs in the oven if it’s too cold to grill. Do what excites you! Mostly, I hope that you will have fun in the kitchen and utilize those ingredients that are at the height of their freshness.
I’d love to know which way you decide to spin this meal. Let me know what you discover!
Happy cooking and eating to you,