Turkey Meatball Hoagie with Homemade Red Sauce

For us, summer has been packed with family outings, traveling to see friends, and entertaining guests here in Austin.  That means we’ve been partying like animals and eating like pigs (the tastiest animal).  So it’s time to get back on track and start eating healthy again, which means lean meats and whole grains. If you are doing the same, or just like to always eat healthy, try out this recipe that tastes delicious but doesn’t leave you feeling like a whale at the beach.

Ground Turkey Meatballs 

  • 1.25 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prep your area first by getting out a sheet of parchment paper and an oven safe dish or walled cookie sheet. Grease will pour off into your oven if you use a flat cookie sheet! In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the olive oil and mozzarella. Pack the mixture into golf ball sized balls, or about the size of your middle finger touching your thumb, and set them on the parchment paper. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate while you make the sauce. If using canned sauce go straight to cooking. Put the olive oil in a skillet and bring it to high heat to get a good sear. Put three meatballs in the pan, rolling over after about 45 seconds. Remove and put directly into oven dish.

Once all the meatballs are seared and in the dish, move it into the oven and bake it for 18 minutes. Keep the oven on. Prepare a wheat hoagie roll with meatballs cut in half (so they don’t roll), sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Place it in the oven open-faced for 1 minute then take it out and enjoy! Sprinkle oregano on top for even more flavor.
Homemade Red Sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 32oz crushed tomato can
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In a saucepan, cook down the onion and garlic until soft, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients into the saucepan and let it simmer very low for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, remove the bay leaf and put about half of the mixture into a food processor. Blend until smooth and put in a new bowl. Repeat with 2nd half of mixture.

Slow-cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a big fan of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Guy Fieri might be the biggest douche bag on TV, in close competition with the Jersey Shore cast. He just bothers me, with his frosted tips and abundance of “bling”.  Plus what kind of chef doesn’t eat eggs? Either way, I like the show because it goes around the country finding the lesser known but equally awesome little restaurants that don’t get the notoriety as a celebrity chefs restaurant. On more then one occasion I’ve seen a diner cooking up cabbage wraps in classic European fashion, and I kept telling myself I need to try making them. Well this past weekend I got around to it, and let me say, they were delicious.

A flavorful combination of meat, cabbage, and sauce that works together perfectly and is super easy to make, especially with a slow cooker. The meat is spiced and mixed with rice, the cabbage soft but crunchy (somehow?), and a sauce that is worthy of making by itself.

Ingredients: 

  • 12 cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (no less than 90/10)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons worcestershire

I removed the cabbage leaves from the raw head of cabbage but later read a good tip to core it out and steam the leaves. After a point the raw cabbage gets impossible to peel off so I would suggest doing the steam method, but removing raw worked too. In any event, you need to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to soften the leaves. Drop them in for 2 minutes then remove, strain, and set aside. At the same time, cook your rice making at least 1 cup cooked rice.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice, egg, milk, onion, garlic, ground beef and salt and pepper. The reason the beef needs to be so lean is that its wrapped raw, so a fatty mix will make for a very greasy roll.

Next, set out the cabbage leaves and scoop about 1/3 of a cup of meat mixture into the lower center of the leaf. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the meat, tuck in the sides, then finish rolling over to seal the meat inside. It looks like a mini green burrito.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you roll all the meat and leaves together, load them into the bottom of your slow cooker and start the sauce. Mix the tomato sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and worcestershire together and whisk quickly. Pour it over top of the rolls so they are completely covered. Set the slow cooker to 250° and let them cook for 8 hours and enjoy!

 

Food Truck Review: Kebabalicious

I’ve fallen in love with many a food truck here in Austin.  But my favorite so far has to be Kebabalicious.  They serve Turkish-style wraps and operate out of two trucks permanently stationed (for the most part) downtown — one at Congress and 2nd (for lunch during business hours), the other at Trinity and 7th (for the late-night drunk crowd).  Fortunately, I fall under both categories and I’ve tried both locations.  The product and service is exceptional and consistent at both.

Kebabalicious is family-owned, locally sourced, and run with real passion.  The wraps are made for you on the spot and truly have thought put into them.  Each bite contains a bit of every ingredient.

I almost always order the same thing — the king-sized (12″) beef/lamb kebab.  I go for the regular size (8″) when I’m lunching, but at night after a few beers, even when Kyle responsibly orders the regular size (and the lady serving us mistakenly assumes the larger one is for him), I need as much Kebabalicious as I can get.  If I can’t finish it that night, into the fridge it goes until I open my eyes the next morning and crawl to the fridge to finish it at 10 AM.  Not even kidding, it is THAT addicting.

The sandwich is wrapped in a perfect, squishy pita bread.  It’s just thick enough to hold its contents without overtaking you with breadiness.  It doesn’t crack when it bends, it’s warm, soft, and supple.  The beef/lamb shawarma appears/tastes to be mixed with falafel or some type of grain.  It’s formed into nuggets that are likely heated through on a griddle — amazingly seasoned, savory, and well-textured succulent meat, no icky bits.  Each nugget is slightly charred and crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Tons of flavor and enjoyable on their own, they melt in your mouth.

Next are the veggies…lettuce, locally grown tomato, red onion, and fresh parsley.  Unlike other shawarma wraps I’ve had, the veggies are consistently fresh and perfect every time.  No haphazardly chopped pieces, no off-tasting onion, just light, crunchy, ripened bites that perfectly complement the heaviness of the bread and meat.

They make these wraps mild, medium, or spicy (adjusted by how much crushed red pepper they shake on).  Spicy is best — nowhere near unbearable or even overpowering, just another note to cut the richness.  I also have them add feta to mine.  Not necessary but a perfect extra indulgence.  Amazing.

Last, but not at all least: the sauces.  The wraps come with two sauces on them, both of which are incredible and balance each other out perfectly.  One is a tzatziki (strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon, dill, often other spices), both creamy and herby, but not too tangy.  Each component of the wrap is seasoned very well and this sauce is no exception.  The coolness of the sauce also brings the heat level down a notch.

And finally, the spicy red sauce.  I would pay serious, serious dough to get just a glimpse of this recipe.  It’s also creamy but slightly heavier than the tzatziki, coral red in color, and appears to be almost a spicy or red pepper aioli.  Phenomenal and adds the perfect amount of richness and a tad of garlicky flavor.

I remember Bobby Flay saying on TV once that the most common problem he notices in sandwiches is that they aren’t sauced enough and are therefore too dry on the mouth.  The Kebabalicious sauces solve that problem all too well and provide the perfect vehicle to marry all of the ingredients together into one phenomenal experience.

The combination of these perfectly orchestrated ingredients create a heavenly, constantly crave-able meal.  I really can’t say enough about how much I would recommend this to anyone who ever has the opportunity to try it.  I also do not ever want to know how many calories are in one of these things.

Another thing to note is that I love how Kebabalicious brings to the masses what could be intimidating to some in such a great way.  What better way to try out a cuisine that isn’t as familiar to Americans as Italian or Chinese than something this incredible?

Other options for the wraps are chicken shawarma, falafel, and the “spoiled brat” (chicken, beef, lamb, falafel, and hummus!) and run at about $7 for a regular, $9 for a king size.  The chicken and falafel are exceptional, though I can’t speak for the spoiled brat as I haven’t graduated to that level (yet).

Finally, and this I can’t stress enough: if you have the good fortune to try Kebabalicious, try the loaded french fries. Words simply don’t exist to describe them.  The fries alone are hot, fresh out of the fryer, perfectly crispy, and would be amazing all by themselves.  But, they’re taken to the next level with tons of parsley, spicy red sauce, and feta.  Tasting these fries for the first time was the biggest food-high I’ve had in a long time.

In closing, thanks for reading and please share your Kebabalicious-related experiences here.  Kebabalicious has about 200 reviews and has earned itself an average of 4.5 stars on Yelp.  That’s very impressive, but my rating is a solid 5 out of 5.

Read more here: http://www.austinkebab.com/.

Saucy Chicken Broccoli Stir-Fry

Greasy Chinese (or any Asian cuisine) takeout is one of my all-time favorite treats. I love all of the dishes in the same order that they’re bad for me, the worst ones, of course, being my favorite. General Tso’s chicken, sesame beef and broccoli, curries, Peking ravioli, hot and sour soup, crab rangoon (though I’ve only maybe once eaten one of these with actual crab in it), any kind of crispy (read: ‘fried’) spring roll or dumpling…YUM! Other than the oil, salt, and sugar many dishes are laden with, the spice factor is one of my favorite parts — it adds the perfect extra dimension to the heaviness of these favorites. Mexican cuisine is my favorite go-to, something I’m always in the mood for. My relationship with Asian cuisine is slightly different, in that I’m not constantly craving it, but when I do, watch out — I’ve GOT to have it.

Most members of my family are passionate about food and cooking, and my Aunt Susie is no exception — this is a very slight twist on her incredible stir-fry recipe. The first time I tried it, I was instantly hooked. It’s seriously perfect — you get that same satisfaction of take out — all of the hot, sweet, sour, savory flavors, but you can control everything that goes in and therefore tailor it to your exact taste. The sauce is the key to this recipe and really, every ingredient in it can be increased or decreased, or eliminated all together (or add more components!). I’ve posted the measurements that I use, but go nuts…it’s simple and everything in the dish can be interchanged.

My favorite combo of meat and veggie for this stir-fry is broccoli and chicken. Auntie’s is asparagus and chicken. Kyle suggested I throw in carrots and snow peas along with the broccoli, and it was excellent. Go in any direction here — onions, peppers, bamboo shoots — you really can get creative.

Yikes. Raw chicken is never pretty, but once it

Begin with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. One large breast is plenty to feed two hungry people. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Throw the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix around so all pieces are coated and let this sit while you prep the other ingredients.

The chicken pieces with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. The sesame oil will also help the chicken pieces from sticking to each other when thrown into the hot pan.

Now, cut up your veggies of choice. Again, bite-sized pieces are ideal. Along with the veggies you’ll also want to finely chop a big clove of garlic and a good chunk of fresh ginger (in size equal to the clove of garlic or bigger). For garnish later, slice a few scallions, and if you’re into spice, a Serrano pepper or two.

For the sauce, I add all of the ingredients to a Mason jar and just shake it up. So easy! Throw in the garlic and ginger you just chopped, chicken stock, soy sauce, black bean/garlic sauce (easy to find in any grocery store in the international foods aisle), sesame oil, brown sugar, a splash of water, and cornstarch (this is the magic ingredient that will turn the cloudy, runny mixture into a thick, shiny, glaze-like sauce — reminiscent of, but better than, what you’ll find in takeout Chinese dishes). There’s one final ingredient, but it’s not as accessible as the others. In fact, Aunt Susie sends this to me all the way from San Francisco, along with a few other sauces I became addicted to while living there. One of many great Chinese food restaurants in SF, called Henry’s Hunan, bottles their own chili flakes and fermented black beans in a spicy oil. It’s absolutely to die for. I have to ration mine at home because it’s such a commodity. I’ll bet you could find something similar — if not, fine to skip it, or just add some red chili flakes (the same kind you’d put on your pizza). Screw the top on and shake away. Done!

Some of the sauce ingredients. I used water & bouillon paste in place of chicken stock. The jar on the left is the Hunan sauce -- mmmm.

I’m told the key to stir-frying properly is to cook everything quickly over a very high heat. Kyle and I have been looking for a good wok but haven’t found one yet (at least not in our price range). This is the ideal way to cook a stir-fry, as all of the heat is concentrated to the bottom of the pan. Until I own a wok, I’ll use a cast iron skillet for its excellent even-heating properties. It also gives the ingredients a nice color.

Get your pan super-hot and add some vegetable oil. Once this has heated up, throw in your chicken pieces. You want to make sure the chicken browns slightly, and there are a few tricks to this. First, the pan should be very, very hot. Second, make sure your chicken is in a single layer in the pan. If you have more than that, cook it in two batches, otherwise, it could steam before it sautés. My Dad is so good about this rule that he actually cooks each serving of stir-fry separately. I have the best memories of waiting for it to be my turn when Dad would cook this during my childhood years. His is a Schezuan-style stir-fry and absolutely amazing — I’ll have to share that recipe sometime, too.

Once you get the chicken in the pan, let it go a few minutes to really get some golden-brown color. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir it around to expose the raw sides of each piece to the pan. I’d say in total you’ll want to cook it for about 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Once it’s done, dump it into a bowl and add a little more vegetable oil to your pan.

Cooked chicken

Throw your veggies in and repeat the process — give them a minute or two to get some color and then stir. After 2 minutes or so, throw the chicken back into the pan and stir everything together. Now comes the fun part.

Push all of the chicken and veggies to one side of the pan (leaving a good amount of open pan surface), or, if using a wok, take the veggies out and leave them aside with the chicken, so that you’re left with an empty wok. Grab your Mason jar and be sure to shake again, vigorously — the cornstarch likes to stick to the bottom. Once you’re confident everything is thoroughly mixed, pour your sauce mixture into the pan (still on high heat).

Sauce, all shook up!

Right before your eyes, the liquid will begin to bubble and become dark and glossy. Mix as it bubbles with a wooden spoon to keep it moving and to avoid super hot patches that could burn the sugar. Once all of the sauce has pulled together (about a minute) push the veggies and chicken into it and stir to coat everything (if using wok, dump all ingredients back in and stir to combine). Let everything reheat through and combine for a good minute or so.

Sauce poured into pan. On the upper right, you can see how the sauce changes completely as it comes to temperature.

Serve immediately over rice or noodles. Although I prefer noodles over rice in general, rice is ideal here for soaking up all of the delicious sauce. Either way works though.

Finished stir-fry, piping hot!

Garnish with the scallions and Serranos, and, the perfect final touch…roasted peanuts or cashews! I promise you won’t miss the restaurant version…this has it ALL. The first time I made it, I knew I’d have to spend a bit more money than usual on groceries, since I didn’t already have a few of the ingredients. But trust me, it is a worth-while investment…this is a great weeknight go-to and an excellent base recipe to experiment with different meats and veggies. Someday I’d like to try deep-frying dark meat chicken before coating it in sauce (à la General Tso)…but for now I’ll stick to this; a truly mouth-watering, healthier, and more flavorful alternative to the deliciousness that is Chinese takeout. All that’s missing is the white cardboard box…and a few empty calories. 😉

Ingredients list (for 2 hungry-sized servings):

Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of black bean/garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of Henry’s Hunan crushed chili sauce (or 1 tsp. dried red chili flake)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Splash of water
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced finely
  • 1 sq.-inch piece of ginger, minced finely

Stir-fry:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Sprinkle of soy sauce
  • Sprinkle of sesame oil
  • 2 cups broccoli (if frozen, let it thaw)
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into coins, or julienned
  • 1 handful snow peas
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 Serrano pepper, sliced thinly
  • Handful of roasted peanuts or cashews
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

Leftover snack for Kyle 🙂

I’d love to hear more winning meat/veggie combos, so please do share! Hope you guys love this, and thank you a million times to my talented Auntie for this recipe and for bringing a little bit of San Francisco into my kitchen via sauce and stir-fry! I love her.