Did you hear about the conservative turkey?

It has two right wings.

Today’s recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s felafel-spiced turkey  meatballs and my interpretation of her chickpea salad.meant 3

I love felafel. I love (good) street food in general, but I really love felafel. There’s something about smashed, fried chickpeas with herbs and spices. I also really love the use of savory cinnamon. I think it might be a hold over from my Middle English cooking days–I should explain.

During my undergrad as an English Major, I took a fantastic class on Chaucer. It was in Middle English, which is remarkably close to modern English, but has a lot of French and German and weird spelling thrown in. As our last project, we had to cook a Middle English feast, using traditional recipes written in Middle English. The translation was the key, as was using the spicing and flavors of that time period.

We all got together with our currant breads, and our noddles and cheese, and our cinnamon spiced meats. I ate a bit of everything. It was so different. It had a very Middle Eastern/spice Route vibe. Most of my class stuck to the Middle English mac-n-cheese.

Fast-forward a few years and I am in New Zealand getting my Masters. I have to create a library database as a class project. It can focus on anything I choose, so long as it classifies and describes a group of something. I had stumbled upon my batch of Middle English recipes and decided to classify those–translations and all! It was great fun; and might have been what put me on the road to cooking (and blogging). Rediscovering a flavor and a technique that ignites a passion makes it all worth-while….despite the frustration. Luckily for me, that project combined two of my passions: cooking and the library field.

Now, back to the felafel! The one problem that I have with felafel (and street food in general) is the fried part of it. Well, I guess it’s more the unhealthy aspects of it. I like my food clean. I like not feeling like I’m going to die after I’m done eating.

So, I try to take the flavors of my favorite unhealthy foods and recreating them in a healthier manner. For this recipe, I baked the meatballs, instead of pan frying them off. I added more greenery to the plate, and I tweaked the salad a bit. I think it turned out rather well. The turkey meatballs are savory, with just a sweet hint of the cinnamon and a kick from the cayenne pepper. Pair it with the nuttiness of the chickpeas and the saltiness from the black olives and you have a winning combination. Yum!

Felafel-spiced Turkey Meatballs with Chickpea and Black Olive Salad
meat 5


For the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from 1 to 2 slices sandwich bread)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp table salt
1 large egg
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Method for the meatballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.
    meat 1
  3. Mix the ingredients together with your hands, breaking up the clumps of meat until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Don’t mix it too much, or the meat will get tough from over-handling.
  4. Form the turkey mixture into 1 1/2 inch, or golf-ball-sized, meatballs, and arrange them on a tray.
    meat 2
  5. Cook meatballs in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees F.

Chickpea and Black Olive Salad
1 can, or 15 ounces, cooked chickpeas
1/2 c chopped black olives, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
4-5 tbsp fresh parsley
black pepper to taste
Olive oil

Method for the Chickpea salad

  1. While the meatballs are cooking, mix all the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the olive oil.
  2. Very lightly smash the chickpea mixture with a fork until it is coarsely chopped. You aren’t looking for anything very smooth. It needs to retain the texture.
  3. Drizzle a little oil on top. Add pepper to taste.
  4. Once the meatballs are finished cooking, remove them from the oven and serve them on top of the chickpea salad. Add greens if you wish.
    meat 4

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