When schedules are tight, and you want a hearty dinner with little preparation, a pasta dinner with turkey meat sauce is the answer. I can’t tell you how many times I relied on this meal over the years. When my kids lived at home, pasta with turkey meat sauce was a regular, if not weekly dinner. Fortunately, they never tired of this very dependable and affordable meal.
Pasta served with a simple meat sauce made with ground turkey and canned tomatoes are the basis for this recipe. We use ground turkey a lot for burgers, meatloaf, or a meat sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love a juicy beef cheeseburger and believe Bolognese sauce is food for the Gods, yet the boys preferred ground turkey. Luckily, when it comes to making a meat sauce, their preference for ground turkey was easy to satisfy. Unlike ground beef, ground turkey is the perfect choice when you want a quick meat sauce. Turkey does not require several hours of cooking to break down and develop rich flavor like beef does. In fact, because turkey is so lean, the longer it cooks the tougher it gets.
Originally, my intention for making this sauce was to create a meal that was easy to make, and my kids would eat. With little toddlers running around I often did not have time to chop a lot of vegetables. A substantial meal with little prep was the ideal dinner. Aside from the amount of time the turkey meat sauce needs to cook, the most difficult part is preparing the garlic. As for the rest of the meal, ground turkey quickly browns then cooks in a sauce of chopped up canned tomatoes, grated carrots, and the minced garlic. The time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta provides a window of 30 – 40 minutes. This gives the meat sauce plenty of time to cook. The result is a meat sauce with bright flavor, and my attention could easily move between making dinner and my children’s needs.
As the boys grew up and if time allowed, I added other vegetables or seasoning. It is a great sauce to use up any loose vegetables hiding in the refrigerator. Anything goes be it, red pepper flakes, pancetta, fresh herbs, winter squash, mushrooms, or other vegetables. You name it, this hearty sauce develops into whatever your inspiration desires. However, keep in mind, adding more ingredients changes your quick dinner into one requiring extra preparation and cooking time.
For a vegetarian/vegan pasta sauce: Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar
What I really like about this meal, is it so adaptable. I find it difficult to call this a recipe, instead, it is a foundation for endless possibilities. It is a simple family dinner that can easily be made with whatever ingredients are in your pantry or refrigerator. There is no need to measure, use what you have and adjust to your tastes. If you only have one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, it will still taste great. If you don’t have fresh herbs there is no need to run to the store, used dried herbs. What is important is putting a nutritious homemade dinner on the table and enjoying time spent with your family and friends.
Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce
- 1 lb (453 g) ground turkey
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic green germ removed and minced
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1 medium or 2 small carrots about 2.5 oz / 75 g grated on a box grater
- 1- 1½ tsp Kosher salt divided
- 1 28 oz (800 g) can of whole tomatoes in purée rough chopped
- 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1½ tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 lb box spaghetti or other favorite pasta
- 1 TB balsamic vinegar
- small handful of fresh basil leaves
- small handful of fresh parsley
Fill a stock pot 2/3 up with water and place on a burner over high heat.
Place another large saucepan or 5qt Dutch oven over a burner set to medium-high heat. Pour in 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the ground turkey to the pot and break it up. Let the ground turkey cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes. Once the turkey meat starts to brown break up any large chunks and stir. Cook the ground turkey until the meat is no longer pink and the juices collected on the bottom of the pot have evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the grated carrots, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, if using, and ½ tsp Kosher salt. Stir and cook for about for a couple of minutes.
Add both cans of tomatoes with their juices, dried oregano, and dried basil to the ground turkey and stir. Bring the sauce to a brisk boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and stir. Taste and correct for seasoning with more Kosher salt if needed. If you are using no-salt canned tomatoes, you may need the full 1½ tsp of kosher salt to the sauce. Don't add more sugar until it has simmered for several minutes. You should not need extra sugar, but sometimes a pinch is required. The sugar helps sweeten the sauce and balance the flavor.
Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
When the sauce is done simmering, and just before serving, turn off the heat and add the chopped fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar to the sauce. Stir to mix.
Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add about 1 TB of Kosher salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta following the instructions on the back of the pasta box. Ideally, time the pasta to finish cooking just after the sauce is finished cooking.
Drain the pasta from the water and add a little olive oil and stir. Plate the pasta with sauce and serve with grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
The middle of the summer is here and the farmers markets are overflowing with a variety of fruit and vegetables. At last zucchini and corn are announcing their presence. Don’t let these “common” and affordable vegetables fool you, both offer a wide choice of preparations and pair beautifully together. Raw zucchini and corn tastes so fresh, you will think you are sitting outside in a vegetable patch with a fresh summer breeze.
Up until last summer, the local corn was not impressive. Unfortunately, the corn I bought at the grocery store was bland, getting sweet fresh corn was the exception not the rule. Even corn bought at a farm stand was just ok. Fortunately, last summer with a new season, the corn was outstanding. Every market I went sold delicious sweet and crisp corn. As a result, I discovered eating corn uncooked, just scraped off the cob. Fresh corn just scraped off the cob, is corn at its sweetest and crunchiest. Raw fresh corn became my not so secret, secret ingredient that changed a salad from being “good” to extraordinary. Raw corn is the essence of summer – simple, carefree and bright.
These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.
My recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe of Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio from her book, Salads as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season. The paper-thin sliced zucchini paired with avocado, pistachios and a lemon dressing was elegant and inspirational. Now, I do not see this as a salad entrée. I would be prowling in the pantry for munchies a couple of hours after dinner if it were. So, I adapted this salad to serve as a vegetable side dish and added corn.
To prepare the zucchini I used a Spiralizer and cut the zucchini noodles into smaller pieces. This made the salad easier to mix and eat. If you do not have a Spiralizer you can julienne the zucchini, or slice across the zucchini as thin as possible then, cut each slice in half or quarters. The point is to have the zucchini in extra thin pieces to reinforce zucchini delicate flavor. No big chunks in this salad.
Fresh herbs are another key ingredient in the salad and lemon thyme is a stand out feature. If you do not have lemon thyme, substitute basil or other fresh herb that pairs well with lemon. But use fresh herbs, dried herbs will not do the salad justice.
Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio
- 1 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Zest from half a lemon
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tea sea salt
- 2 medium fresh zucchinis
- 1 ear of fresh corn husked
- 1/2 ripe avocado chopped
- 1/4 cup pistachio nuts ruff chopped
- 1 TB fresh lemon thyme minced
For the Salad Dressing
In a small jar with a lib, or small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest and sea salt until just combined. Add the olive oil and vigorously shake the jar with the lid tightly screwed on, or whisk with a fork in a bowl, until the salad dressing is well incorporated. Set aside.
Zucchini and Corn Salad
Clean and trim the ends of each zucchini. Use a Spiralizer to spiral cut the zucchini into noodles, or very thinly slice the zucchini across the zucchini then cut each piece in half or julienne the zucchini. If using the Spiralizer, cut the zucchini noodles into smaller lengths. Put the prepared zucchini into a medium mixing bowl.
Hold the ear of the corn at the pointed end and rest the stem end on a cutting board. (Cut the stem off so you can have a stable surface to rest the corn on.) Take a sharp chef knife and starting at the top of the corn cut down the length of the corn, scraping the knife against the cob, to cut off the corn kernels. Rotate the corn around and continue to cut the corn kernels off the entire ear of corn. Put the corn kernels in the bowl with the zucchini.
Add the chopped avocado and chopped pistachios to the bowl and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Add the fresh herbs and salad dressing and mix to combine. If not planning to serving the salad right away, do not add the avocado and pistachios. Add these ingredients just before serving. Serve at room temperature.
If you do not have lemon thyme you can add basil or thyme. Any fresh herb that pairs well with lemon will work.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
“Why don’t we have this more often?” Taylor asked me one night. He did not waste any time to express himself as he was asking the question before he finished chewing on his first bite. He was referring to flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy sauce marinade. I did not really have an answer for him, and I had to reflect on the question myself. Why not? I used to make it every time I cooked flank steak. This marinade adds a lot of flavor to flank steak and is also great to marinate skirt steak and pork tenderloin.
This sherry marinade brings back a strong food memory for my family as well. Years ago we were visiting friends in Wellfleet, MA for the weekend and for a food contribution I brought skirt steak marinating in the sherry marinade. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control the skirt steak was left marinating in this sherry marinade for over 48 hours, (something that I do not recommend because it could turn your meat mushy.) We desperately grilled the steak at the last hours of our vacation and made sandwiches to bring to the beach.
I can see that afternoon so clearly: sitting on the beach at the National Seashore in Wellfleet, relaxing and soaking in the sun, wishing we did not have to leave, watching my kids and our friends body surfing the waves, taking one last dive to feel the crisp ocean waters. There is something about this place fills my soul and completely relaxes me.
The sandwiches were simply prepared with grilled steak on hamburger buns and devoured instantly. We could have had 1oo sandwiches and it would not have been enough. The skirt steak was tender not mushy, (phew) and the sandwiches had a lingering well-rounded sweet, salty and meaty taste that completely satisfied and made you crave more.
Maybe it was the fresh seaside air and the cool ocean water that contributed to our collective memory, but the flavor of the grilled skirt steak sandwiches defined umami. Taylor posed a good question to me: something so good needs to be served on a regular basis, with or without the National Seashore in Wellfleet as an excuse.
Grilled sherry marinated flank steak will hit your umami sense as well, and like Taylor you will begin to crave this steak for a regular meal. If you are lucky to have leftovers the grilled steak can be used in salad, sandwiches, tacos, fajitas, or in a stir-fry. For me, I look forward to the leftover steak sandwiches more than the flank steak dinner. It is a quick and easy dinner, and with a bit of advanced preparation can easily fit into a weeknight dinner menu. If you do not own a grill, flank steak can be prepared on the stove in a grill pan or under the broiler. Cooking times will vary due to how hot your grill, pan or broiler are, so watch the steak because it does not take long to cook.
I came across the recipe for this marinade watching BBQ with Bobby Flay on Food Network possibly 12 years ago. It caught my attention because I was on the prowl for ways to jazz up pork tenderloin. The original recipe from the episode that I watched is, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Guava Glaze and Orange Habanero Mojo. However, the current recipe on the website no longer has the marinade part of the recipe. My own age and kids age do not make me feel old, but searching for an old recipe on Food Network does. It has been around for so long they do not even have it in their archives. I know it was there. I wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper and have kept it in my files ever since.
Tips for cooking steak:
Eliminate the cooking time by taking the meat out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking. This will bring the meat up to room temperature and will need less time on the heat.
Use recipes as a guideline for cooking time. There are too many variables that will affect how long it will take to cook your specific piece of meat using your specific equipment.
Dry the meat before putting on the pan or grill. The drier the exterior the better the meat will sear or brown.
Cook meats on the grill in two phases using direct and indirect heat. First cook the steak on direct heat to get a good sear on the outside. After a couple of minutes per side, move the steak to a place on your grill that is not directly over the coals, or flame, to finish cooking the interior of the steak using indirect heat.
Do not over cook the steak. It is best served on the rare to medium rare side. Internal temperature for meat that is rare is 125-130 degrees F, medium rare range is 130-140 degrees F. Steak cooked to 150 degrees F or higher, will be well done and dry.
Let the steak rest for 5 to 15 minutes after cooking and before carving and eating. The moisture in the steak will circulate through the meat and keep the steak moist.
Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
- 1- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
- 1 recipe Sherry Marinade
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup low salt soy sauce or low salt Tamari Sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry Fino
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 Tbls unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 TB fresh orange juice
- 1 TB fresh rosemary
- 1 TB minced shallots
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
Combine all liquid ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly until mixed together.
Mince the rosemary then add to the bowl, save the stems. Add the minced ginger to the liquid ingredients in bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together.
Prepare the Flank Steak
Place the flank steak in a gallon size zip-lock bag, or small Pyrex dish large enough for the steak to lay flat.
Pour the marinade into the bag or pan and add the reserved rosemary stems. Seal the bag, carefully getting out as much air as reasonable, and place bag with the steak in a rimmed tray or pan large enough for the flank steak to lie flat. If not using a plastic bag, cover your dish with plastic wrap. Put the marinating meat in the refrigerator.
Marinate the flank steak for at least 2-3 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the steak over from time to time so the whole piece gets marinated evenly.
Take the steak out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking time. You want the meat to come up to room temperature, which will require less cooking time.
Take the flank steak out of the marinade and place it on a rack fitted inside a baking sheet. Dry the flank steak with paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of the steak, less than a teaspoon in total.
Prepare your grill for high heat.
Rub both sides of the flank steak lightly with olive oil and rest the streak on the rack until the grill is hot.
When your grill is hot set the flank steak on the grill directly over the coals, or heart source for gas grill. Cook he flank steak for 3 minutes on one side then turn it over and cook on the other side for two to three minutes. Check internal temperature, you want the middle of the flank steak to read 125° to 130°F (52° - 54°C) for medium rare. If the steak is not ready, move the flank steak over to the side of the grill, away from the coals, and continue to cook with indirect heat until internal temperature reads 130°F (54°C). Hopefully a just a couple minutes more.
Take the flank steak off the grill and rest on a cutting board. Grind fresh pepper to taste on the steak and let the steak rest, loosely covered, for 10-15 minutes.
Slice the flank steak across the grain of the meat in thin slices.
Serve with your favorite sides, like buttered green beans with basil, sliced tomatoes, grilled corn, caramelized onions.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.