Vegan with a Side of Meatballs

This is my first post in “please pass the pigeon“… my recipe section of this blog. It is not the first because of a lack of recipes made, a lack of time, or a lack of requisite pictures of the final product. It’s the first because, well, writing posts about recipes is boring. When I look a recipe up online, I skip all the irrelevant chatter that precedes the actual RECIPE, don’t you? Oh. You’ve already skipped this section, haven’t you? Well, then.

I look a recipe up because either (a) I’m hungry or (b) I’m planning for future hunger. Either way, I want a recipe — not a kitschy story about the foods involved and/or the cook’s personal experience while cooking the dish. It’s a fine line between dry, personality-less lists of ingredients and fully-saturated narratives about our dear friend – the Chicken…. what his name is, where he came from, who his parents were, if he had a good life prior to this dish (to paraphrase Portlandia) and then, for some unknown reason, oftentimes those same details about the cook, as well. I get it though. It’s a hybridized desire to blog and to share a darn good recipe. To celebrate an amazing meal with people beyond your kitchen table and to edge in some extra pizazz and perspective.

Another hurdle I’m trying to cross in the ‘blog about food dilemma’ is the pictures. When I cook, let’s be honest, I make a MESS. And… everything takes way longer than expected. It’s a mere feat unto itself that my dishes arrive on the table. I don’t think I’m an abnormally messy or slow cook. I just think that’s how it goes. And, if I stopped to take pictures along the way, we’d never get to eating! I am envious (and suspicious) of blog posts where the writer is making a pie (for example) and there are Pinterest-worthy pictures every step of the way. I gaze in wonderment as I trace the writer’s daughter (6 years old, blonde curly hair, wearing a homemade apron, barefoot in the family garden) as she fills a wicker basket with fresh blackberries — AKA “Step One” … and then scroll down to a sunlit wooden table with a porcelain canister on it that says “FLOUR”, set at an angle to a well-worn tin measuring cup — AKA “Step Two” … and then, a few steps later, watch the little girl (with a delicate smudge of flour on her cheek) rolling out the crust, looking up at the camera (as if to say, “Look, dear Readers, it’s just THAT easy!”).

Somewhere between steps 2 and “it’s just THAT easy” I find myself covered in flour as I shout into the other room to my sister and Fitz, “Should the crust be falling apart in my hands as I lift it into the pie tin?”

Where – in that Hallmark-esque scenario – do I stop and take a picture? With what clean finger do I press the button? And do I have one kitchen surface for staged shots and one for the actual cooking? Here in Manhattan, I am lucky to have a 2.5 foot by 10 inch counter to call my kitchen surface. And the lighting leaves a lot to be desired…

I do have to say I’m getting better at taking pictures of the final product. That took a few rounds of “Mmmmm…. that was so good! I should post that on my blog!” <look around, look around> … “Oh wait, we already ate it all!” With all that being said, I’ll reward those of you still paying attention with a recipe and a nicely plated final product picture.

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs in Cauliflower Sauce

Feeds: 5-6 …. with lots of sauce left over for another dish (or half the sauce recipe).

Unappetizing (but yummy) Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs in Cauliflower Sauce [Manhattan, NY]. By Emme.

Unappetizing (but yummy) Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs in Cauliflower Sauce [Manhattan, NY]. By Emme.

Cauliflower Sauce

I found the base for this sauce recipe here and then elaborated.

4 c chicken/vegetable broth (no sodium)

1 1/2 heads cauliflower

1 1/2 c celery with leaves

4-6 cloves garlic

pinch salt, ground pepper

1 t nutmeg

1 t olive oil

Chop cauliflower into manageable pieces. Finely chop the celery with leaves (for extra flavor). Bring cauliflower and broth to a boil in a large pot. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until very tender. During the last 8 or so minutes, add celery. While the vegetables are simmering, mince the garlic. Saute over low heat for about 4 minutes. I sauteed the garlic in butter to give the sauce just a hint of richness. For a completely vegan sauce, use olive oil. Add sauteed garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the pot and stir. Transfer the mixture to a blender. With a standard blender, I had to do this in 2 batches. Make sure there is a touch more liquid than vegetables in the blender. If you need more liquid, add water. (I added about 1/2 c water into my second batch). Blend for 4-5 minutes. Add olive oil and blend for 1 more minute. Transfer blended mixture back to the pot. You can easily re-warm the sauce right before serving.

Turkey Meatballs

1 pound ground turkey (lean)

1/2 yellow onion

2-3 cloves garlic

3-4 small red chillis

1/2 c cilantro

pinch salt, ground pepper

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375-400 degrees (hotter for crispier meatballs). De-seed the chillis carefully. The ones I used were super spicy so I took out all the seeds and washed the chilli “shells”. Make sure to wash off your knife and cutting board before prepping another dish. Try not to touch the seeds with your bare hands. (The wonders of potent Chinatown vegetables…) Mince the chillis, onion, cilantro, and garlic. Combine in a bowl with salt and pepper. Beat one egg and add to the bowl. Add ground turkey and mix well. Form the mixture into meatballs and place on a large cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Rotate 1/2 way through for even baking.

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash

This fantastic vegetable is so awesome! Here is a picture of one for those of you who have never met one. I hadn’t met one until a few months ago. You can find this vegetable at most local markets — but probably not Chinese markets. It should be firm to the touch.

The first time I tried making spaghetti squash, I tried boiling it. 45 minutes later, I gave up. Following a tip from Fitz’s mom, I caved in to the Microwave Monster. I visit this monster rarely but, when I do, I am not often disappointed. Cut your squash in half lengthwise. This is hard to do. If you have a Fitz, ask him for help. If you don’t, microwave the entire squash for a couple of minutes to soften. Scoop out all the loose bits (seeds and gooey strands — like carving a pumpkin!). Place half in the Microwave Monster (cover with a paper towel) and push “Fresh Vegetable”. Classy, I know. It’s about 4-8 minutes per half (depending on the squash … and the microwave). The squash is done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork. Scrape the flesh out with a fork. I use the “2 fork method” — one to hold the super hot vegetable and one to scrape out the insides.


Time everything perfectly and combine… for a super healthy take on a classic Italian pasta dish!


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