While visiting DC last summer, we caught up with our friends T and C, a couple that we met during our days in Kuala Lumpur. They had us over to their cozy, art-filled apartment for dinner, and that dinner reminded me so much of why I missed Kuala Lumpur. The major difference between living in Kuala Lumpur and Charleston, for us at least, is that while we were overseas, friends seemed a lot easier to make, and our bonds with them seemed to cement almost overnight.
I've talked about this phenomenon at length with other repatriated expats, and I think we agree that when overseas, being detached from the usual support network of friends, colleagues and family means that everyone reaches out more readily to forge new connections. It's amazing to me that, 18 months after leaving Kuala Lumpur, I'm still regularly in contact with the friends we made there.
But back to T and C. We had a delightful little dinner after a walk in their neighborhood park (which, coincidentally, was our neighborhood park too back when we lived in DC.) T made some delightful turkey meatballs derived from a recipe posted by Gwyneth Paltrow. Before you scoff, rest assured that T and I do, too. One of our favorite pasttimes, in fact, is e-mailing each other bits from Gwyneth's GOOP newsletter. Have you ever read it? It is, hands-down, the best example of a real-life version of the most popular girl in school telling you what is cool while also lording over the fact that you will never be cool enough -- or rich enough -- to wear/eat/play with it. I love it that, once a week, Gwyneth Paltrow e-mails my inbox and tells me that the couture du jour means that I need $1600 stretch leather leggings. (Bonus: at least the shipping is free!)
It seemed fitting, therefore, that T make a GOOP recipe for our get-together. In the months since, I've made a variation of these meatballs time and time again. It's become a favorite weekday staple for us, especially because the meatballs poach in the sauce so that I can just let it simmer on the stove while I spend time doing other, more important things, like chasing The Gravy Baby around the living room with a pretend fire hose. I think the meatballs would poach equally well in a slow cooker, making it even easier than it already is.
Panko Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti
1 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, grated (I use a microplane)
1/2 cup pinenuts
3 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
8 ounces spaghetti
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled finely grated
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 can of whole peeled tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 sprig oregano, minced
Make the sauce first:
In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic, stirring constantly, until onion is just starting to sweat (emit liquid). Add carrot and celery and cook until vegetables are soft. Add remaining ingredients and reduce to a simmer. (Note: sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated.)
Then make the meatballs:
While sauce is simmering, combine milk and panko in a small bowl; set aside to allow bread crumbs to absorb the milk. Heat a dry saute pan over medium heat; when pan is thoroughly heated, add pinenuts, stirring constantly, until pinenuts are slightly shiny and lightly toasted brown (be careful, because the pinenuts go very quickly from toasted to burned). In a medium bowl, combine pinenuts, eggs, ground turkey, grated garlic and parsley. Add the bread crumb/milk mixture to the meat mixture and combine thoroughly. Shape meat into golf balls and drop into sauce, submerging meatballs. Cover tightly and simmer for 45 minutes until meat is cooked through.
Cook pasta according to package directions and serve immediately with a pile of meatballs, torn basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
For GOOP's original recipe, click here.