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Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs With Feta

Zucchini stars in this meatball dish two ways.

Blessed — or cursed — with too much zucchini?

Then, get grating. And slicing.

Not for ubiquitous zucchini bread. But for dinner on the table in no time flat with the warmth of cumin and the zing of feta.

And all cooked on one sheet pan in the oven.

“Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs” is from Brooklyn-based recipe developer Ali Slagle. Published in the New York Times’ “At Home” section during the pandemic, it immediately caught my eye because who doesn’t love meatballs?

You can use ground chicken or turkey in this recipe, too. Let’s face it, ground turkey (which I used) can be pretty bland or cook up a tad dry at times. The beauty of this recipe is the grated zucchini and panko in the mix, which keeps these meatballs moist and tender. Ground cumin, fresh herbs, and a shake of red pepper flakes lend a surprising amount of flavor, too.

I always line my sheet pan with foil for easy clean-up.

The meatballs cook in the oven with thick slices of more zucchini. To serve, stir up crumbled feta, olive oil, lemon juice and more chili flakes, then spoon this sassy, briny sauce over the meatballs and zucchini. With the first forkful, you’re transported just like that to the Mediterranean.

This easy lemony feta dressing would be great over summer tomatoes or a green bean salad, too.

Serve alongside flatbread. Or do what I did, and boil some orzo, then dress it with cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and minced preserved lemon.

You could even turn this meatball mixture into burgers for the grill, layer on some tomato slices, along with red onion slices, and spoon the feta sauce overtop before snuggling it all a bun. Enjoy with a side of smoke-kissed zucchini planks.

However you shape it, this recipe’s a winner.

With a side of lemony orzo or grilled flatbread or seasoned chickpeas, dinner is served.

Chicken (or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs

(Serves 4)

3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 large shallot, halved

½ cup panko

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 pound ground chicken or turkey

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, basil, parsley or dill, plus more for serving

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling

3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

4 ounces feta

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut 2 of the zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a plate, season with salt, and set aside.

Working over a large bowl, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining zucchini. Grate 1 shallot half into the bowl as well. Add the panko, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and use your hands to toss until combined. Add the chicken and herbs and toss gently until combined.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. With wet hands, form the chicken mixture into 16 meatballs (around 2 to 3 tablespoons each) and place them on one side of the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the sliced zucchini dry, then lightly coat with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with pepper.

Coarsely chop the remaining shallot half and transfer to a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, season with salt, and stir to combine.

Add the sliced zucchini to the other half of the baking sheet, moving the meatballs over, if necessary. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the zucchini is golden on the underside, another 15 to 20 minutes. For more browned meatballs, broil for a few minutes, if desired.

Meanwhile, crumble the feta into the shallot mixture. Add the 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes. Stir, breaking up the feta a bit, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Eat the meatballs and zucchini with a drizzle of the feta sauce and more fresh herbs.

From Ali Slagle, as published in the New York Times

More Zucchini Recipes to Enjoy: Cheesy Zucchini and Olive Bread

And: Zucchini, Carrot, and Cranberry Muffins

And: Pan-Fried Zucchini with Yellow Squash and Cumin