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Meatballs with Pumpkin & Spice Butter

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Our June Cookbook Club selection is Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey, and we’ve been looking forward to it ever since this cookbook came out! With its location between the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia, Turkey has an amazingly rich and varied cuisine. For most of the past twenty years,  Journalist Robyn Eckhardt and her photographer husband, David Hagerman, have traveled around Turkey tasting all of the country’s most delicious dishes. Now they’re sharing them with us. They first start in Istanbul, which is home to one of the world’s great fusion cuisines. Then they travel to some of the lesser-known provinces, which feature cuisines influenced by neighboring Georgia, Syria, Armenia and Iran. These authentic and easy to follow recipes all come from local bakers, village home cooks, farmers, fishermen and café chefs. This Meatballs with Pumpkin & Spice Butter is an example of one of the many colorful and flavorful dishes found in this cookbook. We’re sure that you’ll fall in love with this cookbook just as much as we have.

From the author: “For this warming dish from Hakkâri, delicate lamb of beef meatballs studded with ground rice are laid atop a bed of pumpkin chunks and then steam-simmered in a light tomato sauce. Before serving, the dish is drizzled with sizzling tomato butter seasoned with purple basil and red pepper flakes, which play off the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the pumpkin. I ate this dish at the home of Sehmur and Baran Kurt, in Hakkâri.

A good meatball is light and tender, attributes achieved in Turkey by hand-chopping the meat, something even I am unwilling to undertake on a regular basis. But you can achieve a similar texture by spreading ground meat on a cutting board, sprinkling the seasonings over it, and cutting everything together with a knife. (This keeps the meat from turning into a paste, as it would if you mixed the ingredients in a food processor or by squeezing and kneading with your hands.) The process takes only about 5 minutes. Combine this technique with very light handling when you form the meatballs, and they’ll end up tender.

You must soak the rice for 1-1/2 hours before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, during which time you can peel, see, and slice the pumpkin and complete other prep work. The meatball mixture can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. Serve the dish with a simple cooked vegetable like spinach and plain Strained Yogurt. For a dinner party, give your guests an appetite-rousing preview by placing the pot in the middle of the table before pouring over the sizzling spice butter.”

Excerpted from Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey  © 2017 by Robyn Eckhardt. Photography © 2017 by David Hagerman. Used by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 
Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey is the June 2018 selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey is currently available for purchase at our retail store and online.


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