‘Let’s give ground turkey a try,” I said to my husband. “It’s better for us than beef.”

I’d recently compared 4 ounces of raw ground beef to the same portion of raw ground turkey, both of them 85 percent lean, 15 percent fat. The beef weighed in with 243 calories and 77 milligrams of cholesterol compared to turkey’s 153 calories and 66 milligrams of cholesterol.

I began experimenting with meatballs, chili and burgers, substituting ground turkey for beef. I infused the gush of tomatoes, mushrooms, wine and even an apple to compete with the richness of beef.

My efforts proved successful. My husband asked for second helpings of these recipes. He didn’t complain about dryness. And he left the ketchup bottle alone!

Turkey Meatball With Fast and Fresh Sauce 

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, diced fine

9 Italian plum tomatoes, diced and then chopped

Kosher salt to taste

1/3 cup pinot noir, merlot or Chianti wine

In a large pot, briefly heat oil on a low flame. Add the garlic and onion and sauté them until fragrant and wilting, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle in the salt. Sauté until they begin to release their juice. Stir in the wine. Cover the pot and simmer on the lowest flame possible while assembling the ingredients below. Stir occasionally.

Ziti and Turkey Meatballs

1 pound ziti

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Kosher salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

Set up a second large pot. Fill it with water and bring it to a boil for the ziti.

Meanwhile, place the turkey in a bowl and sprinkle it with salt. Using your hands, form the turkey into meatballs about the size of golf balls. Place them on a large plate.

In a large skillet, heat the oil briefly over a medium-low flame. Place the meatballs in the skillet and sear. Using tongs, turn the meatballs until they are seared on all sides. Then place them in the tomato sauce. Stir and return the cover to the sauce pot. The sauce will be chunky.

When the water boils, place the ziti inside. Follow the instructions on the box. When ready, drain the ziti in a colander. Pour the ziti into the sauce and stir for 1 or 2 minutes. Move the contents to a pasta bowl and sprinkle the basil on top. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Ground Turkey Chili | Meat

1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, chopped

1 pound ground turkey

2 Italian plum tomatoes, diced

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1/8 cup pinot noir, merlot or Chianti wine

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more if you like it hot

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 bunch scallions

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley

In a colander, rinse the beans under cold water. Reserve. In a large pot, briefly heat the oil over a medium-low flame.

Add the garlic and onion, and sauté until wilting and fragrant, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey a half-teaspoon at a time, stirring a couple of times until all of the turkey is added. Sear the turkey. Add the tomatoes and stir.

Spoon in the tomato paste. Fill the can twice with warm water, stirring each time to dissolve the paste stuck to the can. Pour it into the pot along with the wine. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the tomato paste.

Sprinkle in the seasonings (salt through basil). Add the pinto beans and stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer over a low flame until the beans are softened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut away the green fibrous part of the scallions and discard. Slice and then chop the white part.

Serve the chili in soup bowls. Sprinkle the scallions and cilantro or parsley over each bowl.

Serves 4

Mushroom Turkey Burger

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 mushrooms, diced and then chopped fine

4 small- to medium-sized garlic cloves, chopped fine

Kosher salt to taste

1 pound ground turkey

Freshly ground black pepper

Optional accompaniments: hamburger rolls and Dijon mustard or ketchup

Suggested equipment: meat thermometer

In a medium-sized skillet, briefly heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the mushrooms and garlic.

Sprinkle on the salt and stir to combine. Sauté for about 2 minutes or until the mushrooms and garlic are wilted and fragrant. Garlic burns easily, so watch it carefully.

Remove the pan from the flame and cool it to room temperature before proceeding because mixing hot food into raw turkey is not healthy.

Lightly oil a broiler pan, ridged griddle or outdoor grill. Preheat whichever you use.

Place the turkey into a large bowl and add the cooled mushroom-garlic mixture. Add a little salt and a couple of twists of pepper from the grinder. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until well combined. Form into 3 or 4 burgers. With your thumb, make a little indentation or dimple in the center of each burger.

Broil or grill the turkey burgers for 5 minutes, flattening with a spatula. Then turn them over and continue for another 5 minutes. Continue flipping the burgers until they are no longer pink inside.

If you’re using a meat thermometer, it should read 160 degrees when inserted into the center of the burgers. Serve immediately with hamburger rolls and Dijon mustard or ketchup.

Serves 3-4 JN

This originally appeared in the Jewish Exponent, a publication affiliated with Jewish News.

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