Turkey meatballs with roast eggplant slices and sautéed onions baked in tahini sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Turkey meatballs with roast eggplant slices and sautéed onions baked in tahini sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Tahini and eggplant add Mideast flair to turkey meatballs

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I’ve combined some of my favorites — roasted eggplant, sautéed onions, turkey meatballs and tahini sauce — in this take on siniyah, a Middle Eastern dish with Palestinian roots.

There are several ways to squeeze in the prep time for this dish. The prepared eggplant and onions can be refrigerated for up to three days ahead of time, and the raw meatballs can be refrigerated overnight. Just be sure to let the ingredients reach room temperature before assembling the dish. Once the entrée is initially baked, you can refrigerate it — ungarnished — in its pan for up to two days. Just bring to room temperature, sprinkle water on top, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until warm (about 20 minutes). Then add the garnishes.

Serve this creamy, rich-tasting entrée with couscous or rice, alongside a tangy salad.


Turkey Meatballs Baked in Tahini Sauce with Eggplant and Onions

Serves 4

  • Oil
  • Roasted Eggplant Slices (see recipe below)
  • Sautéed Onions (see recipe below)
  • Turkey Meatballs (see recipe below)
  • 1¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • About 1½ to 2 cups chilled vegetable broth or water
  • ¼ tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • ¼ tsp. ground sumac
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint or parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped green onions
  • 2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped tomatoes, optional

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Oil the inside of a deep 8×8-inch baking dish. Layer eggplant slices in bottom of dish.

Save 2 Tbs. of sautéed onions for garnish. Scatter remainder on top of eggplant. Distribute meatballs on top.

Mix tahini with lemon juice, garlic and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup broth, stirring with fork until smooth. Stir in another ½ cup broth. If necessary, stir in more in ¼-cup increments until sauce is smooth, thin and pourable.

Spoon some sauce over meatballs and pour remainder into pan. Sprinkle with dried mint, sumac and paprika.

Bake 30-35 minutes until meatballs are cooked (no pink in center) and sauce is bubbling and creamy. (Overcooking will overthicken the sauce.) Serve from the baking dish garnished with remaining sauteed onions, fresh mint and green onions. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and scatter tomatoes on top, if using.


Roasted Eggplant Slices

  • 6 Tbs. oil, divided
  • 1 lb. eggplant (unpeeled)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • ¼ tsp. ground sumac
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Brush with 1-2 tsp. oil. Slice eggplant into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Lay flat on prepared baking sheet. Combine salt, pepper, mint, sumac, cumin and cayenne in small bowl with remaining oil. Brush tops of eggplant.

Bake 15 minutes. Turn slices over. Brush with seasoned oil. Bake 10-15 minutes until slices are soft and browned.


Sautéed Onions

  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions. Sauté, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes until onions are golden. Add garlic and salt. Sauté 1-2 minutes until garlic is golden.  Remove from pan. Reserve ¼ cup for Turkey Meatballs recipe. Use remainder as filling and garnish for assembled dish.


Turkey Meatballs

  • 2 slices white or wheat bread (1¾ oz.)
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 lb. 7-8% fat ground turkey (not turkey breast)
  • ¼ cup reserved Sautéed Onions (see recipe), finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground sumac
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Soak bread with hot water in large bowl until water is absorbed. Mush bread together with turkey. Mix in onions, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, mint, cinnamon, sumac, cayenne, tomato paste and egg until combined. Do not overmix. Gently roll into 16 to 18 1½-inch balls, placing on a plate as they are made.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].